“The number you have reached is not in service.  Please check the number and dial again.”

I think that any time we ride a horse, we’re having a conversation.  It’s nice when it’s a two-way conversation rather than a one-way and it’s really bad any time our horse hangs up on us.

When we get a hang up, it’s usually our instinct to immediately hit redial.  Or to press the buttons a little more strongly.  Or both.  Because our horse isn’t listening.

But how often do we check the number before dialing again?  How often do we take a second or two or three or more to ask ourselves if we were clear and consistent?  If our aids were in the right place and timed correctly?

I try to check the number any time my horse doesn’t hear me, any time there’s a disobedience, and any time I want improvement.

I also like to pick a place or a series of places — one of the letters if I’m in a dressage ring, in the middle of the long side in a large arena, before I enter a corner, or when I pass the large oak tree in my Grand Prix field at home — to check my own number to make sure the lines of communication are static-free.

Each time I come to that particular place, which varies from ride to ride, I check myself.  I check my eyes to make sure I’m looking where I’m going and where I want my horse to go.  I check my seatbones if I’m in the saddle, and the spring in my joints if I’m in my two-point.  I check my contact — are my hands elastic and soft and does my horse’s mouth match them?

Have you ever found out that you were dialing the wrong number but if you checked the number before dialing again, you magically got through?