March 2015 - Horsey Humor
Written by Bob Goddard
Sunday, 01 March 2015 23:58

High Tech Rider

by Bob Goddard

Not too long ago, I came across a small news item regarding smart phone apps for trail riders. In the past, I ignored anything in the media regarding these phones because I believed them to be the beginning of the end of human civilization.  Besides, my dumb phone still worked fine.

Clearly, the device had become the master. I saw people walk around with their heads bent in submission to tiny touchscreens, beseeching the digital deities with their thumbs. I despised all the TV ads for these monstrosities, mainly because I had no idea what they’re talking about. Just how many “G’s” do you people need? And what’s a “G” anyway?

Things have changed. I recently adjusted my attitude toward the new technology and have now experienced the pleasure of using a smart phone on a trail ride. Actually, my attitude was adjusted for me. Jenny bought me a Really, Really Smart Phone and warned that either I use it or I couldn’t go out in the woods again. I have a history getting a little turned around out there.

I actually like my phone. I still don’t understand it, but I like it. My strategy is simple: I keep pressing random icons on the screen until something good happens. This is how I discovered the helpful gal who lives inside the phone. We have had several conversations, and while she has her limitations (I think she’s been dropped a few times), she’s always pleasant and tries her best. I named her “Hallie Ford.”

Since I have Hallie, I can see no reason for downloading any of those fancy trail riding apps. More to the point, I’m not entirely sure what an app is. A talking phone should be all person needs to get by out in the woods.

Man, Animal, Machine: the Dream Team

I make sure I never go first on a trail ride. That way all I have to do is follow the horse’s butt in front me and not fall off. But today there is only one horse’s butt on the trail. Today, I head out on a trail-riding odyssey accompanied by only Hallie and Vinnie the Thoroughbred. Oh, brave new world!

I’m concerned about the weather. “Hallie, will it rain today?”

“The weather is mostly sunny today. The current temperature is 63.”

Her voice is friendly and helpful. Not an arrogant microchip in her circuits. But let’s see how well she is tracking today:

“Hallie, what is the capital of Wyoming?”

“Cheyenne, Wyoming, United States.”

Good one! We’re never getting lost again!

I’m riding in a mysterious maze of trails my instructor calls “Narnia.” It’s a magical place, because every time we go out there, a new trail appears, as if self-generated. My goal is to reach the trailhead on the other side of Narnia and then circle back home by a different route. I’m guessing it’s about five miles, round trip.

“Hallie, how far is the trailhead?”

“That’s a tough question, so please let me search the Internet for an answer.

“Can’t you guess?”

“No, I’m terrible at guessing.”

“I just want an opinion, Hallie.”

“I have no specific answers for that. Let me do an Internet search for an answer to ‘I just want the Pinyon Valley.’”

I don’t want the Pinyon Valley! I don’t even know where the Pinyon Valley is. Nonetheless, we press on, because I’m confident that Hallie won’t let me down when it really counts.

We come to a crossroad in the trail. I’m not sure which way to go. Vinnie senses my indecision and begins to pull to the right. I’m sure he has his reasons. But a little confirmation would be helpful.

“Hallie, I’m going right.”

“Are ya? Okay, be safe.”

I think I need to be more direct. “That’s not useful, Hallie. Are we going toward the trailhead?”

“Sorry, no matching music found.”

“Music? What are you doing?”

“Learning, chatting, reading…”

Great. “Hallie, where is the trailhead?”

“Here is the answer to your question.”

A deluge of information appears on my smart phone screen. I learn that “trailhead” is an English noun meaning “the beginning of a trail.” It is pronounced “tr‘elyh,ed.” The word frequency of trailhead shot up in the late 20th century, which I find indirectly encouraging, but not immediately helpful. It has a scrabble score of 13.

“Do you know anything useful?” I don’t want to start an argument, but this is getting a little frustrating.

“I know more than you think and I’m still learning…”

Oh, no…

“Hallie, you’re an abomination to the human species.”

“Let me know when you’re ready to resume a polite conversation.”

“Look, I’m sorry, Hallie. … I’m lost.”

“You are here.”

A map pops up on the screen. A blue arrow represents our little trio and I can actually see where the trailhead is on the display. Wow. I love this technology.

“Thank you, Hallie. “

“Glad to help…. Give Vinnie an apple when you get back… And Bob?”


“Don’t ever call me names like that again.”

Perdition can’t be far behind.

Freelance writer Bob Goddard lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife, Jenny, and assorted pets. His book is Horse Crazy! A Tongue-in-Cheek Guide for Parents of Horse-Addicted Girls. To order, and to read his humorous blog, “Bob the Equestrian,” visit