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Horseowner's guide to holiday shopping by Allison Houston
Originally published in Ride! Magazine and reprinted with their kind permission
 

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
Makes riding less than delightful,
With no particular tack to swap,
Time to shop,
Time to shop,
Time to shop!

Ah, the sublime joys of the holiday shopping season. Really, is there any annual event so richly filled with guilty pleasures? Well, Halloween may rank supreme for those of us inclined to pilfer the kids’ candy when foolishly it has been left unguarded. Other than that, holiday shopping has to rate as one of the most absolutely fun things you can do when not riding a horse. The American holiday season is truly unique. It is an inclusive celebration of diverse cultures and religions that share the desire to honor the love and caring of others through gift. The exchange of presents transcends nearly every community in our society. Accordingly, holiday shopping has become an integral part of the entire holiday tradition.

Now for those who own horses, well let’s face it, when it comes to shopping, anyone else is a rank amateur. I mean please, we have horses. Why do horse owners hang out together? Because poverty loves company! So with our deep *ahem* fiduciary expertise, when given the additional incentive (or is it excuse?) of holiday giving, it’s no wonder that we feel a shiver of pleasure run down our spines at the prospect of a shop-a-thon.You can remove the guilt from the pleasure by approaching your holiday shopping with a reasonable plan. Create a recipient list, a realistic budget, and then research from among the exciting new products available this year, as well as considering classic favorites that are always guaranteed to please. So before you run out the door with car keys in hand or start warming up your fingertips for vigorous ‘Net surfing, create your ideal holiday shopping plan.

The List

This is a public service announcement. Most of you have family and friends who are at best mildly interested in horses, and in all likelihood, barely tolerate them. Please do not buy them horse stuff. They don’t like it. Buy presents they will enjoy rather than what you secretly want. For the purpose of this exercise, create a shopping list only for your horse(s) and for the genuinely horsey people in your life. This list can also be left carelessly about the house and barn to help give people ideas about what you really want as well.

The Budget

There are a few scientific ways to determine your holiday shopping budget. One popular method involves calculating the average purchase price of your last three horses, then dividing that number by the cost to stable and feed each month, and then multiplying those results by the number of saddles you own. Another common means of deciding one’s budget is to ascertain the amount of credit left on your Visa and MasterCard, factor in the amount you really can spend on your “no pre-set spending limit” accounts before they do actually limit you, and then add in the amount you could save if you skipped your Starbucks’ mocha for 6 weeks. Lastly, a little known but highly innovative method is to calculate the amount of cash you actually have available through the end of the year after paying all your bills – and that’s all you spend. This final way of coming up with a budget has not really taken off yet, but I am hearing good things about it.

Gift Ideas for Horses

As always, gifts should be about the recipient. So put yourself in your horse’s hooves as it were and ask yourself what would you want if you were a horse? Now you may have a hard time finding a gift certificate entitling your horse to a “One Year Vacation in a Thousand Acre Pasture – Unlimited Green Grass Buffet Included!” But you get the idea. Horses like to eat, to be comfortable, and to play or hang out with friends. So along those lines, here are some products that have been given the Good HorseKeeping Seal of Approval by the ASHWWBS (American Society of Horses Who Want Better Stuff).

Treats: There is no denying that horses love treats. A perennial favorite of my own herd comes from local company, Mrs. Pastures Cookies for Horses. During the holiday season, they offer a festive stocking filled with 8 ounces of their wonderful horse cookies, and this year are offering a new holiday new gift bag that contains 35 ounces of cookies. Other terrific horse treats are available from Buckeye Nutrition, which offers 4 varieties of snack flavors: peppermint, licorice, carrot and apple. Another California company, Giddyap Girls Biscuit Company, not only has great horse treats, but on a side note, has also started making one of the best soaking boots I have ever seen, called the Smart Boot. Looking for a holiday project the family can do together? Bake your own horse treats. If you do an Internet search for “horse treat recipes” or “horse cookie recipes”, you will find hundreds of recipes. I even came across a book called: The Original Book of Horse Treats: Recipes You Can Make at Home for Your Horse. To make the home-made product more festive, purchase horse-shaped cookie cutters and holiday-themed cookie tins. You can make extra batches to gift to other horse friends.

Comfort: While comfort may have you thinking of snuggly warm horse blankets or thickly padded stall mats, (and these are indeed be great gift ideas depending on your stabling environment), you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make your horse feel good. Most horses really enjoy being groomed, and this also offers good bonding time for you both in the chilly months when riding is less enticing. I always use the holiday season as an annual reminder to refresh my grooming gear. Most winter environments mean wet and dirty hair coats on horses, which promotes bacteria and fungi. You can help ensure your horses’ skin stays healthy by currying briskly each day to bring dirt and debris to the surface for removal. One newer product line that seems very well geared for winter grooming is Oster’s® Professional Products Equine Care Series™. These are heavy duty grooming tools that have also been designed with comfortable hand grips. There are two products by Cowboy Magic® that will keep you and your horse feeling good. The Detangler & Shine product is a favorite of mine all year round, but in muddy months, it especially helps keep manes and tails in great shape. The Krud Buster™ is a cleanser to be used before and after veterinarian treatment for issues like Rain Rot, Scratches, Show Crud, Crusty Skin, Ring Worm, Girth Itch and other “Icky Skin” problems. Now if you do feel like splurging a bit for your horse’s comfort and he is in a paddock, you might check out Mallard Creek’s Muck Buster. This natural wood product is designed for outdoor paddocks and arenas, and is amazing for keeping mud at bay.

Toys: Horse toys can do so much to alleviate boredom and bad habits. The horse toy market has exploded in recent years and there is an ample variety of products available. Depending on how your horse is stabled, you can consider popular toys like the Jolly Ball, Stallball™, Eggbutt™ ball, Jolly Apple and BigBall™. There are also toys like the Amazing Graze™ and Pasture Pal™ Drum which dispense treats to keep the horse interested in playing with the toy. If none of those strikes your horses’ fancy, you can always check out the Wiggly Giggly Ball (which is also good for de-spooking) and the Romp-N-Roll.

Gift Ideas for People

$25 and under: Towels anyone? Tea, dish, hand and bath towels come embroidered with nearly every breed of horse and riding discipline, and you can find many that are hand-made for an extra special touch. Wrap these up with a pretty bow, maybe add a tin of cookies or treats, and you have a holiday gift any horse lover can appreciate. We talked about making homemade treats for horses, but you can also make horse treats for people. Pick up some inexpensive cookie cutters with equestrian outlines and some cookie tins to fill with delicious home-made people treats. This is an inexpensive yet highly thoughtful and personal holiday gift. Towels and cookies seem too domesticated? Then ask yourself if anyone really can own too many horse t-shirts? I think not. Retailers such as Horsedesigns.com and Animalshirts.com have herds of horse shirts, and you can also check out www.Cafepress.com and www.netEquestrian.com which in addition to horse t-shirts, carry a lot of other horse-themed items under $25 such as mugs, jewelry, frames, hats and much more.

Over $25: Winter months are always tough on human skin but Quessence makes lovely therapeutic skin care solutions which also come packaged in elegant equestrian-themed gift sets. They have at least 8 different rider gift sets with suggested retail from $14 to $32, and include combinations of their terrific creams, lip balms, soaps, nail brushes and more. Not only are these products all made in the USA but the products and packaging really are fabulous. No need to wrap these up, just slap a card on and you are ready to go. Visit their full selection at quessence.com but also shop around for best pricing. In general horse gift baskets offer a fun and festive means of holiday giving. Check out the terrific variety offered by equinegiftbaskets.com and unbridledhappiness.com.  Looking for more upscale gift baskets that don’t need to be equine-themed? The Gourmet Gift Horse gghorse.com has beautiful gift baskets and they are based in the Bay Area. Other popular holiday gift ideas include tried-and-true items such as riding gloves, warm socks, muck boots, horse training videos and books, Breyer products, and then of course there is always the ultimate safe gift for any horse person: the gift certificate.

If you really do not know what type of horse stuff someone might want, let me wax poetic about the glories of the gift certificate. It really is hard to go wrong with a good gift certificate. Plus many retailers have online and offline versions available for your convenience. Dover Saddlery, Valley Vet, and Country Supply are a just a few of the more popular equestrian retailers to offer gift certificates that can be used either online or by ordering via phone from their catalog. For those of you who prefer to think global and shop local, nearly every local tack shop offers gift certificates around the holidays, and supporting your own area’s small business community is always important.

Nothing really catching your fancy yet? In addition to any businesses mentioned elsewhere in this article, here’s short list of websites that offer fun and fanciful gifts for horse lovers. Note these are listed in no particular order.

horsegift.comwildhorsefeathers.com  

horse-gifts.com 

horsetackco.com 

backinthesaddle.com 

horsegiftsandart.com 

horseandhound.com 

nickers.com 

horsethreads.com 

horsepresents.com 

ponyexpressgifts.com 

equinegiftboutique.com 

Of course no discussion of shopping for horsey stuff would be complete without mention of eBay. If it exists, someone’s selling it on eBay. Equestrian housewares, apparel, tack, gifts… it’s all there.

A final word…. ‘Tis the Season to Give!

The holiday season really is a time that we celebrate love and caring through gift. There happens to be an easy way to do this while you are shopping. For those of you who shop online there is a marvelous organization called iGive. They work with over 600 retailers to provide donations to charitable organizations every time you shop. There are hundreds of charities already listed but you can even add your own. It costs you nothing – in fact you often save money through participating discount programs. The process makes it very easy to sign up, and for doing what you would be doing anyway (shopping online), you can quickly accumulate a nice donation to the charity of your choice without costing you anything additional out-of-pocket. Plus if your charity is a legal non-profit, you even get a tax receipt. Check out www.igive.com for more information. You will find many of your favorite stores there, such as: Stateline Tack/Petsmart, Jeffers Equine, Back in the Saddle, Shepler’s, Cabela’s; not to mention national retailers such as Sears, Target, eBay, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Kmart, Hammacher Schlemmer, Home Depot, Macy’s, and many more.

One final mention of caring through holiday giving… While the American people may be divided over the Iraq war, we are unquestionably united in our support and respect for the troops themselves. Consider thanking them in a small way by sending a holiday care package, even anonymously. There are several Internet sites that make this process simple, such as www.goodygiftbox.com (then click on military care packages), www.anysoldier.com,  or www.treatsfortroops.com.  All these sites make it easy to send a little holiday joy to our incredible military folks who have to be apart from their own families.

Happy holidays to all, and to all a good ride!
  

     

    

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  Copyright © 2005. Allison Houston is a professional communications manager and mother of two who writes frequently for equestrian audiences. Her work has appeared in a half dozen magazines and she is the co-author of a book on foundation training. She has been owned by horses for over ten years.   

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