Hint: it’s not that flashy new blanket with the outrageous pattern and the detachable hood.
It’s that time of the year again: we’re about to be buffeted with sales, specials, deals, gift guides, must-have lists and lots and lots of promises that the latest trinket or gadget is the thing they really want this year. (It’s also a time to spend with friends and family, reflecting on the year you’ve had, and look forward with fresh eyes and open hearts to another trip around the sun, when the commercialism has taken a breather.)
And that’s not to say that you won’t see plenty of that content right here on Horse Nation in the coming weeks: we have some great gift guides planned for you that we think you’ll love, because commercialism aside, it IS nice to give gifts this time of year.
But let’s be honest with ourselves: most of the things we get “for our horses” are really for ourselves. Does Star really enjoy that new blanket in the trendy pattern with the heavy neck cover? Does he truly feel more confident when his polo wraps and his saddle pad match?
Certainly, our horses perform at their best when their tack is well-fitting and their turnout is on-point, paying close attention to their overall health and well-being. And this is not to say that you shouldn’t get that new blanket or snazzy polo wraps — if it’s something your horse truly needs.
But there’s one thing your horse will appreciate more than you filling your tack trunk with the latest styles and therapeutic technology. For the holidays this year, give your horse the gift of being a better horseman.
“Horsemanship” might have several different meanings depending on who you’re talking to. I consider horsemanship to include not just one’s riding and handling of the horse, but attention to his overall care, health and well-being, including his environment. Improving one’s horsemanship comes down to one key concept: education.
Here are a few ways to increase your education:
- Attend a clinic with your favorite professional — either as a rider or an auditor
- Attend a clinic outside of your discipline of choice — either as a rider or an auditor
- Tour other facilities in your area to study their barn layout and routine; pick the tips you like the best to bring home
- Attend seminars or classes for horse owners (check with your local extension office, ag groups or tack shops — these are often low cost or free)
- Enroll in a webinar or series about barn or pasture management or horse health
- Take regular lessons with a professional, especially if you usually ride on your own
- Focus on rider fitness with a targeted workout plan
Let’s face it: as long as they’re comfortable and healthy, our horses don’t really care what brand our new saddle is, how expensive that new therapeutic pad was or the color of their turnout sheet. Our horses DO care when we’re working on softening our hands, building a new, safer turnout shed or getting fit enough to post a long trot without slapping back down in the saddle. All the nicest tack in the world can’t make up for a poor horseman.
None of us know it all when it comes to horses. (And disappointingly, none of us will EVER know it all.) But we can always be improving and striving to be better. Isn’t that the gift our horses want the most?
And yes, for yourself? Get that new saddle pad or fancy sheet or headstall you always wanted to try. It’s the holidays, after all.