Spoiler alert: “western” is as all-encompassing of a term as “English” when it comes to equestrians. Here’s how you can safely navigate the wide world of gift-giving for the western rider in your life.
We get it: every one of your favorite equestrian websites is rolling out a gift guide this time of year, and it’s one of those unspoken truths that you’ll find themed guides for all the disciplines: eventing, dressage, hunters, jumpers… and western.
Western! It seems like anything with a horn gets rolled up into one all-encompassing discipline, and the assumption is that anyone who rides western must automatically love rhinestones, glitter and “bling.” We must all automatically be rodeo queens (and even among the rodeo queens I’ve met, not everyone loves bling anyway!).
Not to freak you out if you’re trying to get a nice holiday something for the western rider in your life, but proceed with caution: there are as many disciplines under the western umbrella as there are in the English riding world. Here’s a little helpful advice to make sure you get them something they’ll truly appreciate this year.
A gift card might feel like a cop-out, but these are literally always winners. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
- SmartPak: they have a great selection of almost everything for multiple disciplines, and your recipient can decide if they want to treat themselves or their horse
- Local independent or chain feed/supply stores: anyone who owns a horse will always need something from the feed store, whether it’s a local joint or a national/regional chain like Tractor Supply, Southern States, or my new personal favorite, Runnings
- A customized from-the-heart gift card for the horse’s next appointment: farrier, vet, chiropractic, PEMF, etc. You may want to casually feel out what these things cost in case you don’t have the budget for Star’s fancy $350 corrective shoes made of titanium and sapphires, but the thought behind one of these cards will go a long way with your recipient
Remember earlier, where I mentioned that there are as many disciplines in western riding as there are in English riding? This is a trap designed to embarrass non-horse people when they try to get something specific for the horse lover in their life. To avoid you falling into this trap, here are a few things that any western rider would appreciate for their horse.
- Wool overpad: while a handful of riders may use specific saddle pads that can’t take an overpad, the majority of western riders will appreciate a pretty pop of color to throw under their saddle for riding. Mayatex has every pattern and color combination available under the sun, but some smaller companies are making gorgeous pads as well — I particularly like Saguaro Show Pads.
- Good quality leather products: if anyone ever tells you that they have enough leather halters, reins or headstalls, they’re lying to you. The emphasis here is on quality: good leather is soft and supple to the touch. If you feel like you know your rider’s taste, feel free to splurge on a little tasteful bling or decorative rawhide, but even plain tack in good-quality leather will be appreciated. Weaver is a great brand with excellent leather quality.
- Double ended snaps/carabiners: laugh if you want to, but no one ever has enough of these things.
Things to avoid, unless specifically requested with exact specifications:
- Bits: riders buy these for specific reasons and specific applications
- Horse blankets: these need to be sized and intended for indoor or outdoor wear
- Horse boots: these need to be sized and intended for specific uses
- Elaborately decorated anything: not everyone wants fringe, bling, rhinestones or glitter, so proceed with caution here
Quick pick: Draper Equine Therapy Quick Wraps. No standing bandage skills needed to apply these, and the 14″ size will probably fit most horses if you have no idea what size the horse takes. Act quick though, because these lovely wraps are discontinued and when they’re gone, they’re gone!
No matter what discipline they ride, every western rider enjoys two things: being comfortable and being warm. (Western riders located in the south, I know that you still have some chilly days now and then, so this goes for you too.)
- Wild rags are making a comeback as both a practical and expressive accessory. You can’t go wrong with a silk wild rag for use both in the summer and winter, from classic paisley to new-fashioned patterns and colors. There are hundreds of small businesses selling wild rags, but I personally like the weight of silk and pattern choices from Rocky Meadow Wild Rags.
- Good quality boot socks and gloves: Remember being a kid and complaining when you got socks in your stocking? How wrong you were: Noble Equestrian has great boot socks that go right up to the knee, and I love my SSG leather gloves for winter use.
- Kimes Ranch layers: from cozy sweatshirts to puffer vests, Kimes Ranch is not only “the” brand but it’s comfortable, hard-wearing stuff too.
Quick pick: The Kanaine Buckaroo Cowl is the perfect way to rock some southwestern-inspired patterns while also being warm in the barn, and safe. There’s nothing that makes me more (ir)rationally nervous than the thought of a scarf tail getting caught on something and strangling me while I ride, but with these gorgeous fleece-lined cowls made from world-famous Pendleton blankets and their iconic patterns, I can snug this up over my face without fear of random decapitation. No two of these are alike, and they’re totally worth the money.