The holiday season is well upon us. Are you still looking for a gift for your favorite rider? Check out these somewhat last-minute suggestions.
How is it already December?!?!
For those of you, like me, who wait to the last minute to shop for the holidays, here’s a gift guide for your favorite English rider. Because I find it impossible not to be biased when writing gift guides, you can trust that these are coming to you from a trainer’s mouth – they are all things that I’d love to give and would be equally thrilled to receive. Oh, and there’s a last-minute guide at the bottom, so don’t panic – there are options, even if you’re reading this on December 24th!
WARM WEATHER GEAR AND LAYERS
Everyone loves to be warm when they’re outside this time of year. Layering is essential, and the great thing about that is the layers are all at different price points and levels of versatility.
Layers: Sunshirts, like this Piper SmartCore™ Long Sleeve ¼ Zip from SmartPak, or light-weight base layers are useful all year-round and can be found relatively inexpensive this time of year. Fleece jackets and insulated vests are not only useful, but also easy to find pretty much everywhere in all colors and patterns – both in horse-y brands and regular outdoors gear. If they already have one, I bet they’d still like another — horses do get everything dirty eventually. Just do your person a favor, don’t buy anything in white. It might be pretty to start, but it won’t be sparkly for long.
Long riding jackets: If you really want to impress your favorite rider who is always cold, there are excellent jackets that come to the knee but also have a back zipper or enough material so that they can splay over the horse’s back. These are sure to keep them warm and fashionably-noticed come those early spring shows.
Accessories: Budget-friendly additions include merino wool headbands (these are good last-minute grabs too as they are available on Amazon and in a number of different colors), wrist warmers (I live in handmade ones all winter. While my mom might not be able to knit them and ship them out to all of you, they are available in a variety of other places too) cute beenies, warm riding gloves and wool boot socks are super useful and sure to be appreciated.
You might have to know the horse and rider pretty well to buy them tack, but you can always complement their existing gear with ways to keep their horses warm and stylish. Coolers and fleece quarter sheets provide excellent ions to keep the chill out, but also both come in fun colors and can dress up any trip to the barn or show. Therapeutic sheets provide a step up in price and care. While Back on Track has a corner on the market, SmartPak and other name brand tack shops are creating their own ceramic-infused mesh and fleece sheets too (check out this full line of SmartTherapy products from SmartPak). Oh, just make sure you know the horse’s size before ordering… and make sure you check to see if they run small (some of those brands do).
And for those who don’t want to make the big leap into the world of horse clothing, there is always the option to snag a pretty, new leather halter, which is even better if you can have the horse’s name engraved on the side. And finally, there are saddle pads… because who doesn’t need more saddle pads?
While it might be the end of the season now, there are plenty of reasons to be looking forward to the kick-off of the spring shows in just a couple months (or less if you’re in the South). A new pair of white breeches (or beige Tailored Sportsmans if you’re person is a hunter-jumper), a fresh show shirt (note, they come with really fun accents now that are invisible under a jacket), or a new stock tie – (Stock Bubble has some amazing ones) are both thoughtful and exciting.
If you’re not thrilled about buying clothing, there are still options: show coat bags with matching boot bags make staying organized on the big days not only easier, but more too.
The great thing about shopping for a horse person is that there’s no shortage of “things” that we all love and, sometimes, need. Here are a few fun options to stick under the tree (in no particular order): Spare schooling gloves, stirrup bags (these are cute and colorful, and they protect that fancy-pants saddle), small stud earrings in a horse-y theme, belts (C4 and other companies make it easy to buy something cute without knowing the exact size, but equally, lovely leather belts help sharpen up any show attire), and watch bands (like everything in the barn, our watch bands can get … a little grimy, so take a look at these versatile, cleanable bands from Groove Life).
For eventers, there are innumerable ways to highlight those cross-country colors. Custom or colorful medical armbands, pinny holders, and saddle pads always make a splash – just make sure you know what their xc colors are before diving in. EquiPrism does a fabulous job in this field.
It’s always great that big tack shops carry most everything you need, but this is an excellent time of year to support local businesses and non-profits. There are always an array of fun, witty attire and accessories from awesome small businesses, such as Mare Goods, Ride heels down, Clever with Leather. I’m also a fan of purchasing goods that help support your rider’s favorite charities – I’m partial to the Retired Racehorse Project’s shop (because… Thoroughbreds), but there are ample options for swag and gear from most equine non-profits.
A lot of horse-y-things are expensive, big, and take a serious commitment to purchase; that is not so for these stocking stuffers:
- Electrical tape in their xc colors (to tape those xc boots)
- Boot socks – seriously we all blow through our socks, so socks are a really, really good present. Send folks my way if they don’t like the socks you get, I’ll take them.
- Double sided clips – they’ll think you’re a thrifty genius. My crew and I go through these like water at shows/around the barn.
- Tack cleaner – basics are good, but you can even take it a step beyond glycerin soap with an array of new scented cleaners and oils.
- Yes, this sounds like the worst present ever, but the new stocking-like hair nets available pretty much everywhere revolutionize the pain of pinning those old lunch-lady nets in place and are far more comfortable as they lack that annoying front knot.
- Multitool (I can’t tell you how many times I have needed these at shows… and everywhere else)
- Scissors – If you don’t want to go the multi-tool route, I can guarantee that scissors will go to good use. Those things tend to regularly grow legs and disappear into the barn-based ether.
- All the better if it is full of their favorite liquid … even better yet if it has their horse’s name on it, an organization they support, or some clever saying about how horses drive us to drink… cause, well, they do.
LAST MINUTE AWESOMENESS
Sure, you can always purchase a gift card to your favorite rider’s favorite tack store or feed store (believe me, they do love and need these things), but there are some more creative, meaningful items that can be last-minute gifted too:
Art: There are an array of artists able to take commissions in which the recipient of the gift can have a say or play a role in their gift. Options include: a) getting them a photoshoot with their horse from a local professional equine photographer, b) having your rider work with a local artist/painter to decide upon an image to commission for artistic rendering, or c) Silver smiths and other excellent artists can do impressions of one’s equine friend. A gift certificate for one of their works would make a unique and last-minute score.
Lessons: Lessons are about the best thing that any rider can do for themselves and their horse. They are also expensive and a prized commodity. Reach out to their trainer (preferably reasonably before the holiday) and see if it is possible to purchase a package of lessons (or even just an extra one). If the trainer doesn’t have their own gift certificate, you can always print out a little note, tie it up in a bow and watch your rider unwrap the potential to grow and get better – now that is pretty cool.
A FINAL OPTION (… Just sayin…)
And here’s another last minute take out of my holiday playbook – if your rider is more accustomed to being covered in hay and horse hair while one-handedly-eating a sandwich than sampling fancy fare, you could flip the script for a night and get them a gift certificate to nice local restaurant. That would not only present the chance (ahem, excuse) for them to clean up and dress up, but it would allow the momentary recollection of what it is to be like normal people for an hour or two. Just make sure you swing by the barn on the way home to hand off the peppermints they inevitably steal from the check.
Happy Holidays Folks – happy shopping and even happier riding.