The holidays officially are here. If you have a hard-to-buy-for equestrian in your life, here are some awesome, sometimes-practical, sometimes-frivolous, downright accurate gift suggestions.
Welcome to the next installment of Thoroughbred Logic. In this weekly series, Anthropologist and trainer Aubrey Graham, of Kivu Sport Horses, offers insight and training experience when it comes to working with Thoroughbreds (although much will apply to all breeds). This week ride along as Aubrey shares her logic on what your favorite Thoroughbred-lover might want this holiday season.
To all equestrians… and better yet, to all Thoroughbred owners, here’s your holiday gift guide to share with someone you care about. I mean, it is almost Black Friday… and Cyber Monday, and any discounts make horse humans happy. I’m hoping this is the type of guide that inspires gifts of the sort where you walk inside from the barn and open a present only to realize just how much this other person in your life actually “get’s it.”
“Getting it” is hard… like really hard. Let’s be clear. We horse folks are pretty crazy. And we already invest more in our passions than anyone wants to add up on a yearly basis (please, for the love of everything… do. not. make. me. add. up. all those expenses). I mean, we are the walking contradictions. We allow horses to romp about in our bank accounts while keeping them happy and healthy at the same time that we avoid doctors and claim to have acquired a fondness for cheap ramen and canned tuna. We are often too proud, too stubborn, too independent to suggest actually meaningful gifts that make us laugh, smile, or run in for a hug (and, no… I’m definitely not a hugger). So, read on for some Thoroughbred-inspired gift goodness:
The Risky Approach: Buying a Horse as a Gift
Alright, first off, let me just say this: Yes, a horse is a great gift…kinda… well maybe not. I mean, it is great if you’re going to foot part or all of the monthly bills AND if you’re planning to buy your favorite rider an equine you know they want. Comically, as a Thoroughbred rehomer, once or twice a year I get contacted about folks buying horses for spouses as a surprise. Largely, I’ll be a Debby-Downer and say “Don’t do it!” unless we already know that THAT is the right horse (and that takes a lot of deliberation).
Ironically, my top horse was a Christmas gift from an ex. In comedy that needs many more words elsewhere, I committed to buying Rhodie (Western Ridge) during my version of the proverbial relationship pickle of deciding whether to cut one’s hair or get a tattoo. I was dumb and let the man stick around; he was smart and went behind my back and got that equine kiddo paid for, so when I went to hand over cash at the race farm a month and a half later, I was met with:
Seller: (and now my good friend, Laura) “Well, Aubrey… he’s free.”
Laura: “I didn’t have time to get a bow”
Me: “What? Free like wild and free? Free like something is wrong with him and you’re giving him away free…?”
Laura: “You do not have to pay for him.”
Me: “I’m sorry… what?”
And so on…
Moral of that story — well there are LOTS of learning points there, but the only relevant one — is ONLY buy the horse your human already has committed to, not just one you see that fits the bill on the internet. Rhodie is great… moving on…
Gifts That Dive In
There are a lot of ways to make an equestrian happy by way of seemingly-not-super-fancy forms of kindness — pay their vet bill (or chip away at it). Figure out gift cards to the local feed store. Pick up new pitch forks, shovels, or brooms (lord knows, my barn help is going to read that line and be like, someone PLEASE SEND THESE THINGS!).
But if you really want to impress your equestrian (especially one with an off-track Thoroughbred or any that might benefit from a little supplemental health boost), you can go beyond the feed store and the manure pile. Do some research on what they gripe about in regards to their horse’s health. Body soreness? Ulcers? Joint aches? General meh-ness of the horse? Then either fill a box with GastroGuard (that’s a sure hit), book a session with their favorite body worker, or look up Kentucky Performance Products and read up on the research that backs up their effective products. I know that neither Wolf (Louisiana Moon) nor I would be complaining if we got an extra visit from Kat at Yellow Horse Performance some Joint Armor or Elevate W.S. showed up under the proverbial tree.
Also, perhaps just as beneficial for the horse and rider — the gift of additional lessons never goes unappreciated. Does your favorite rider have a coach (hopefully this question is an easy one)? If so, book some extra lessons. If not, perhaps there is someone somewhat local who is awesome and would be happy to provide the teaching time and maybe they even have gift certificates…
Gifts That Support the Fabulously Frivolous
OK OK… not everyone wants to dive in to practical gifts. Heard. Worry not, it is almost guaranteed that your average equestrian and certainly your favorite Thoroughbred aficionado have a flare for the additional, or dare I say… the extra. No, you can never have too many saddle pads. You also can’t have too many pretty brushing boots, open fronts, or high quality polos (my ponies are a big fan of the Back On Tracks and Corro.com has a super selection of all the things). Not sure what color to get? Ask their closest barn friend — or just err on the side of smart and go with the black or white classics.
Hunt for the desired-but-not-needed things, the items that don’t get purchased because they’re just not that necessary: That clincher broadband that they have been eyeing but not buying because all their money goes to shoes and alfalfa — yes, wrap that up and wait excitedly for the paper to be pulled off. The pair of custom tall boots that they have talked about for the last five years, or the insulated breeches they only remember they really want on those crazy-cold days — get those things.
And if your rider-in-need of gifts is an eventer (or anyone with a clear color scheme), take the time to color match the items to the theme. Hell, even a roll of neon-lime duct tape goes a long way to warming hearts in my world. Ahem… easy stocking stuffers…
Take It up a Notch
Ok, so maybe neon duct tape isn’t really your thing? Weird, but OK. Maybe you want to do something bigger, something more useful that will be appreciated daily. It is absolutely worth grabbing quality tack — a girth, bit, bridle, rein… you might have to ask for specifics, but it’ll be a hit. If you ask my Thoroughbreds, they’re big fans of the Tapestry Equine Products (use code Kivu10 for a discount) Comfort Girths and Herm Springer Duo bits. Prolite or Thinline pads are huge for producing comfortable, adjustable rides. And I can’t emphasize enough that if you didn’t know and they already have one, they’re going to be happy to have two. Or five.
And while buying saddles as gifts (like buying horses) is pretty specialized to the horse and the rider, it would never hurt to purchase a saddle fitting with a promise to pick up the actual saddle or perhaps chip in. I write that and go, “Wait, are there actually people who do this?” Neat. Good on ya. Keep being awesome. Also, in case anyone asks, my saddle choice is a County Xcelerator 17.5 medium narrow in dark brown, just sayin’.
OK OK, so you don’t want to buy a saddle — that’s fine, I hear ya. But maybe another twist on doing something special would be to purchase a photo session. Find a great local equine photographer who can make it all look as amazing as we think it is and grab a gift card or schedule a session.
For Helping Riders Cope With Our Choice of Passion
Finally, all riders — even us crazy Thoroughbred type — need a break from the horses sometimes. A nice dinner goes a long way here, but so does one’s choice of vice. A good bourbon (or substitute one’s favorite drink) and an attractive glass or mug is never a bad idea. Hell, it helps with coping with the vet bills… and lost shoes… and realizations that I own too many horses. Just me? No? Thank goodness.
Alright, writing this guide has made me want to go shop, ride, and make sure all my happy idiots in the fields have all their shoes and no new injuries. I’m going to pour a drink and wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. Here’s hoping you find time to be thankful for all the big and small things this holiday season. Go ride, folks (and who knows, maybe next season you’ll be doing it in some snazzy new gear).