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December 18, 2009

It Really Is The Thought That Counts

Cartoon by Custer Cassidy

Be creative and thoughtful when giving gifts to your “barn family.”

Odds are, Santa’s not the only one making a list and checking it twice. The holidays are a time for recognizing the people who are important in your life—and those who are important in your horse’s life, too.

Gift giving isn’t just for family members; many riders include their trainers, barn managers, farriers, veterinarians and stable staff on their gift list. Such gifting, whether you consider it “tipping” or merely sharing holiday cheer, is purely an individual decision. Some do, some don’t.

If you choose to give, it can be a daunting task to find an appropriate present. What to get the horseman who seems to have everything?

You don’t have to break the bank to give a gift that they’ll cherish. In these trying economic times, the old cliché “it’s the thought that counts” holds even truer. There are plenty of creative ideas for gifts that will bring a smile.

Paying attention all year round to conversations with your gift recipients can pay off—it’s easier to gift them appropriately if you know their favorite restaurant, the age of their children, their libation of choice, or if they own their own horse. If it’s the thought that counts, make sure it’s a wise and fitting thought.

A Photo Is Worth…

Horse people love photos of their animals. There are many ways you could give your trainer a photographic gift to remember.

If you want to rally the forces of all your trainer’s students, you can collectively put together a lovely scrapbook of the group’s year. Each student can fill a page with a photo of herself and her horse, some remembrances of their accomplishments, and perhaps some recollections of funny moments.

When I was a groom on the horse show circuit, one of my most treasured gifts was a scrapbook made by the junior rider of one of the horses I cared for. It was simply done, but full of memories, and made me proud.

Individually, a framed photo of yourself in competition, accompanied by a nice card expressing your gratitude for your trainer’s guidance and support, can be a welcome addition to his or her office or barn wall.

If your trainer is the type to scrimp and not buy photos of himself, it might be nice to purchase a photo frame, then fill it with a gift certificate to a professional photographer who you know was shooting where he showed.

You can also take the camera into your own hands as well. A thoughtful portrait of a favorite dog or horse can be a lovely gift for a trainer, barn manager or barn worker.

You Can’t Go Wrong With Treats

Yummy goodies are never unwelcome. The holidays wouldn’t be the same without piles of cookies and assorted other goodies. Think about possibly whipping up some scrumptious baked goods to give as gifts. It doesn’t have to be cookies—think outside the oven and try rum balls or candied pecans instead.

And you can never go wrong with chocolate.

Or, give in a liquid form. If your gift recipient has a favorite wine or beer, they’ll appreciate an addition to their supply. Or, make up a selection of seasonal holiday brews from the make-your-own-six-pack section of your grocery store.

And you can never go wrong with chocolate.

Say you know your farrier or vet has a taste for something stronger, such as Jack Daniels. A bottle of cheer can make him not mind those off-hour calls quite so much.

And you can never go wrong with chocolate.

Your cooking endeavors don’t have to be for human consumption. Whipping up a batch of homemade horse treats (see http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/horse-treats-101-step-step-guide-making-your-own) can be an affordable way to spread holiday gluttony into the stalls as well.

And you can never go wrong with chocolate.

Keep Them Warm

Stuck up north while all the lucky horsemen head to Florida for the winter? Make sure your trainer, barn manager and barn staff stay warm and cozy.

Giving cozy warm gloves and/or hats is a good way to show you care. Add some chemical-pouch foot- or hand-warmers for good measure!

A new coffeemaker for the barn, or some gourmet coffees for the collection there, benefits everyone in the barn.

Giving trainers, barn managers or barn staff a gift certificate to a local coffee shop, or an assortment of instant hot chocolate flavors, can help make their mornings bright and tasty.

Horsemen frequently take much worse care of their own skin than their horses’ coats—a high-quality hand cream or lotion can be a useful and practical gift, as can some lip balm. A nice package of skin care doesn’t cost much but shows you care.

Cash Is King

You can never go wrong with giving cold, hard cash. It may have a reputation as impersonal, but it makes the world go round and is never unwelcome.

Whether you take up a collection amongst fellow boarders or students and present your trainer, barn manager or barn workers with a wad of bills, or you choose to slip a bill of your choice into a card and give individually, you can never go wrong with money.

An alternative is a gift certificate or gift card. Does your trainer long for a spa day of pampering but won’t treat herself?

A nice gift certificate to the local day spa could be a luxury she’d appreciate.

A gift certificate to the local favorite restaurant, giving your hard-working barn manager, barn worker, trainer, veterinarian or farrier a night on the town, would always be welcome. Or, if you give a gift card to a big box store, such as Target or Walmart, you know they’ll be able to find something there they need.

Regardless of how you show your appreciation for those who help make your horse’s life the best it can be, know that it truly is the thought that counts.

Other Great Gift Ideas

•    A subscription to an equine magazine like The Chronicle of the Horse!

•    Add a jump to your trainer’s collection, though you might regret picking out that bright-colored rolltop in your first lesson after Christmas!

•    Get T-shirts made with your barn’s name and logo, and perhaps a funny inside joke, printed on them.

•    For gift recipients who are on the road all day (think farriers), a gas gift card can help, especially in these times of rising fuel prices.

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If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing to The Chronicle Of The Horse. "It Really Is The Thought That Counts" ran in the Dec. 18 issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.

 
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