It’s holiday time again! Time to get gifty with your trainer, the barn owner, your barn BFFS, and your horse. But if you’re busy with the holidays and maybe knee-deep in a saddle search, it’s useful to speed up the gift shopping.
So treat yo’ self to a Digital Saddle Advice Package to speed up your saddle search, then check out this year’s Holiday Gift Guide below. And give a tip of Santa’s hat to my friend Alison of Thrifty Equestrian Blog, who is way more fashionable than I am and suggested some products on this guide.
Boring fine print before we get rolling: As always, The Saddle Geek’s recommendations come purely from the head of Jen the Saddle Geek. I’m not affiliated with any of these companies, I don’t get any commissions or kickbacks when you click the links below, and I always tell you below if I received a free sample or a company asked me to review their stuff. And if I wouldn’t buy it for my friends, it doesn’t appear in this gift guide!
“Make it look like I didn’t procrastinate on shopping”: Saddle-themed gift wrap, $15-$40
Now you can put pretty saddles under the tree without worrying about sizing or saddle fitting. Sells for about $5 per sheet (minimum order of 3), or you can bulk-order 25 sheets for about $40.
The trick is finding this stuff, then getting over the “must buy 3 sheets” hurdle. Two ways forward:
- Your local tack store might be able to special-order it through Intrepid International.
That’s a huge distributor, so your local tack store probably already has an account with them.
- If not, you can find it online at The Connected Rider (warning: must buy 3 sheets at a time) and other vendors.
“I like gifts that keep on giving”: Wilberry Wonder Pony Plush or Christmas Cards, $15-$40
If you’re reading this blog and are alive on Planet Earth, you’ve probably had your life touched by horses…and by cancer. Wilberry’s Wishes is a British charity founded by Hannah, a young girl who loved to ride both before and after her cancer diagnosis. Hannah passed away, but Wilberry’s Wishes lives on as a charity that grants equestrian-themed wishes to terminally ill patients and raises funds for cancer research.
Wilberry’s Wishes sells adorable gift items as part of their fundraising. Some highlights include the Wilberry Pony Plush, a Wilberry Scarf Pin, a Wilberry Trailer Decal (small and large versions), and a Wilberry Saddle Pad.
But if you’re in the US, shipping from the UK can easily take 2-3 weeks, so plan your timing carefully.
And if you like to live dangerously by sending your holiday cards at the last possible second, Wilberry also makes adorable horse-themed holiday cards. If in doubt, buy some Wilberry Christmas Cards and save ’em for 2018.
“I come to this blog for saddle-related content, please suggest a saddle-related gift”: Millbrook Stirrup Leathers, $149
Personally, I don’t buy tack items for my friends unless I’m extremely sure that they want it. But if you’re self-gifting or buying for your horsey BFF, then that’s not a problem. Right?
SO. If you want to drop a tack gift on someone, this year’s hot take on stirrup leathers came from Millbrook. They’ve built a wide-body stirrup leather that allegedly moves less, and twists less, than a traditional stirrup. They’re popular with the hunter/jumper crowd, but there’s a dressage version too.
Several of my friends own these and swear by them. I rode in them once and thought they were fine: I didn’t run out and replace all my stirrup leathers, but I’d consider these the next time I need new leathers. They’d be especially useful on my jump saddle, where I tend to get rubs from the stirrup leather cutting into my shin. The leather quality was good: nice thick, sturdy leather that was vegetable tanned and took oil well.
PS, don’t miss Millbrook’s adorable product review by this kid. Even if you don’t want the leathers, this will make you smile:
“So, saddle-related gifts that aren’t tack?”: Gorgeous Tarnish-Proof Stirrup necklace, $105 and up
I’m not a jewelry gal, but I was gaga for this necklace in the A Bit Above Saddlery mobile trailer at a horse show. And because it’s made of rhodium, it won’t tarnish or rust. Perfect for the dirt-covered horsepeople in your life!
Samantha, the owner of A Bit Above, modeled this necklace for the Instagram shot below. She was very nice, and I love supporting new business owners. The necklace isn’t on A Bit Above’s web site, but Samantha assures me that people can call or email about it.
The price was $105 for a short-chain version, and a few bucks more for a longer-chain version that hangs lower on the neck. Contact Samantha through the A Bit Above website or here’s A Bit Above’s phone number on their Facebook page.
“I love tack so much that I want to wear it on my body”: Surcingle Belt for breech size 22-32, $49
I love horse-themed clothing that doesn’t look like horse-themed clothing. You could even wear this to (gasp!) your day job. I wish they came in a broader range of sizes, but “one size that fits breech sizes 22 to 32” covers at least half my horsey friends. Available from A Bit Above Saddlery.
“I like practical gifts and my barnmate is gross”: Girth Buckle Wash Bag, $15-ish
Yeah, it’s ugly. Yeah, it’s the equivalent of writing “wash me” on your barn BFF’s car. Yeah, sure, you could find some socks and rubber bands and tie up your girth buckles before laundering.
But people already deserve a medal for remembering to bring their girths home for laundering. And yeah, I’d totally use this if someone bought it for me. It’s easier than finding socks, finding rubber bands, blah blah blah.
Get yourself, or “that friend” who always has a nasty unwashed girth, over the finish line with this little indulgence.
“We just want to bring wine and snacks on a trail ride, is that so much to ask?”: Shires Saddle Panniers, about $40-$50
These Shires saddle panniers snug up to your saddle cantle and attach to your girth straps, which is interesting because most saddle bags require you to have dee rings built into your saddle’s cantle.
You get two panniers + two steel bottles that are custom-fitted to the pannier. That’s enough room for wine, snacks, and whatever else you want to bring.
I’ve only seen this from saddleries based in the UK–or you can order direct from Shires. But if there’s one gift on this list that merits ordering direct from England and risking a late arrival for Christmas, I think it’s this one. And if someone finds this at a US saddlery, please contact me so I can add that to the gift guide!
“My friend can never find a rag when she needs one, and that’s her excuse for not cleaning stuff”: Tack Saver Tack Mitt, $10 each
TackSaver’s machine-washable mitts are useful for fly spray, tack cleaning, bathing your horse, or whatever. They come in kid size and adult size, and you can pick between water resistant (more breathable for your sweaty summer hands) or waterproof (perfect for baths or fly spray).
For the horse-show award coordinators out there, TackSaver will do custom colors if you order 100 mitts. TackSaver for all your first-prize winners in 2018?
But wait, you get a bonus adorable story with purchase!: These mitts were invented by a 9-year-old horse lover named Bella. I met Bella and her mom at the American Equestrian Trade Association tack show in January 2017. They were incredibly nice and they have lots of hustle: it was like walking into a very cute episode of Shark Tank on TV (see Instagram picture below.)
So when you buy these, you can feel great about supporting a young entrepreneur and the family business.
Full disclosure, Bella gave me a free TackSaver mitt in January to play with. I really, really like it for applying fly spray. I don’t use it for cleaning my tack, but that’s because I’m pretty obsessive about getting into little nooks and crannies, and mittens aren’t made for nooks and crannies. If you’re more of a “wipe ‘er off quickly after each ride” kind of person, TackSaver is perfect for that.
“Speaking of cleaning tack, please suggest a saddle soap or leather conditioner”: Higher Standards Saddle Soap and Leather Balm, $15-$19
I’m only repeating one product from the 2016 Saddle Geek Gift Guide, and it’s this one. There are lots of great saddle soaps out there. I’ve used many of them, and I even like many of them. But Higher Standards Leather Care is my hands-down favorite. It’s the only thing I use on my personal tack.
Higher Standards products smell great. Their products make cheap leather feel better and keep expensive leather in top-notch condition. It’s owned by a small businesswoman in Florida named Libby who makes Higher Standards in her kitchen, then passes it to her husband who packs all the orders at the kitchen table. Aww, horse husbands. They’re the best.
Spoiler alert to my friends: there’s a good chance you’re getting a Higher Standards Mini, split from from their holiday Mini Pack of 3 soaps + 1 balm, as your tack-room stocking stuffer. If I’m feeling classy, I might even slap a mini-bow on the top of the can, to make it obvious that it’s a gift. (Readers, steal this idea for your friends!)
If you prefer full sized cans of Higher Standards, in either the Soap + Balm Value Pack or individual soaps a la carte, here’s a rundown on the various scents. I’ve listed them from “my very favorite” to “I’d still use it if my friend gave me some”:
- Jeffers’ Lemon-Aid: An exclusive scent sold through Jeffers Equine. Smells like the lemon stick candies at Devon Horse Show.
- Woody’s Confidence Blend: A sharp, pungent citrus smell. I’ve been known to open this soap just to smell it. It’s that good.
- Buzz’s Citrus Ginger: A mellowed-out citrus smell with hints of ginger. If Woody’s Confidence Blend is an upper, this one’s a calmer-downer.
- Leather Balm: Smells vaguely of chocolate. Libby, the maker, says that smell comes from cocoa butter.
- Ben’s Rosemary Mint: More rosemary than mint, but both scents are pretty subtle.
- Fox’s Vanilla Lavender: Perfect for your friend who loves lavender and floral stuff.
- Sugar & Spice: More spice and less sugar. If you’re the kind of person who huffs your jar of Pumpkin Pie Spice at Thanksgiving, you’ll probably like this.
- CinnaMint: Smells like Big Red Chewing gum. If you’re into that kind of thing.
- Plain Bay: For your friend who’s allergic to fragrance or very noncommittal. For what it’s worth, I’ve used my friend’s Plain Bay and it works just as well as the other varieties.
“My friends can’t afford a spa, but they like to bathe their horses”: Mrs. Conn’s Shampoo-Filled Bath Sponges, $7-$10 each
That’s right y’all, the shampoo is already in the bath sponge and smells yummy. Supposedly, the soap lasts for 2-3 baths. You can order direct from Mrs. Conn’s (ships free over $50) or from Valley Vet (cheaper per unit but doesn’t ship free until you hit $60).
- Liniminty Fresh for sore muscles
- Herbal Tea for scratches
- Oatmeal for itch relief
- Lemon Meringue to improve shine
And for the cute little girl in your barn, the one with the pony that you want to squeeze until it explodes? There’s a pink Fruit Smoothie sponge for that pair. My friend Beth said that one is very, very fruity so proceed with caution unless you want to smell like Lip Smackers chapstick.
Get one of these for everyone in your barn, stuff ‘em into little gift bags, and hang them on each boarder’s stall door. Ta-da, you are now winning the Boarding Barn Game of Thrones.
“I’m lazy and want to buy everyone the same thing, but it needs to feel personal too, ya know?”: Living Royal Crayola Color-In Unicorn Socks, $10-$12 per pair
Yeah, you read that right. Living Royal has blessed the Earth with boot socks covered in color-in-able unicorns. And it comes with four Crayola fabric markers. Are you squealing with glee yet?
Living Royal claims that these will fit everyone from “kids ages 5+ to women’s shoe size 11.” I’m tempted to buy a dozen of these and throw a house party where we color these together, over wine.
“I don’t even want to wrap it, tho”: Hunt Club’s “Join the Club” Packages, $16-$39 each
Who doesn’t like stickers, patches, and dangly charms? And Hunt Club’s “Join the Club” packages even come pre-wrapped in brown paper packages tied up with string. Go ahead, sing it: These are a few of my favorite things…
$16 for the basic Join the Club Package, $39 if you add on a Hunt Club hat.
“Everybody loves horse treats, right?”: Snaks Fifth Avenchew Holiday-Themed Horse Treats, $15-$25
I live under a rock—okay, more like a giant pile of saddles—but I recently crawled out and discovered Snaks Fifth Avenchew Horse Treats. And FYI, Snaks has a Christmas/Hanukkah treat line that is cute, cute, cute. There’s some cute fall-collection items too, like Pony Pumpkin Pie.
If my friends are reading, I would like the Gingerbread Men and the Emoji Poos with Santa Hats. Or these edible ornaments in the shape of a saddle, OMG yes please:
That said, we interrupt this squee-fest for a Christmas Elf timing warning: if you order direct from Snaks Fifth Avenchew, they require about 3 weeks of processing time + additional time for shipping. So if you’re serious about a Christmas order, you need to step on the gas pedal.
Or, order your Snaks Fifth Avenchew stuff from a saddlery with faster shipping. For example…
- Equus Now: Pony Donuts with Sprinkles, Unicorn Crunch Cups, Pony App Snack Sampler, Equus Now Logo Crunch Cups
- Jeffers Equine: Christmas Crunch Cups
- Rick’s Heritage Saddlery: Rainbow Unicorn Dreams and Bears
- Dover Saddlery: Who knows which of these Crunch Cup patterns you’ll get, but you could call and ask
“There are Youths in my barn and I don’t know what to buy for them”: Fluff Monkey, $26-$35 each
The Youths use fancy lycra puff balls called Fluff Monkey to polish their boots. My hunter/jumper friends say that “all the kids have them clipped to their backpacks at shows.”
A coworker gave me a free Fluff Monkey, which she got from the founder after staying in the founder’s AirBnB. (Thanks, Betsy and Kathleen!) After putting my sample Fluff Monkey through the ringer, I can verify a few things:
- It’s great for putting a final polish on (clean) boots and saddles.
- It’s really well made. I gave Fluff Monkey to my toddler to see if he could destroy it. He tried hard. It remained intact and looks like new.
- It lived up to its claim to be “machine washable.”
- The colors are deep and vibrant. I’d be pumped to have one in my barn colors, eventing cross-country colors, school colors, etc.
- I smile every time I see it. Who could resist a big adorable ball o’ foof?
Fluff Monkey is a family business run by Kathleen, a horse-show mom in Pennsylvania. The owner claims a general turnaround time of 2-3 days for a custom Fluff Monkey. But just to be safe, I’d suggest contacting Kathleen at Fluff Monkey about the timeline your holiday orders, especially if you’re making a big order.
“My favorite barnmate is actually the barn dog”: A winter-themed toy from BarkShop, $10-$15
All year long, the barn dog has faithfully eaten your farrier’s trim-scraps and chased away snakes. Thank this least-naughty critter on Santa’s List with either a whole $35 BarkBox (yes, you can order just one as a gift) or buy a single $10-$15 toy from BarkShop.
Check out BarkShop’s extensive lineup of holiday-themed and winter-themed toys. They’re a gas to look at, and they’re well made toys from a company with punny customer service agents who say things like “I would ruv to help you explore that paws-ibility.”
“My friend did No-Stirrup November and lived to tell the tale”: No Stirrups Survivor Shirt, sizes small to 4X, $22.50-$30.50
Why are there stirrups on this shirt? I guess those are the ghosts of your sanity after riding without stirrups for a full month. Anyway, it’s a classy-lookin’ shirt that you could wear in non-horsey company. And it comes in a huge range of sizes, up to 4X. Nab it here.
“My friend is impossible to shop for. What can I get her that she doesn’t already have?”: A favorite horse photo rendered as a custom digital graphic or real-life stickers, $5-$10
“If it doesn’t sparkle, my friends don’t have time for it”: Braid Bling, $23 for 10 bands
For your friend who already has a blingy browband, rhinestones on her saddle cantle, rhinestones on her boot tabs…now she can have rhinestones on her braids. Comes in sets of 10, in color palettes ranging from carnival clown to a subtle black onyx set.
“Bling is great, but I want bling that’s different”: Equus Couture Vintage Stock Ties, Spur Straps, and Browbands, $25-$175
If rhinestones make you feel like you’re in a Las Vegas show, Equus Couture might have a bling-style you prefer. The owner rides at the same barn as me, and I’ve seen her work in person.
She let me pilfer through an entire bag of Equus Couture stuff, and every single piece was beautiful, well made, and crafted with high-quality materials. It felt more like shopping for jewelry, or antique furniture, than shopping for a traditional piece of horse bling.
The sale bin items start at $25, so there’s something for every budget. If you shop outside the sale bin, here’s some options ranked from “extremely subtle” to “ATTENTION I HAVE ARRIVED AT THE SHOW GROUNDS”:
- Spur straps, $40
- Vintage stock pins, $50
- Minimal bling browbands, $175 and up
- Wave browbands, $175 and up
- V-style bling browbands, $140 and up
- Full-on bling browbands, $175 to $350
Because her pieces are one-of-a-kind, you have to order the old fashioned way: by contacting Equus Couture directly. Your patience will be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind gift. And the owner is super nice, so you can expect a pleasant transaction.
Ack! I still haven’t found an awesome gift!
Well, here at The Saddle Geek, we’re big believers in giving shoppers resources. So if the stuff above wasn’t enough, and the Digital Saddle Advice Package isn’t the right treat yo’ self gift, try Velvet Rider’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide. Their gift guide has minimal overlap with this one, and they’ve got links to dozens of online saddleries so that you can window-shop until you drop.
Happy holidays, and if you’re not already on The Saddle Geek’s mailing list, be sure to hop on there before you go!