Whoops! You procrastinated, again, on gifts for your barn buddies and trainer. High five, fellow holiday fail-whale. I procrastinated on writing this Gift Guide, so we’re even.
Anyway, this being The Saddle Geek, I’ll be focusing on saddle-related gifts for English riders…but no saddles. Saddles are tough to gift because they’re so personal and so expensive. Girths, stirrups, and other accessories are also a matter of personal taste. The goal with this gift guide is to suggest stuff that many of your friends will want or need, regardless of their taste in saddles, between $15 and $99.
Fair warning, folks…given that it’s 10 days before Christmas as I write this, your mileage may vary on packages arriving by Christmas. Make a creative IOU to put under the tree?
Finally, a moment for the boring fine print: None of these companies asked me to endorse their products, none of them provided free products for my review, and I don’t get any commission or kickbacks when you click the links below.
So this gift guide is purely my gift to you: the gift of drooling over fun saddle-related stuff. Yum.
The Saddle Geek’s Favorite Saddle Soap and Leather Balm: Higher Standards Leather Care, $18-$25
I’ve tried just about every tack-cleaning product on the market, from cheap to expensive. Some are terrible, many are good, a few are great…yet there’s only one brand that I use on my personal tack, and that’s Higher Standards Leather Care. It works very well, it smells amazing, and it’s made with love in the USA by an eventing rider named Libby.
Some nice choices for the holidays are the Higher Standards Mini Pack of 3 Mini Soaps + 1 Mini Balm (only available during the holidays) and the One Soap + One Balm pack.
A crash course on Higher Standards Leather Care scents:
Buzz’s Citrus Ginger – a soft, mellow orange-y smell with just a hint of ginger. This one’s a hit with everyone in my barn.
Ben’s Rosemary Mint – a gentle poke of peppermint, but not a big fat jab of peppermint. You can just barely smell the rosemary.
Fox’s Vanilla Lavender – for your friend who likes floral stuff. Smells mostly like lavender, with very very subtle hints of vanilla.
Woody’s Confidence Blend – if Buzz’s Citrus Ginger is like a creamsicle, this one’s like a fresh glass of orange juice. It really does perk you up.
Jeffers Lemon-Aid, sold exclusively through Jeffers Equine – A delicious, lemon-cream-pie type of smell. This scent, and Woody’s Confidence Blend, are my personal faves.
Plain Bay – totally un-fragranced and perfect for your fragrance-sensitive friends. Cleans just as well as the other scents (uh, I may or may not have tried every scent on this list…)
And don’t forget the amazing conditioning balm:
Leather Balm – a non-greasy leather balm that actually works? I used to think that was impossible, until I met this stuff. If you think your leather looks good now, wait until you see it after a light coat of this stuff. Mostly unscented, although you can definitely smell the cocoa butter in there.
Special Edition Soaps for the Holidays
CinnaMint – smells exactly like Big Red chewing gum. Repeat, exactly like Big Red chewing gum.
Sugar and Spice – think more spice, less sugar. If you’re the sort of person who opens your spice jar and sniffs the pumpkin pie spice for fun, you’ll like this one.
Swanky Saddle Company Monograms, $30-$45
Why settle for a boring saddle nameplate? Swanky Saddle Company makes beautiful monogram-style plates, and more traditional plates with fancier-than-normal fonts. If you’re not sure which one to buy, here’s my opinion: “The embossed monograms are super cute, but they look like dirt magnets. Unless you keep Q-tips in your tack cleaning kit, I’d get the flat plate version instead. Or if you prefer, go with a more traditional plate with fun writing like the Signature Saddle Plate.” Also, fair warning: this is a customized item, so it can take 4 to 6 weeks to arrive. If you’re giving one for Christmas, wrap up a creative IOU (<—see what I did there? Three letters, just like a monogram.)
For your friend who hooks stuff to their saddle’s dee rings: Heavy-Duty Dee Ring Savers from Nunn Finer, $10-$20
You know what’s expensive to fix? A saddle whose dee ring got yanked out. Perhaps because a horse spooked while it was wearing something that was hooked to those dee rings.
So if you have a friend that uses their dee rings a lot—-like, say, a friend who routinely hooks a breastplate to their dee rings—hook up your friend with some really nice, industrial strength dee ring savers.
The Amish-made dee ring savers from Nunn Finer are top notch. I use them on both of my saddles. And unlike those flakey-dakey $5 ones you buy to “tide you over,” I’m confident that the Nunn Finer ones will last a lifetime. Nab some Nunn Finner dee rings at VTO Saddlery or SmartPak.
A Mattress For Your Saddle, $99
If you paid a small fortune for a top-notch wool-flocked or foam panelled saddle, it’s really un-awesome to find your panels getting creased by the rails on your saddle rack. Over time, this can cause serious problems with your saddle. For a wool-flocked saddle, it can make your flocking lump and bunch into uncomfortable pressure points for the horse. For a foam-panelled saddle, it can create permanent rail-shaped divots in the foam.
Enter Saddle Mattress, a product that retrofits your saddle rack with more panel-friendly padding. Yes, it’s an extravagant solution. Yes, you could probably accomplish a similar goal with a really thick saddle pad.
But anyway, this is the holidays, and extravagance is the name of the game. Saddle Mattress also the perfect gift for That Barn Friend Who Has Everything. Like me (hey, husband, if you are reading this…)
Behold, a Saddle Mattress spotted in the wilds of Instagram:
A Premium-Quality Saddle Pad from PRI, $40
Almost everyone can use more saddle pads. But how often do you spring for the really nice ones, the ones that wear like iron and precisely match your barn colors or show colors?
If you’re ready to move into the Saddle Pad Big Leagues, Pacific Rim International (PRI) pads are just what you’re after. They wear like iron, and you can get them in almost any combo of colors and piping.
Equus Now stocks PRI pads in many colors and three sizes: dressage, all purpose, and pony. If you don’t see your target color combo, give Equus Now a call. They can usually order the color you want. And let’s just say there’s a case discount if you order enough of these, ask me how I know.
A Simple Neck Strap or a Complicated Neck Strap, $19-$40
If world-class eventer William Fox-Pitt uses a neck strap for every ride, you can too. Most people use an old stirrup leather, or the neck-strap part of a martingale.
But if you’re looking for a better-mouse-trap approach to neck straps, try the Shires Tapestry Neck Strap. Its most charming features are an elastic insert and a dee ring to braid into your horse’s mane, both of which help to hold the neck strap steady in tough conditions.
It does run big, so unless you routinely ride horses who are larger than 16.2hh, I recommend the Pony/Cob size. You can buy either size from Shires on Amazon.com.
That said, I place neck strap about 1/3 of the way up the neck. If you like your neck strap closer to the withers, where you can keep your hand around it at all times, you might want a thinner neck strap like the Nunn Finer neck strap.
The Nunn Finer neck strap is sold in lots of places, including VTO Saddlery, a wonderful saddlery that’s popular with eventers. But you could also grab a Nunn Finer neck strap at Jeffers while you’re grabbing some Higher Standards Leather Care soap and conditioning balm. Just sayin’.
For your friend who’s always changing the gullet in her Wintec/Bates/Collegiate Saddle: Replacement Screw Pack for the Easy Change Gullet System, $11
If your friend owns a saddle from Bates/Wintec/Collegiate with the Easy Change Gullet System, there’s a darn good chance that your friend is missing a screw. And I’m not talking about their brains.
I’m talking about the fact that, when you attempt to change a gullet plate, the Easy Change Gullet System from Wintec/Bates/Collegiate often turns into a catapult for screws. And when screws roll across the tack room or the barn aisle, they ain’t never comin’ back.
And if you’re a US buyer, that’s a problem because the Easy Change Gullet System uses metric screws. You can find a workable replacement in the special Metric Screws drawer at Lowe’s or Home Depot, but it’s never going to be quite right. It’s much nicer, and better for your saddle, to have a real replacement screw from Wintec/Bates/Collegiate.
This is a long-winded way to say…a Replacement Screw Pack is a more thoughtful gift than it may seem. And think of the screw-related jokes (PG-rated or R-rated!) you can write on the card.
Butt Velcro: Suede Seat Covers, about $70 each
Here’s something I’ve never understood: horses tend to be uppity in the winter, yet breeches companies tend to use slippery fabrics for winter breeches.
Yes, I know about Sticky Seat and full-seat breeches, and full chapts. Yes, I know about saddles covered in grippy leathers and suede-like synthetics. But for a lot of riders, those are expensive solutions that aren’t gonna happen this winter.
So if you’ve got a rider in your life who’s stuck with an existing slippery saddle and slippery breeches, The Other Seat suede seat cover is just the ticket. It’s not show legal for most riding disciplines, but the goal here isn’t to be show legal. It’s to survive the winter alive!
I own and use The Other Seat on my jump saddle and dressage saddle. I can tell you from firsthand experience, the suede is high quality and lasts a long time. If you’re sketched by the product maker’s ancient web site, you can buy The Other Seat from a sweet little saddlery called Riding Right, which I have used several times.
Replacement Billet Guards, $20-$25
Billet guards seem like a silly luxury item, until you lose them or they fall apart. Then, the buckles on your girth start causing unnecessary wear on your jump saddle’s flaps. Yet most people don’t get around to ordering replacement billet guards, and their saddles suffer for it.
That makes replacement billet guards a thoughtful stocking stuffer, especially for saddles that don’t get enough TLC. Slide them quietly onto the saddle your trainer uses for lessons, or the saddle of a little girl in the barn who can’t afford more than that paper-thin ancient plain-flapped saddle.
For Your Friend Who Needs Saddle Advice But Won’t Ask For It: A Big Ol’ Link to thesaddlegeek.com
You know what would be an amazing gift, to your friends and to The Saddle Geek? Helping us make friends by sharing this blog with others. Post it on Facebook. Email a relevant post to a friend. Tell your saddle-shopping buddy about The Saddle Geek’s personalized, custom online saddle fitting advice service.
This blog wouldn’t exist without awesome readers like you, and I love having more of you aboard. So whatever winter holiday you celebrate—in my case, it’s Christmas—have a great one. I can’t wait to have even more geeky saddle fun with y’all in the New Year.