Feeling Good About Giving

Once again, 'tis the season, and in most horsey households no gift list is complete until the names of equine friends appear right along with Uncle Joe and Cousin Mary Sue. As we do for our human friends and relatives, we want to get just the right gift--one that pleases both giver and receiver.

Needless to say, the Internet is a virtual wonderland of equine products and gift ideas. So are the fall trade shows and commercial exhibits featured at most of the larger year-end horse shows and rodeos.

A simple Internet search results in a vast and sometimes confusing array of products guaranteed to be the best, the most beneficial, the longest-lasting, and so on. Where do you start? We have a few ideas, but as always, no endorsements. Please take good care to do your own research and check out appealing products thoroughly before making any final decisions.

We decided to concentrate on those items that truly are good for your horse, not presents disguised as gifts for your horse, but clearly meant for the horse owner. (A new hunt coat or custom chaps, for example, might make your equine friend look better on the rail, but he doesn't actually benefit and couldn't care less about them.)

Before we begin, the best gift of all for your horse might not even be a product, per se.

Tummy Treats

When one thinks holidays, delicious goodies are often the first things to come to mind. And if they are homemade, all the better.

Jenny Ramsey of Conifer, Colo., took her hobby of making horse treats a step further and made it a lucrative family business called The Treat Barn, where all goodies are made by hand, are all-natural, and are delivered fresh to customers.

Ramsey uses only healthy ingredients such as apples, carrots, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, honey, bran, molasses, and olive oil. The treats are packed in baskets, bags, or buckets, and are also put in creative bouquets or in special arrangements for the holidays, birthdays, victory celebrations, get well soon, etc. All of the treats can be shipped across the country with the exception of her unique horse birthday cakes, which must be hand delivered, so they are only available locally.

Adding to the fun are the special names of Ramsey's various concoctions. "Whoa Nelly Newtons" look like Fig Newtons with a cookie on the outside and "mush" on the inside. "Thorough Bread" cookies are bite-sized loaves of "bread" loaded with high-energy carbohydrates, and "Baygles" are--you guessed it--shaped like bagels and have the added ingredient of flaxseed. "GrandMare's Big Chunk Cookies" are heavy on the apple and carrot chunks, and "Whinny Sticks" look like giant suckers. (Be sure to remove the stick before feeding it to your horse!) All of these treats are available individually in a one-pound bag or half-gallon bucket.

The Treat Barn also sells traditional bran mash in individual plastic-lined paper sacks or buckets called "GrandMare's Old Fashioned Mash." It comes in flavors such as apple pie, cherry cobbler, or peppermint crunch.

For more information on The Treat Barn treats, see www.thetreatbarn.com, or call 866/207-1234.

Among the many goodies we encountered in our "shopping" were "Horse Lady Muffins" in Stacy, Minn., available at www.wod.com/hlmuffins; "Equine HP Performance Bars" in Mankato, Minn., seen at www.equinehp.com or by calling 866/654-6355; and "Mrs. Pastures Horse Cookies" available at many retail horse-related outlets including Bierwirths in Albuquerque, N.M., from which you can order them online at www.bierwirths.com.

Dressage rider Karen Smith took the horse treats idea one step further and created "The Yummy Horse: Horse Gift Baskets and Treats" located in Silver Spring, Md. Her company makes up gift baskets by the order to individual specifications. Customers can choose to stuff the basket with such tasty morsels as Mrs. Pastures Horse Cookies, Tally Oats, Horse Nibbles, ManaPro Apple or Butterscotch Nuggets, Nicker Snax, or Lucks Love Watermelon Hearts. Each beribboned basket creation is topped off with a stuffed horse. Look for "The Yummy Horse" at http://home.att.net/~the-yummy-horse, or by calling 301/879-8591.

Green Stuff

No, not money. Instead we were thinking of the Farnam product "Cool Pack Green Jelly." This festive-looking jar looks delightfully seasonal with a bright red ribbon tied around its lid. Found at most tack shops or farm stores, Green Jelly is great to use under shipping bandages every time your horse travels. It will not blister, and it cools, soothes, and draws out soreness you might not even know is there. It's good on shoulders, knees, ankles, suspensory ligaments, and tendons, too.

Of course, there are lots of similar products available from numerous companies to help keep your horse moving smoothly and feeling in top condition. And speaking of top condition, Farnam has just introduced its new line of "Ascend" horse care products, which includes hoof health gel, joint health gel, performance electrolyte gel, and skin and coat health gel. Visit them at www.FarnamHorse.com or call 800/234-2269.

Fun & Games

What is Christmas without toys? A plethora of balls and other horse toys can be found--you can even make your own out of old plastic milk jugs and some creativity. Once again, a stroll through the Web reveals quite a list of pre-made toys and how-to's for making equine playthings.

We thought "Horse Buds" looked kind of fun and a little bit different. Horse Buds are soft toys that look like a horse head. The company claims most horses will play with them and carry them around in their teeth. Kids might especially enjoy giving a Horse Bud to their pony pals. These gifts can be seen at www.horsebuds.com, or contact this Tucson, Ariz., company at 800/266-2122.


Of course, a Google search of horse blankets turned up only about 214,000 sites, so we decided to go straight to that most ubiquitous of all holiday gifts: Underwear.

Most horse blankets tend to rub out hair and skin in spots, especially if the horse wears his "jammies" most of the time. So creative folks began putting "underwear" on their horses under their blankets. These products have been around a while, but new designs spring up with regularity. Usually made from smooth, stretchy fabrics, the two most common styles are ones that cover the neck, chest, withers, and shoulders and attach with Velcro (behind the forelegs, and the "bib" style that looks like, well, a bib.

Equitard Products sells some nice undergarments (see their store on Ebay), as does the Raleigh, N.C., W'underwear company, co-founded by designer Marlene Newman. You can see the "W'undercover Anti-Rub Garment" at www.wunderwear.com, or call 800/733-0919 for more information.

Another advantage is that these underwear products also launder much more easily than big, heavy horse blankets, so you'll wash them more often. Your horse's haircoat will therefore stay a little bit cleaner and brighter, and he'll most likely feel more comfortable.

Saddle pads and blankets come in a myriad of styles and colors. Your horse really only cares if he is comfortable, however, with the least possible amount of soreness and stiffness after a workout. The time you take to make sure your horse sports a properly fitting saddle pad will pay off for you both.

Two saddle pads that have been around a while, but are worth a look depending upon your circumstances and the actual jobs you ask your horse to do, are Dr. Michael Freeman's "SaddleRight" pads and "Memory Foam Pads."

Freeman, a physician and applied kinesiologist from Las Vegas, Nev., developed the SaddleRight line based on his expertise. For more information, go to www.saddleright.com or call 800/677-6170.

Memory Foam Saddle Pads are made of Viso-Elastic Memory Foam that conforms to the horse's body as well as to the saddle, while wicking away moisture. These folks make lots of other products from this material, and they are especially known for their (human) mattresses and pillows. For additional information, go to www.memoryfoamfactory.com/product-detail.asp?group_id=20, or call 877/636-3626.

There are lots of boots out there--and there should be. Your horse's legs are perhaps the most vulnerable parts of his body. Remember the old saying: "No foot, no horse?" His legs and feet deserve special protection, especially if you ask him for a lot of athletic movement.

One line worth looking at is Classic Equine's product list, which includes the "Dyno Boot No-Turn Bell Boot" and the "Classic Legacy System." For more information, go to www.classicequine.com (click the Classic Equine link on the left) where it will show up under "Boots," or call 800/654-7864.

Bargain Basement

Finally, if you are on a tight budget this winter, think spring. Warm season products often are on sale and worth stocking up on. (News flash: Your horse doesn't really know when Christmas is celebrated.)

The icy season might not seem the time to dwell on biting flies, but they'll be back before you know it. For example, Dura-Tech makes not only the commonly seen fly mask, but also a line of fly boot shields for your horse's legs and feet. Most tack stores and catalogs have such products on sale this time of year, so you can get a matching set!

This holiday season, give your equine friends gifts that truly benefit them--and you will enjoy the benefits yourself all year long.

THE GIFT OF HEALTH: The Perfect Present

Perhaps the perfect gift for your horse is one that lasts the whole year through, and keeps on giving to you both. The gift begins with a question: "As a good steward, have I done absolutely everything possible to ensure the health and comfort of my horse(s)?"

In other words, is every aspect of your horse management program in place and up to date? For example: Have you had your horse vaccinated for rabies and West Nile virus, in addition to the standard vaccinations, as your veterinarian advised? Is he on a good deworming program based on accurate, individual fecal tests? Is he groomed and exercised regularly? Does he see the farrier every four to six weeks? Are his tack and equipment clean and do they fit properly? Have his teeth been checked within the past year?

Taking care of all the little things that will truly benefit your horse, and doing them at the right time in the right way, is a gift your horse will appreciate far more than all the cookies in the world.--Marian Carpenter

DO-IT-YOURSELF: Make Your Own Horse Treats

For those folks who like to make their own gifts, there are lots of great horse treat recipes out there. We liked the Web site www.qtm.net/~mitchj/recipes.html. On that site, we found 35 equine snack recipes with such names as: "Gypsy's Great Goodies," "Apple Surprise," and "Boogeryboo's Sticky Snacks," and all free for the sharing.

Here's one to try from the Macintosh Horse Club:

Peppermint Corn Muffins

  • 1 egg
  • 5 smashed sugar cubes
  • 5 smashed mints
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch

Grind sugar and mints in electric chopper. Place powder in a large bowl. Add flour. Grind cornmeal in chopper and add to mix. Add one egg. Pour in milk and cornstarch. Mix until only a few lumps remain. Grease mini-muffin pan and pour batter into each cup. Bake at 400ºF until brown (about 12 minutes). Remove from pan, cool, and serve to equine pals. --Marian Carpenter

About the Author

Marian Carpenter

Marian Carpenter, a lifelong horsewoman and writer, is executive director of the Texas Equine Veterinary Association. She lives with her family and equine friends near Amarillo, Texas.

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