All We Want for Christmas...


A Christmas list of goodies for your equine partner.

Peruse a horse owner's holiday wish list, and it's a pretty good bet that most of the longed-for gifts thereon are more horse- than human-oriented. That's because horse owners always need something to enhance their horses' care, or simply to pamper their equine companions during the holiday season and beyond.

According a purchasing poll conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), a Greenwich, Conn., group that represents pet (including equine) product manufacturers and retailers, horse owners spent an average of $1,073 on horse care services and products in 2007. And since horsekeeping is on the rise--and new products aimed at equestrians and their horses enter the marketplace every year--the APPMA expects horse- related spending numbers to continue rising.

So what's catching the eye of horse enthusiasts this holiday season? Here's a peek at a wish list.

For Safety's Sake

No one knows better than trail riders that a lost shoe can bring a day's outing to a screeching halt. But a couple of products are designed to allow horses to reach a nearby destination--and even finish a day's ride--safely and in comfort.

The HOOFix Emergency Boot for trail riders was designed to allow trail riders to go the distance despite a lost shoe. Made of 1000 denier Cordura nylon and a five-layer skid-resistant rubberized bottom, the HOOFix Emergency Boot's Velcro closure makes for quick application and fit for the average horse (www.hoofix.com).

SpareShoe offers another way to compensate for a lost shoe, to add traction on slick surfaces, or provide cushion for the tender-footed. Made of flexible rubber, this glue-on shoe is perfect for short distances (five to 10 miles). SpareShoe fits most horses (www.spareshoe.com).

Reflective accessories have become the way for horses and riders to raise their safety profile on the trail and on neighborhood roads. Products range from reins, nosebands, breastplates, and leg and tail wraps for horses, to high-visibility vests for riders. Products are available online and from specialty equestrian catalog and retail outlets.

Pest Patrol

Flies and gnats are just a fact of equine life. But these pests can do more than just annoy horses; they also pack the potential for serious, sometimes life-threatening illness. Fortunately, there are ways to keep pests at bay in the pasture and barn. Some use art and design, and some rely on science to get the job done.

Endure Roll-On and Equi-Spot Spot-on Fly Control fly repellents both provide pest protection, but via different applications and concentrations. Endure Roll On offers five to seven days of coverage for horses' sensitive areas around eyes and muzzles. Endure also contains sunscreen and coat conditioners to protect against the sun's harmful rays. Spot-on liquid uses measured doses applied poll to tail and on all four legs for body protection for 14 days, says Farnam. Prices vary (www.farnamhorse.com).

Saratoga Custom Turnout Sheets take on fly protection by guarding horses against pests. Made of soft interwoven, nonabsorbing mesh, the Saratoga Summer Turnout Sheet wicks away sweat while the white fabric reflects harmful sun rays. Visit Saratoga Horseworks at www.horseworks.com for pricing and sizing instructions.

The truly image-conscious would also enjoy Sunglasses (some are called MASQ ART) fly masks emblazoned with "Aviator" or "Glamour" sunglasses images and plenty of star appeal. Prices vary and masks are widely available at tack and equestrian supply and specialty stores near you and online. (The Horse found them on eBay and www.cyedesigns.com)

Pests aren't the only environmental threat to equine health. The sun's UV rays can damage a horse's skin as much as they do a human's. Quic Shade, made by Exhibitor Labs, uses octyl methoxycinnamate and benzophenone-3 to create a sunscreen value comparable to a human SPF 15 product, along with vitamin E to reduce a horse's sunblock sensitivities. Visit www.exhibitorlabs.com for pricing and dealers.

Spa Day

Equine psychologists and trainers say grooming is one of the best ways owners can bond with their horses. And according to the APPMA, horse owners spend an average of $109 annually on grooming products for their equine companions. But if most horses revel in the attention, grooming can become a pain in the neck and back for their owners. Fortunately, there are products designed to make bathing and other grooming procedures more comfortable for horses and their humans.

The Hoofjack saves human backs during equine foot care procedures. Made of lightweight linear polyethylene, this stand is 12 inches high, has an 18-inch diameter at the base, and was developed by a farrier to support horses' hooves during shoeing, cleaning, or while applying a fresh coat of preshow hoof paint. The Hoofjack is available in sizes for average horses, Minis, and draft breeds (www.hoofjack.com).

Horsekeepers needn't stoop to conquer bathing chores with Critter Scrub. This bathing system uses a portable tank to dispense diluted soap or shampoo into a wand long enough to reach all those horse parts inaccessible without human bending and stooping (www.critterscrub.com).

Hands-on owners can also massage while bathing with Jelly Scrubbers. Made of flexible rubber, these two-sided hand tools have larger "teeth" on one side, smaller ones on the other, and are soft enough to wash equine faces and legs gently.

Hauling water at bath time gets easier with Tub Trugs, buckets designed with handles that fold inward for easy transport around the barn or the show circuit, and made of heavy duty flexible rubber to take years of punishment (Jely Scrubbers and Tub Trugs are available at www.tail-tamer.com).

Performance Partners

Along with physical care and maintenance, horsekeeping also involves a continual process of performance and learning aimed at performance. Whether around the paddock, on a trail ride, or in the show ring, riders are always on the hunt for ways to improve how horses do their jobs and to train more naturally and effectively. Hot this holiday season are a couple of performance and training aids designed with equine comfort in mind.

Once a cowboy's training secret, rope halters have become preferred training tools now that natural training techniques are on owners' minds. Fashioned of the same cotton rope yachters use to coax sails into place, these halters have knots that apply gentle pressure to strategic facial pressure points to help cultivate responsiveness and improve a handler's control. They're available at specialty tack stores and online to fit horses of all sizes.

Horses needn't be high-performance athletes to experience stress under saddle. A day on the trail or even a daily workout can be a pain the back when saddles contact topline pressure points. ThinLine saddle pads use open-cell foam to reduce under saddle stress for horses and riders (www.thinlinepads.com).

Feed Finds

Although veterinarians and trainers agree that high-quality hay and pasture grass are a horse's best diet, equines also benefit from treats in moderation. In some cases, horses--such as lactating mares, high performance competitors, and seniors--also get a boost from specially formulated feeds and supplements. The trick is making sure supplements and pharmaceuticals are dispensed appropriately.

SmartPak takes the guesswork out of dispensing supplements and medications with a line of products pre-measured for daily use over the course of a month. SmartPak products arrive in plastic containers bearing pharmaceutical-grade seals to ensure freshness. Each container bears the horse's and owner's names to eliminate feed room confusion (www.SmartPak.com).

In the spirit of the holiday season, U Bake Horse Treats Horse Rescue Recipe lets horse owners and their stable friends combine culinary fun with philanthropy. This horse-friendly snack combines flaxseed, bran, oats, and brown sugar into an easy-to-prepare mix that can be fashioned into cookies, snack bars, a cake, or molded into shapes that are baked or cooked in the microwave. A portion of the U Bake price benefits horses at the Godspeed Horse Hostel, an Amenia, N.Y., horse rescue organization. A glow-in-the-dark bracelet proclaiming, "I helped rescue a horse," accompanies every package of mix. (For dealer information, visit www.ubakehorsetreats.com.)

Stocking Stuffers

The holiday season is not complete without a cache of small surprises. And horses aren't much different from humans when it comes to appreciating the little extras that always come around at holiday time.

A Horse-Pas-a-Fier is one of the growing number of so-called enrichment toys designed to help horses stave off boredom and just have a good time. Created by Horsemen's Pride, makers of the Jolly Ball products, this apple-scented device uses a pair of round rotating cylinders and a disc to amuse horses when they're stall-bound. Made of an innovative polymer to stand up to lots horseplay, manufacturers claim this device also distracts horses from cribbing. Hardware required to mount the device in a stall corner is included (www.horsemenspride.com for dealers).

For young horses and those particularly offended by clipper buzz, the Horse Shaver is a welcome alternative. This single-edge blade encased in a plastic handle is just 1-inch wide by 1-inch tall, allowing a sure grip for even the smallest hands (www.tail-tamer.com for dealers).

Slick bands won't take the tedium out of braiding manes and tails, but they do make the process more pleasant. Made of flexible rubber, these bands won't crack, are break-resistant, are reusable, and reduce hair breakage when they're removed. They are available in several colors in 400-count packages (www.tail-tamer.com).

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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