To many of us, our horses are our children (guilty). Every year, just like our two-legged kids, we want to treat them to something special during the holiday season, but lacking opposable thumbs, they can’t exactly write out a Christmas list, can they? I’ve given many gifts to Buddy over the years, but I can honestly say I’ve not given a lot of thought to what HE would want, usually what I think he needs. I remember one year in particular, giving Buddy a beautiful leather halter and lead, with brass, engraved name plates. I wrapped it in a box, took it to the barn, and presenting Buddy’s gift to him. I shook the box, he sniffed and toyed with the loosely-wrapped paper, finding a corner to tear loose (I was so proud my boy knew how to unwrap!). I helped him with the rest of the wrapping, opened the box, and (excited face, quickly turned to disappointed face… it wasn’t food!). Not only did I not give him what he wanted, I actually gave him something I would later use to drag him around with. #horsemommyfail
Horses, despite their complicated humans, are simple critters. It isn’t that difficult to give them a gift they’ll truly enjoy…
One of the fastest ways to their hearts, is through their stomachs. Apart from their daily rations, no horse will turn down a treat, and there are so many available. Stop in any tack store, feed mill, or Tractor Supply Store, you’ll find a great variety of brands, flavors, textures and applications, to say nothing of the recipes available online to make your own. My Buddy got a scoop of alfafa cubes every evening when I left. He got good grass/timothy hay twice daily, but made a mess if I left him some to snack on, so rather than wasting it, I gave him the condensed version as a snack. Buddy was also a fan of the fruit plate from Bob Evans, we’d stop on the way home from shows, and he always got a to go order, sans yogurt (that was yucky!), and gummy bears. He LOVED gummy bears. In addition to the great “off the rack” snacks, there are recipes and even pre-packaged, flavored bran mashes. We all celebrate the holiday with a hot family meal, why shouldn’t they get the same? Especially in a cold climate, a warm meal in their belly makes them feel warm and snuggly all over.
No matter what the weather, horses always love to stretch their legs. In Ohio, we have all four seasons, so an all-weather turn-out blanket is a must have. We know how gross it feels to be stuck in cold, damp clothes for any length of time, horses don’t like it either. Treat them to a water-proof rug of some kind, to block the wind and keep them dry. There are plenty of options on weight and price too, you don’t have to spend a fortune. Every kid needs a good “snowsuit” to go outside in and blow off steam!
Even if the weather isn’t suitable for outdoor time, they can still enjoy a romp in an indoor arena, or just a walk around the barn, and remember, horses are social animals. They would much rather play with a friend, then hangout on the playground alone. Whenever safe and permissible, help them find a friend to share their turn-out time with. You’ll have happier horses with less “barn fever.”
If you feel you must indulge in some practical items, consider new buckets for their stalls. Even the neatest horses still act like they were raised in a barn, and you can only scrub so much yuck out of them before they could stand to be replaced. Or, what about some new brushes? That tends to be an item we overlook when it comes to replacing, unless they get lost or “permanently borrowed.” Treat your horse to at least one, natural bristled brush of the softest texture you can find, to gently sweep dust off their faces and legs. Think of it as a sweet extension of your own touch, they’ll love it!
Most importantly though, all our horses really want for Christmas, is US. I talked about this briefly in my last entry, but it’s relevant here as well. Whether you board, of have your horse tucked in safely in your own backyard, it’s important to remember that like human children, they don’t offer sick days, or holidays off. They still eat and poop every day, regardless of whether the banks are open. I know we’re all crazy busy this time of year, but they deserve our attention just as much now, as they do on the other 364 days a year. Even if your hectic schedule doesn’t allow for a ride, try to pencil in some snuggle time with your ponies! Take your brushes when you feed, and give them a good curry while they eat (as long as they’re comfortable with it). Sing them a Christmas Carol, or just take five extra minutes to pet them and tell them how important they are to you. All our lives are precious and fleeting, make sure they know they’re loved, and they’ll show you right back, every day.