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Last-Minute Gifts With Heart

Still looking for the perfect present for horse lovers on your list? Consider these quick but thoughtful options.

Illustration by June Brigman

Christmas is Coming! if there’s anyone remaining on your holiday gift list, time is running out to find just the right present. For the horse lovers on your list, however (your riding buddy, your trainer, your farrier or vet), you needn’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Here, in honor of the 12 days of Christmas, are 12 terrific ideas for unique and interesting gifts that can be put together quickly—but with the forethought that shows you really care.

Happy Holidays!

1. Honor Through Donation
The idea: Contribute to an equine charitable organization in your giftee’s name. If she’s the proud owner of a rescue horse, donate to a local rescue. If she’s lost a horse to a disease, donate in her and her horse’s name to a group like the American Association of Equine Practitioners Foundation (aaep.org), which funds research into equine ailments. Or perhaps she volunteers at a therapeutic riding center to which you could donate. Additional options include a wide range of other national programs, such as the Equine Land Conservation Resource (elcr.org).

Best for: The philanthropist who delights in helping others; the person who already has “everything.”

Tips: Some groups provide a small ornament, certificate, or letter that you can pass on to the recipient. Or you can make your own token, perhaps with a photo of the horse you honored or information about the mission of the charity involved. For a listing of charitable equine organizations, go to discoverhorses.com/charitableorganizations.

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2. Get Practical
The idea:
Give a gift card or certificate from the recipient’s favorite feed store, saddle shop, or online shopping destination. If she’s cyber-savvy, consider an iTunes gift card (available at your local grocery-store checkout) so she can select from the best of the equine smartphone apps. A gift card needn’t be impersonal if you know the person’s likes and dislikes, and choose accordingly.

Best for: Anyone you know well enough to pinpoint shopping preferences.

Tips: Place the card or certificate in a gift box along with a whimsical list of what it might buy at the store in question. If you’re handy with words, put it in the form of a quirky poem.

3. Gift Your Time
The idea: Create a homemade booklet with coupons good for future services—performed by you. The coupons could all be for the same thing—say, paddock-cleaning if that’s your giftee’s least-favorite chore. Or mix ’em up for variety, and include one each for tack-mending, barn-cleaning, horse-hauling, apple-picking, hay-stacking—you get the idea.

Best for: Anyone who keeps horses at home and is short on time (and the former guarantees the latter).

Tips: Go old-school and create the coupons using construction paper, felt-tip markers, and glitter. Or find help making fancy printable coupons online at sites like pastiche.squidoo.com/giftcoupons or familycrafts.about.com (search for printable coupons).

4. Satisfy a Sweet Tooth
The idea:
Send a gift of horse-themed chocolates straight from an online provider such as darkhorsechocolates.com or chocolatevault.com (search horses).

Best for: The chocoholic, or anyone not on a diet.

Tips: If the chocolates won’t arrive in time for Christmas, you can still have something to put under the tree. Wrap a single piece of high-quality chocolate with a note that says, “More of this will be galloping to your door soon.” That’ll keep him or her guessing.

5 Hit the Big-Box Store
The idea:
Head to your local hardware or home-improvement outlet to find barn-friendly mainstream items—step/storage stools, barn-cleaning implements, storage containers, and so on.

Best for: The neatnic barn diva.

Tips: To wrap large items, find extra-roomy plastic holiday gift bags where giftwrap is sold, or use a large, disposable tablecloth (find them with party supplies).

6. Give an Experience
The idea:
Wrap up a gift certificate for a riding lesson or that clinic your giftee has been wanting to attend.

Best for: Anyone interested in improving his or her horsemanship, or overcoming a specific challenge.

Tips: If the person doesn’t already have a favorite trainer, the Certified Horsemanship Association has a nationwide list of instructors (chainstructors.com). Or check with breed registries for programs like the American Quarter Horse Association’s Professional Horsemen (aqha.com and search with the term professional horsemen).

7. Share a Treasure
The idea:
Gift a prized hand-me-down, such as that headstall or vest you don’t use much anymore but that your friend has repeatedly admired.

Best for: Someone who appreciates the value of high-end vintage items. And, for this strategy to be most successful, the giftee really should have expressed enthusiasm for the item in question.

Tips: For a gift like this, presentation really counts. Make sure the item is in perfect repair, spotlessly cleaned, and ready to use.

8. Offer a Break
The idea:
Give your wife or friend a few hours of professional housekeeping—which translates into barn time for her.

Best for: Someone who fusses over her home as much as her barn.

Tips: Make a certificate to announce your gift—by hand, on your computer, or online at a site like certificatemagic.com. Be sure to focus on what your giftee will do with the free time. For example, “Three Carefree Hours to Spend at the Barn—While Someone Else Cleans Your House for You (Compliments of Me).” Have fun with it.

9. Create a Horsey Treat
The idea:
Bake or buy a yummy something for your giftee’s favorite horse.

Best for: The person who loves to give treats.

Tips: For a wide range of recipes, go to aboutyourhorse.com, then click on Other Topics in the left-hand menu and drop down to Horse Treat Recipes. Or find bags of commercial horse treats at your local feed store—or even bags of baby carrots at your grocery store or farmer’s market.

10. Start a Library
The idea:
Give a training-oriented DVD set, audio CD, book, or magazine subscription—or a combination of several of these—as the foundation of an equestrian learning library.

Best for: A young rider, or anyone intent on developing his or her horsemanship.

Tips: Find educational material at your local saddle shop, or shop online for a wide variety of books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, and more at HorseBooksEtc.com.

11. Fill a Basket
The idea:
Zip to your local feed or tack store to pick up a variety of the essentials horse lovers can never have enough of—hoof picks, mane combs, curry combs, mane bands, and so on—to fill a bucket or basket.

Best for: Anyone who owns a horse.

Tips: For smashing presentation, place a nest of straw or hay at the bottom of the bucket or basket, arrange the goodies artfully on top, then wrap the whole thing in colored cellophane with a large bow to tie it off. Think old-fashioned Easter basket, only with appropriate holiday colors.

12. Give Yourself
The idea: Offer the gift of time spent together with your giftee, away from the stress of the season and all social-media demands. Create a gift certificate that promises an afternoon of riding, at your place or hers or on a favorite trail. Or offer to supply a favorite horse flick and the popcorn for an evening of movie-watching and catching up.

Best for: A truly favored friend with whom you don’t get to spend as much time as you’d like.

Tips: For certificate-making, see the tips in #8. Be sure to stress that this gift is as much for you as it is for your friend: Your heartfelt appreciation of her is what will make this a precious present.

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