Back when I taught riding lessons, I would start getting texts around this time of year from parents looking for equestrian gift ideas. The world of horses and riding can be confusing at times and there is a lot of misinformation out there, so I was always happy to offer suggestions and advice. In the end, I always appreciated parents asking my opinion. The last thing any instructor wants to do is tell a rider they can’t use the new piece of tack they got for Christmas on their favorite horse, but it does happen. Not all horse items work for every horse or every rider. In fact, more often than not, the wrong equipment or apparel can actually make riding more difficult or uncomfortable for both horse and rider. So that’s why we’ve come up with these basic guidelines for families and friends of our riders.
Tack is a broad term used to describe any equipment used on a horse to aid in riding it. This includes items like the saddle, girth, bridle, etc. With a quick google search you can find tack in all sorts of colors with pretty designs on it. However, what these retailers often fail to tell you, is that most tack doesn’t work for every horse. Some pieces of tack, like girths and saddles, fit different sized horses just like how we have different sizes of clothing. Other pieces, like breastplates and bridles, have very specific functions that (when used in the correct situation) will help the horse, but when applied without the proper understanding, can actually hinder the horse or even cause them harm.
My advice to families that want to purchase something to put on the horse is to get a saddle pad. These are (in my opinion) the most universal piece of tack and are very customizable. You’ll still need to do a little research though. Ask your instructor whether you should get a western pad, an all-purpose English pad, or a dressage pad. Once you know which one you are looking for, it gets pretty simple. A quick google search will offer a host of options in every imaginable color and pattern. Plus many offer the opportunity to embroider names or initials on the pad. Your rider will absolutely love it and you won’t risk having a negative impact on their riding experience.
If you are still interested in purchasing other types of tack, please consult your instructor well in advance so they can help guide you to the best possible choice.
A riding helmet is a wonderful gift idea that your rider will get great use out of but it’s very important that the appropriate measurements are taken to ensure proper helmet fit. Every brand is a little different so be sure to consult their size chart. Even then, if the helmet wiggles around on the rider’s head, it may need to be returned for a smaller size.
These change depending on your rider’s discipline. Western riders wear jeans (unless they are breaking wild broncos, don’t even bother with chaps like the cowboys in the movies wear). English riders wear breeches or jodhpurs. Just like with everything else, there are many different options. Consult your instructor if you are unsure about a specific style.
As with pants, these change depending on the discipline. To make things even more complicated, both English and Western boots have been adopted in some modern fashion trends resulting in designs that have the look of a riding boot, but fail to function well in the stirrup. Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor questions or run your selection by them before purchasing a pair of boots for your rider.
Riding gloves are a great stocking stuffer, especially this year. They can be fairly inexpensive and can help protect a rider’s hands from blisters caused by the reins rubbing. GaitWay disinfects reins after every use, but gloves still offer an extra layer of protection against germs. Gloves are more typically seen on English riders, but some Western riders may enjoy them as well.
Despite what you see in the movies, spurs are in no way essential to riding. In fact, they are a tool that should only be used by the most experienced riders. At GaitWay, spurs should only be used at the request of the instructor.
A grooming kit is a great gift for both rider and horse. Just make sure whatever kit you purchase has the following: a hoof pick, curry comb, soft brush, and stiff brush.
HandsOn Grooming Gloves are a relatively new product that make grooming easier. They are effective at removing dirt and loose hair from sensitive surfaces on the horse (like their legs) and horses LOVE them. As a bonus, they are also good to use on dogs and cats.
It’s hard to go wrong with horse treats! Just like people, some horses are pickier than others but the one treat I’ve never had a horse refuse is Purina Berry Good Senior Horse Treats. However, keep in mind that some of our horses may have restrictions, so you should always ask a GaitWay staff member before handing out goodies at the barn!
Keep in mind, this guide was made with GaitWay riders and horses in mind. Other programs and organizations may have more specific needs. For this reason, the best advice is always to ask your instructor if you aren’t absolutely certain about what to purchase.
If you would like some gift ideas for your favorite GaitWay horse, keep an eye out for our upcoming Equine Gift Guide blog. For any questions about rider gifts, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the staff at GaitWay. Happy Holidays!