For the horse owner, the winter can be very long and dark. Mud and rain is dished out in uneven portions and the summer evenings out hacking seem a very long time ago as we struggle to keep our horses fit.
But Christmas, and all that it brings, not only allows us some precious time to ride during daylight hours, but it gives us the excuse to visit the tack shops and feed merchants to buy presents for all our horsey friends. And on the Island, equestrian shopping is easy and fun to do.
So, what would I like to find in my Christmas stocking? The list is endless. First of all, you can never have enough pairs of gloves. Gloves I hear you cry? Who can get excited about gloves? Let me explain. There are so many different types of gloves and all with their own special purpose. Take the lightweight magic winter gloves at around £1.95 a pair. Gloves get lost so frequently that at that price you can almost expect to find a pair in any of the pockets of your riding clothes. Then there are the lovely, luxurious thick yellow wool gloves for hunting or the posh brown, black or white ones for dressage or show jumping. But, best of all, in my Christmas stocking I would like to find a pair of the stylish canary yellow leather gloves. The ones I see worn by all the best riders in the show ring. I’m certain my horse will go better if only I have the right gloves.
Silk stocks – not the ready tied version would also be on my Christmas list. Properly tied and held in place with a nice plain gold stock pin they finish the picture and are gorgeous to wear as well as being easy to look after. The stock comes with a diagram on how to tie it. Practice on someone else and you will find that it’s easy to tie. Go for off white or cream for a really smart effect.
Buying for my family – they’re a horsey lot – was easy this year. An equine medical kit to keep in the lorry was the request I got from my sister. Just the basics: antiseptic wash and spray, wound powder, vetrap (sticky bandages), scissors, bandages and some gamgee plus gloves – the plastic sort this time – were all found at Deb Groves’ Trumor Feeds just outside Newport, and it came in its own nice little bag. Not bad for just over £20. Trumor had lots of nice stocking fillers too as well as an impressive array of feed supplements. On the way out, I made a mental note to buy some pole pods (jumps) which Deb says are a new line for them this year.
For my nieces, I headed for Froghill Saddlery at Sandford for two smart white dressage squares for their 14-inch saddles. They really will look the part now. I almost wished the girls were still tiny when I saw the fantastic Breyer model horse kits. You can even mould and paint your own and all the little bits start at only £1.95.
On the husband, I really splashed out. Christmas shopping is so easy when you have a horsey husband! How can it be possible that mine only has two pairs of breeches? One old fashioned pair to wear hunting and another pair for all occasions and that includes riding, mending the fencing, mucking out and walking the dogs. Time then for another pair, and it was back to Froghill Saddlery where I was sure I would find the best selection for men of a ‘certain age’.
While I was there, it became necessary – of course it was – to buy him another bridle. He only has one for his hunter and it’s nearly always in a disgusting state. The hunter, which we adore, has eaten his Stubben martingale, so replacement was hastily found as well. Oh, and some nice spotted handkerchiefs were ordered from the Countryside Alliance website.
It’s almost impossible when shopping for other people, not to buy things for yourself and I couldn’t help looking at the rugs. I so hope that in my stocking this year will be a new lightweight, super warm stable rug. Funnily, the one I was given two Christmases ago – a rather nice pink affair with a warm neck cover – has found its way onto the husband’s hunter. He even looks quite good in it – the hunter that is – in spite of the colour. My poor horse has to wear another’s castoffs with a duvet underneath for warmth. An elastic surcingle to keep it all in place would be useful – perhaps Froghill will have one of those as well? Jane Coombes says the Rambo Duo rugs are selling like hot cakes. “I don’t think there is a better rug on the market,” she said when I looked at one rather enviously.
For my friends’ presents I headed to Brickfields Horse Country at Binstead, which has been doing a roaring trade in the lead up to Christmas. If it’s a new riding hat you want or even a pair of pink wellies, then Brickfields’ owner, Phil Legge, will have it in stock. Armed with bags full of horsey books plus two DVDs, I glanced at the new saddles on the rack. “We are selling more new saddles now than we’ve ever sold,” says Phil. The shop at Brickfields is the longest established saddlery shop on the Island and has a big range of saddlery, books and DVDs. You can even buy blocks of riding lessons to give as presents.
My thoughts were brought back to reality rather abruptly when Phil said, temptingly: “we also take saddles in part exchange…” I remembered the four saddles carefully stored at home ‘just in case’ I ever have the need for a close-contact jumping saddle again, and wondered how much I could trade them in for against a nice new dressage saddle? Oh well, maybe I will write Father Christmas a proper list next year, or perhaps my husband will read this column and pick up some clues!
Brickfields Saddlery 01983 566802
Trumour Feeds 01983 521690
Froghill of Sandford 01983 840205