'Tis the Season

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With the holiday season fast approaching once again, it’s time to think about how to thank clients and boarders. Chances are you’ve lost clients for economic reasons. Those that have stayed with you deserve a little recognition. They will appreciate a small, personal and thoughtful gift. You might be surprised to discover just how far a heart-felt “Thank You” will go.

There are countless possibilities. We present the following list merely as a way to stir your thinking. You can find other ideas on the Internet, and at fall trade shows and year-end horse shows and horse expos.

Service Discounts

To avoid cash outlays entirely, you might offer your clients a free lesson, training session or a one-month discount on their board. Or, if you normally charge for holding the horse for the vet or farrier, perhaps you could offer a couple of handlings at no charge. You might also work out a deal with your regular veterinarian or farrier to cover clients’ trip charges or a horse’s trim. Sure, you are losing a small amount of income, but it could help people where they need it the most—in their bank accounts.

Well-chosen gift certificates and gift cards are always appreciated. Take the time to find out your clients’ favorite restaurants or tack shop, and get them a gift card for a store that matters to them. They will be excited to go to a place they enjoy and maybe don’t frequent as often as they’d like. And they will appreciate the fact that you took the time to find out what places and stores they really value.

Practical Gifts

What horse owner couldn’t use more practical items for themselves or their horses? Grooming supplies such as rubber mitts, sweat scrapers, hoof picks, shampoo, conditioner, detanglers and brushes are always helpful and relatively inexpensive. And even though winter is approaching, spring and summer will follow—and with them, fly season. Fly spray, fly masks and other protective equipment are quite often offered at excellent discounts this time of year.

First aid supplies are always good to keep on hand and quite affordable. A small human and/or horse first aid kit to keep in the truck or trailer is something many people overlook. Elastic bandages, alcohol, saline solution, first-aid ointments, stethoscope, thermometer, Epsom salts, sheet cotton, gauze, etc., are just a few of the items that everyone should have on hand, and are all very inexpensive to buy.

If your clients compete, show supplies such as boot polish, tack cleaners and conditioners, rubber bands for braiding or banding, and razors for a quick muzzle trim are always welcome.

There’s a wide assortment of other practical items that also won’t break the bank. Bell boots, polo wraps, splint boots, lead ropes and breakaway nylon halters are obvious suggestions. But don’t just stop at that. Everyone has colors they prefer. Take the time to find out what colors your clients like, and do your best to match what they already have. Horse people can be picky that way.

Promotional Items

For a bit of free advertising, consider promotional products with your farm name and logo. There are the traditional items such as saddle pads, t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and hats. Picture frames can be engraved with the client name, horse name or your farm name. Promotional-product catalogues contain thousands of items that can be personalized, from the mundane to the bizarre—everything from a sewing kit to bar accessories to wooden massagers. You name it, you can personalize it.

Engraved stall plaques, halter, saddle and bridle plates are also relatively inexpensive. If you want something whimsical as well as practical, consider a stall plaque from Dana’s Doodles (www.danasdoodles.com). Cute horses in a variety of situations allow you to customize the design based on the horse’s color, character and riding discipline.

Hand-Made Items

If you are the crafty type, consider making your own gifts. Craft stores have many different projects that you can try, including seasonal creations. You could make a handmade horse ornament in the color of the client’s horse, for example, or purchase more generic ornaments and add just the horse’s or your farm’s name.

Horse Goodies

Horse treats are another item you can make yourself. If you do a search for “horse treat recipes” you will find many that are free. Whatever you choose to make, include the recipe with the treats so your clients can make them, too, if they so choose. We’ve included a sample treat recipe (see below) to spur your thinking.

If home cooking isn’t your thing, you can buy unique horse treats. Freshly handmade treats from Nicker Bait (www.nickerbait.com) sound and look good enough for humans to eat—peppermint passion, candied sweet potato, and banana chip, for example. The company also offers ready-to-mix mashes.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

What do you get the person who has everything or is hard to buy for? You might make a donation in his/her name (or horse’s name) to a favorite charity, local horse rescue, therapeutic riding center or humane society. Many non-profit organizations have been hit hard by the recession. At the same time, more animals are being turned over to such groups because people are no longer able to afford their pets. Making a donation in lieu of a gift can be very satisfying.

Whatever you decide to do, set a budget and stick to it. And write a personalized note to go along with your gift. The sentiment will be appreciated. Happy shopping!

Oat ’n’ Apple Chewies

Ingredients

1-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

1 cup oat bran cereal or ground oatmeal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350F.

Oil a 9”x9” square baking pan.

Mix all ingredients until well blended.

Spread the batter evenly in the baking pan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. When the batter starts to shrink from the sides and is firm to the touch, the treats are done. Slice into squares while still warm. Store in the refrigerator or in an air-tight container.