Yay December holidays! I'd love 'em if it weren't for the shopping. It's not the lines or the traffic or even spending too much money that I mind. It's the sinking sensation that whatever you buy someone won't really be what they want, but you have to buy something or feel guilty. Well I'm here to help! I've divided up all your shopping into convenient categories. 95% of the stuff is horse-related, because, well, if you're looking for high fashion or gadgets, you're at the wrong blog.
- Cheap but Meaningful
- The Best of the Semi-affordable
- In Your Wildest Dreams
- The Best and Worst Animal Charities
Cheap but Meaningful
My favorite type of gift! No one needs one more piece of cheap jewelry, one more bath set or one more gift card to a store they've never been to. The following things shout, "Hey, I know what you like, and I cared enough to make it!"
Ribbons, $3 - $7 each + shipping
Every horse that is loved is a winning horse. Why shouldn't they get a ribbon for it? Customized ribbons can be done in any colors, sizes or styles, with any text you want, and at only a couple of bucks apiece, you can afford to hand them out to barn friends, customers, trainers, etc. I recommend Ribbons Galore for their fast service and online ribbon-maker.
Plaster Cast $4 - $10
Step one: have horse step in moist sand or semi-firm mud in plate/bowl.
Step two: pour in plaster of paris. Wait for it to dry.
Step three: Pull out mold of horse's hoof print!
These can be shaped, painted, inscribed, etc and make a great
personalized gift... provided you have access to a friend's horse.
Horseshoe Hanger $3 - $10
Horse shoes can be painted, beaded, strung with ribbons or flowers-- anything! When the shoe once belonged to a friend's horse, it makes a very touching gift. Otherwise, buy new ones at Fleet Farm for about $5.
Horse Hair Bracelet $5 - $20
It's not hard to make these, provided you can get ahold of the horse hair. (If you want to make one for your friend with her horse's hair, it's probably better to ask before chopping off a bunch!). Take some from the underside of the tail, the longer the better. Take at least twice the width of a pencil. Do NOT buy horse hair from the store or online; it comes from slaughtered horses.
You can buy jewelery findings, beads and sealant at any craft store. Braid, bead, seal, add clasps, voila!
Framed Photos $7 - $25
Somehow, horse lovers never seem to have nice pictures of their horses. Sure, some phone pics or Facebook photos, but actual framed photographs? Nope. I think we're just too busy to do it, and not nice enough to ourselves. Treat your friend by snapping a photo of her favorite equine pal and sticking it in a nice frame. The perfect present is a memory preserved forever!
Customized Mp3 $20
This is one of the best presents I've ever given my mother. I bought a $20 mp3 player from Walmart, then loaded it with all of her favorite songs, downloaded from library cds (they're free to check out). A year later, she continues to love it. This very personal gift means a ton to the receiver, especially if she isn't tech-savvy, or is just too busy to amass a music collection herself.
The Best of the Semi-affordable
Hoof clipping jewelery, $50 - $500.
Who would have thought such beautiful jewelry could be made out of the stuff the farrier throws away? These gorgeous "stones" can be made from your horse's hoof clippings and put into any setting. Obviously colors are limited, but the tiger's eye-like stones are still very pretty! This kind of memory will last forever. http://equinite.com
Custom Photography Shoot, $50-$100 per hour
Photographs preserve memories for a lifetime, but professional photographs will ensure those memories aren't ones you don't want to show anybody. If you're like me, you never ever want to see a picture of yourself... but a good photographer can capture moments between you and your horse that won't leave you ashamed to pass out prints. Make sure to ask for digital copies and digital rights (so you can post pics on Facebook, etc). Ask to see their portfolio first, to make sure they're good enough, and then don't cheap out-- a good photographer is an artist and a technician. To find one in your area, Google is your friend.
Custom Pet Portrait, $50 - $150
You have no idea how many incredible artists are out there, willing to do amazing things for you, for very little money. Like, uh, me. And my much more talented friend Erin Mehlos. And a ton of people on Etsy. Really, the world is full of artists just begging to immortalize your cat, horse, coat of arms, child, etc in any style. Email us! Click on the pictures below to be taken to the artist's site.
Semi-custom Peter Stone Model Horse, $150 +
Yes, your horse can be immortalized in model form, so he can run free with your herd of Breyers! Actually, in this case Peter Stone does the modeling. And it's not totally custom-- you have to choose from 16 basic forms, then some pre-set color patterns. If you're looking for a very accurate (and much more expensive) custom model, you can do that too.
Really Nice Horsehair Jewelery $50 - $100
This stuff is far beyond what you and I can braid. Sterling silver and horsehair swirls, oooo! Totally customizeable with your own horse's hair. Here's one crafter's shop.
In Your Wildest Dreams
The prices of these extravagant gifts aren't listed, and if you have to ask, you can't afford 'em!
Custom Model Horse from Peter Stone
Not satisfied with a semi-accurate model of your horse? You can get one that's accurate down to the last freckle. Just send pictures and ask for a price quote... then try not to faint.
African Horseback Safari Ride
Imagine wandering the savanna on the back of a horse, camping in the wild while lions roar outside, sipping tea from bone china in your fine linen tent. Dream on, girlfriend. That kind of package, including guides, food, guards, accommodations, horse and everything else goes for upwards of $800 per night, U.S. just to start. But hey, you and I can at least check out a photo gallery from one of these trips.
Of course there are jewelers that cater specifically to equestrians! Just don't expect to buy one of their pieces and afford to feed your horse too. Nevertheless, it's fun to window shop! Check out the $600 14K gold hay bale charm. Uh, classy? Some people just have too much money...
The Best and Worst Charities
Giving to charity is the best present anyone can give. It's truly meaningful, doesn't clutter up your friend's living room, and can really save lives. Here are the charities you should donate to... or avoid.
WORST: "Until They All Have Homes" Animal Rescue Site / GreaterGood / CharityUSA / The Hunger Site, The Breast Cancer Site, The Rainforest Site, and The Literacy Site
You've probably seen these and other websites for various causes. You can simply click a button to give food to needy animals/people, or buy logo-emblazoned stuff for friends, some of the purchase prices of which go to charities, etc. Sometimes you can even buy stuff like "a pallet of food for ___ shelter." Don't be fooled. All of these "charities" are owned by for-profit organizations. To avoid fraud lawsuits, they do give some money to charity-- about 0.7 cents per dollar. Most of the money goes straight into the pockets of the CEOs, or to the lame T-shirt manufacturers in China. Any time you see a charity that isn't attached to a physical building, or makes promises too good to be true, beware. By the way, all of the charities listed above are owned by the same for-profit company in Seattle.
Other big-name, money-siphoning charities to avoid: United Way, The Disabled Veterans National Foundation.
BEST: Local Charities
Avoid the middleman, and donate directly to your local cat shelter/horse rescue/ food pantry /veterans organization. When you avoid big organizations, you avoid paying for the promotional ads, the salaries of the organizers, the merchandise, etc. Your money goes straight to food, vet/doctor bills, etc. Plus, you can physically visit them to see if their organization is clean and well-run. Finally, you're helping people and animals in your neighborhood. Here are my favorite local charities:
Saint Francis Horse Rescue and Retirement
They're closing at the end of this year, but still have a $1,400 hay bill to pay. I love this rescue-- please donate!
Midwest Horse Welfare
Probably the biggest rescuer of horses in Wisconsin, MHW is a quality rescue through and through.
Dane County Friends of Ferals
These people are truly in it for the animals. They will spay/neuter cats for under $20, take in cats no one else wants, and reach out to rural people.
Wisconsin Public Radio
One of the last bastions of culture and knowledge left in this reality-tv-show-addicted state, WPR and its parent, NPR, are truly fantastic organizations with wide varieties of programming.
The League of Women Voters
Most kids don't get civics classes in school today. No one teachers them what elections they can vote in, what kinds of parties there are, or even where to vote. This organization spreads the word, and encourages people to participate in their country's democratic process.
MEDIOCRE: Heifer International / KIVA / Save the Children
I love the idea of these kinds of charities, because unlike just throwing cash around, a small business loan to an impoverished 3rd world mom, a new school building in Ethipia, or a dairy animal in the Congo is a gift that keeps on giving. Teach a man to fish and all that. But these charities don't work they way you think. Does that mean you shouldn't donate? Eh.... probably go ahead. Just read the fine print first. Excellent blogs on these kinds of charities here.