It’s the most wonderful time of the year…winter circuit!
Also the holidays, I suppose. While the horseless will be cozying up by the fireplace with hot chocolate and Hallmark movies, grooms are spending time with their four-legged family and gearing up for a full season of winter shows.
The stable is busier than Santa’s workshop this time of year, so maybe you’re thinking the grooms in your life deserve a nice gift. We checked the list twice, they do!
Here’s what they asked for.
New ring bag
It’s dusty, there’s something sticky at the bottom. Maybe a melted peppermint, who knows? You can’t tell anymore because it’s collecting Natures Valley granola crumbs like some sort of minty amoeba. The side mesh pocket has a hole in it and there is a hoof mark on the side from the time their horse got squirrely while rushing to grease feet. All signs of a well worn ring bag!
It’s had a great career, traveled to some glitzy shows all over the circuit. Yet there comes a day when it’s time to retire that poor, overworked backpack. This is where you come in, the hero perusing the tack shop. Wherever you go, you’re sure to find a selection of shiny new ring bags which always makes a groom feel more put together at the ring. There are so many extra pockets, and it doesn’t smell like pine tar or alcohol wipes! They’ll be the envy of everyone at the warm-up. It’s the perfect gift.
Socks and shoes
There is a long running joke about the ironic disappointment of pulling socks out of a stocking for Christmas. “Ugh, socks are so boring!” said no equestrian ever. That’s right, we can’t get enough of them. When you’re on your feet all day, you wear through socks and shoes at the same lightning speed it takes to be at the paddock gate of a galloping horse.
The holes in your soles are not only unsightly, but uncomfortable. They let in judgmental glances and flooding from the wash stall. Sliding on durable sneakers, or a sturdy pair of winter boots, is the biggest relief second to kicking your feet up at the end of the day.
Make your choice depending on the climate of your groom’s winter season. Will they be trudging through snow doing turn out? Winter boots. Will they be grazing in the sunshine? Sneakers or water shoes for bathing.
Ah, so your groom is snow birding for the winter. Maybe they’ve migrated to Florida or California, where palm trees sway in the gentle breeze and the blistering sun beats down on them relentlessly. Grooms work outside, so sun exposure isn’t entirely avoidable. And nobody likes a sunburn, especially dermatologists.
An elegant sunhat, good SPF, stylish sunglasses and lightweight sunshirts are all perfect gifts to consider for the working groom, because it’s something they’ll use everyday. Or, at least, they should.
Restaurant gift card
Listen, who has time to cook when you only have a couple of hours after work before night check? Not grooms. If you visit any of the restaurants in Wellington or Thermal during the winter circuits, you’re sure to see a scattering of grooms and riders, most of whom have yet to go home and shower, horsing up the establishment. It’s great to sit down and be served after a long day, but there is a tinge of guilt whenever the bill arrives and reminds you that it’s not economical to eat out.
After working the grain room like a Michelin Star chef with specialty supplements and grain assortments, there is simply no energy leftover to do anything besides throw together a plate of leftovers. So, for a good, hot meal many grooms eat out.
Trust me, as cliche as a restaurant gift card seems they’ll definitely appreciate it.
It was once said, “A
man *groom is only as good as their tools.” While dish soap and hot water does wonders to renew old brushes, eventually they just don’t have the same flick. When the edges of a groom’s hard brush goes stumpy, some take it upon themselves to raid the tack shop for new supplies. This is akin to teachers buying classroom materials—it shouldn’t happen, but it does.
So, a kit of new grooming tools to help make their horse a shining star in the eyes of any judge is a failsafe gift. Not sure what to put in the grooming box? Show Grooms International Ltd. offers a curated brush set, designed by grooms for grooms. And, they ship worldwide.
Your back pocket isn’t phone safe; within range of your gelding’s curious chompers when he’s bored of being braided. It’s no good in your hand; mindlessly scrolling while grazing until your horse spooks and suddenly sends hooves flying at your Instagram-dazed face. Never mind where to put it while hacking and at the mercy of an unexpected buck.
But put your phone down and you risk missing an important ring update on showgroundslive.com or the rogue text from your boss that says they’ll be at the barn to ride in ten minutes. A phone holster is the most secure way to hang onto the only thing that keeps your groom’s day running smoothly.
Portable Wifi hotspot
On that note, what use is a phone without a wifi connection? For some mysterious reason, no matter where you show, the stables are always a dead zone. We can start questioning the matrix but that’s a whole nother article. A portable wifi hotspot offers some assurance that there’s no missing that emergency text about a boot switch or an order change.
Don’t worry, it’s not just a boring gift designed for workplace efficiency. How else is a groom supposed to watch Netflix while traveling the barren backroads of middle America in the cargo hold of a horse transport truck?
Don’t laugh, just let me explain. Who actually uses a hammock besides hippies and fancy resorts in the tropics? I’ll tell you who: people who nap on hay bales and tack trunks.
Grooms work unconventional hours and so their sleep schedules are often a bit erratic. The solution is to work in power naps throughout the days they’re up feeding at 5:00 a.m. For the spare siesta hour, hanging a hammock in the tack stall offers a more comfortable option than alfalfa. I’ve even seen them strung up in the back of a lorry. It works.
Nice pair of breeches
Emphasis on nice, because most grooms don’t buy themselves anything nice, especially clothes they wear to work. Splurge on something fancy and feel guilty for hardly wearing it, or wear it and accept that its destruction is imminent and thus a waste of money. It’s a paradox with no real solution, except you.
If your favorite groom is also a rider, chances are there are days they wish they had something in their closet without linseed oil stains and worn out knee patches. Maybe it’s the morning they have to flat the FEI horses in the schooling ring, or when they’re jogging horses for Saut Hermès. That day will come, even if the breeches stay tucked away in a drawer for a while.
I know what you’re thinking, more riding clothes? But even if your groom is not a rider they can still do with a good pair of leather gloves. Not all grooms ride, but all grooms lunge, and they all know the burning sensation of a nylon rope sliding through their fingers. The spirited horse isn’t thinking about the sanctity of their groom’s palms, but you are!
Not only do gloves help with grip and protection against dreaded rope burn, they also discourage callouses. Don’t mistake me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a good pair of workman’s hands, though it does make caressing the face of your significant other a touch less romantic. So, gloves for lunging and sweeping can ensure callouses don’t get out of hand. Too many puns? Nonsense.
Bonus idea: if they’re wintering, who couldn’t use a pair of warm winter gloves?
For show grooms, travel is written in the job description in bold letters. This is also why it can be hard to gift grooms material things. Most of their belongings fit in a carry-on suitcase unless there’s a spare drawer in the show locker. You might be unsure if they have somewhere to put that physically sizeable gift you have in mind. But you do know they’ll be traveling.
So stick with what you know. A leather passport cover, the ever-so-stylish fanny pack that’s making a comeback, a clear TSA toiletries bag or a good old fashioned neck pillow are among the vast array of travel accessories you have to choose from. Go wild.
One day around Christmas last year, our rider surprised us with an expansive assortment of licorices from around the world. It was gone in matter of two workdays. During that time, the candy exclusively sustained us and we were especially efficient, (probably) on account of a licorice-induced sugar rush.
The moral or the story is grooms are always on their feet, so they’re always snackish. If by some strange occurrence they’re not (and the ingredients are safe and FEI approved), they’ll feed the snacks to their horses, so your gift will never go to waste.
The other thing that will never go to waste: money. You can never go wrong with a classic cash tip politely tucked a groom’s pocket on the way out of the stable. You’ll both be happy, because you didn’t have to worry about what to get them and they can buy anything they want.
Whatever they complain about missing
In my opinion, the best way to choose a gift for someone is to listen to what they say. If it sounds anything like…
“Beau needs a new halter”; “These ice boots are leaking”; “This lead rope is ugly and frayed”; “What happened to my good pair of scissors?”
…then you have your gift answer. Maybe a new halter or pair of haircutting shears sounds like it’s more for their horses than them, and if that’s the case reference the fun gifts on the list, but if it makes their life easier I’d say it’s a good bet. Bonus: they’ll know how much you care because you listened.
A day off
This one only applies if the hardworking groom in your life is actually employed by you. Because if your favorite groom truly needs anything, it’s a day off. Heck, if you’re really in the holiday spirit, how about a whole weekend?
But if we know anything about grooms, they might just show up with candy canes and hang out with their horses anyways…
Bonus: What not to gift your groom
Every child dreams of waking up on Christmas morning to find a pony underneath the tree, so it might be tempting to play Santa’s horsey helper and fulfill this lifelong wish. But grooms outgrew that fantasy the day they started working in stables, because that adorable 14.2 hand package just looks like a whole lot more work.
So, what do we absolutely not gift our grooms? More horses.