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All he wants for Christmas...

What does your horse want for Christmas? No, I haven’t made a quick start on the sloe gin, it’s a serious question. As the shopping countdown starts, those in the know suggest that glitter quarter marker kits – including one that looks as if a Christmas fairy has landed on your horse’s backside – and bling with everything will be top of many owners’ shopping lists. Smaller riders will no doubt be clamouring for unicorn horns that attach to pony browbands. Bah humbug. My boys will get a big bag of carrots from me and probably some gift-wrapped Polo mints from a family member who has established this as a tradition. However, I must admit that I fancy a pair of rein sleeves with jingle bells to give atmosphere to our Christmas Day hack – simply because it helps establish a good rhythm, you understand. Given the choice between a browband studded with sparkly crystals, bells on his reins and a bag of carrots, I reckon every horse would go for the crunch rather than the bling or ring. But if you want to indulge yourself and think you’re doing your horse a favour, go ahead! Just don’t take one company’s advice that you should buy your horse a present this Christmas if he’s been well-behaved or won rosettes. I’m sure it’s meant light-heartedly – if not, how do they recommend you should treat the children in your family? Of course you should want to do the best for your horse. If he needs a new rug and it makes you happy to re-brand a necessity as a Christmas present, feel free. If not, treat yourself to an extra lesson or clinic, because your horse will feel the benefit as much as you do. But if you want to make sure your horse has not just a happy Christmas but a happy life, remember the principles enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which requires you to ensure that any horse, donkey, pony or mule for which you are responsible:
  • Has a suitable environment in which to live.
  • Has a healthy diet.
  • Is able to behave normally.
  • Has appropriate company
  • Is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
  Happy Christmas, with or without a sparkly browband or jingle bell reins.