by Elizabeth Howell
The end of the year is the traditional time to acknowledge the hard work of the service providers in your life. For us barn girls, that isn’t usually the doorman, nanny or personal trainer; it’s the farrier, barn workers, grooms, vets and barn managers who care for our beloved animals as well as the trainers who teach us and our children.
What’s an appropriate gift? Is it OK to give cash? Should you go in together with other people in the barn? What should you do if you’re on a reallllyyyy tight budget?
The most important gift you can give these folks is to settle any and all debts you may have incurred during the year. Often, these are the people who won’t speak up when your account is several hundred dollars (or more) behind and won’t charge interest. Do the right thing so that they aren’t left shortchanged over the holiday season.
Keep in mind, all of these gifts are optional. The truth is, many of us are on a very strict budget and simply can’t give anything this year. That’s OK. Take the time to write a note of appreciation. You’ll be amazed at the impact.
Gifts for grooms and barn employees can run the gamut from cash and gift cards to homemade treats and specialty food baskets. In many parts of the country, it’s traditional to provide a cash tip to barn workers and grooms. If you’re new to the barn, ask other boarders what is typically done. It’s appropriate to give a higher amount to full-time workers. If you give to one, be sure to give to all workers—even those that you may not see regularly.
If your budget is tight, don’t feel pressured to give what you don’t have. Leave a large tray of cookies or other group gift for everyone to share, just be sure to leave a note addressed to all.
Body lotions, gift cards for manicures and any other kind of pampering products are great gifts
for female barn staff. Gift cards for $10 or $25 to the favorite local sandwich or coffee shop works for men and women.
Regardless of what you give, include a hand-written note of thanks to express your appreciation. Two or three brief sentences are all that’s needed: “Amanda, thank you for everything you do all year long to take such good care of Toto. We both appreciate you very much!”
For farriers, cash tips are appropriate, as are gift cards. There’s even an old tradition of giving the farrier whiskey, or is it bourbon?
The same holds true for trainers. If you know someone’s personal interest or taste, gift accordingly, a gift card to a favorite restaurant or store (Amazon and iTunes works too) a favorite bottle of spirits, pictures and photo albums from the year’s horse shows are a great gift, and so are items for your barn’s horse show set up. Sometimes clients pitch in on a trainer or barn manager gift and that’s great too. “Someone” has to organize this – but take advantage of mobile banking and things like PayPal to get people to contribute in a timely fashion.
Encourage your child to get involved in the gift-giving. They can help select the gifts, wrap and write notes thanking people for their service and hard work. These are important rituals that help kids learn how to express appreciation. And in this sport, there’s always an opportunity to express thanks.
Veterinarians’ offices are a great place to bring food trays or baskets along with a personal note of thanks.
And finally, what should you do when someone gives you a gift, and you don’t have one for them in return? Smile, open the gift, say thank you. Write a thank-you note. There’s no need to reciprocate.
Read more about holiday barn manners:
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