For Christmas one year, my adult students got together and, knowing I was low on income, bought me four weeks worth of groceries and set me up with a spice collection and more “kitchen necessities.”
Emily Daignault, Pennsylvania
I had rescued a pony a few years ago, and used her as my daughter’s leadline pony. The pony had severe Cushings and had foundered before I was able to take her in. I ended up having to put her down in an emergency setting due to heart failure. I was very attached to this pony and losing her affected me greatly. One of my students presented me, about a month later, with a beautiful shadow box containing a picture of the pony, a hook for her halter, and a place to put the lock of hair my student knew I had saved. It was a wonderfully heartfelt and greatly appreciated gift.
Jessica Flaherty, via Facebook
I think the best thing I have given my trainer was one of the ribbons I won at one of the Lexington end of the year shows! I had been riding her pony all year, and just felt like she needed to keep it!
Kimberly Suits, Virginia
I had a beautiful pencil drawing done of the horse my trainer owned that I showed at my first equitation finals.
Sherrill Rautenberg Woessner, via Facebook
For Christmas, I give my instructor a subscription to EQUUS (she already gets Practical Horseman) and for her birthday, 2 of her other students and I went together to get her a new helmet.
Kristen Pohl Spangler, North Carolina
Tina Louise, California
Best gift from students…very nicely printed and framed “Gillis’ 10 Commandments.” Apparently I have a colorful way of, repeatedly, stating what they shall not do as in “thou shall not thrust my post as if I’m at the club” and “thou shall not sit on my horse’s head as he leaves to ground to jump.”
Virginia Gillis, via Facebook
The best gift I ever gave to an instructor was a bottle of Hornitos Tequila! After a hard day of riding and teaching, we can all use a little relaxation time.
Julie Wetmore, Arizona
After my horse and I won three blue ribbons at an A-rated show, I came into the barn the following Monday and my instructor handed me a vase of flowers. It meant the world to me.
Karen Wheaton, via Facebook
I took my instructor to WEG.
Cindy Bean, via Facebook
I love when my students give me drawings of the horses in our barn or of them riding while I teach. So personal and cute!
Stephanie Brennan, New York
When we sold our first couple horses, we gave my instructor all of our tack and electric fencing for being such a great instructor!
Kira Glasser, Georgia
Whenever I used to knock over a cone in the arena, I would have to make my trainer cookies. And she was lucky, because I make awesome cookies.
Isabelle LaCossee, Minnesota
I gave my coach something from Saudi Arabia; I gave him traditional headwear that the men wear in Saudi. I also gave my other trainer a nice dress.
Sara Jedea, New York
I gave my coach a bottle of wine and a cute pony statue that said, “To be in the saddle, you must have patience and a sense of humor,” for Christmas last year. She sure had a good chuckle when she saw it. It has since become my mantra.
Doreen Guthrie, Alberta
When I was in my early 20s, a student gave me a picture of a farm he created on a computer. There were pictures of him, me and ponies all over it. When he gave it to me he said, “This is your farm for now ? payment for my freedom.” I am 40 now, and I recently found it in a box. I now have my own farm with ponies. The boy who gave me my “first farm” was an orphan who freed himself from Cuba on a raft. We touch the core of people by teaching them to feel the breath of movement between horses and ourselves. It is freedom.
Jessica Dufrane, Massachusetts
When my instructor’s horse had to be put to sleep, I kept a lock of his tail hair and made a custom picture frame with the hair braided and glued around a picture of her riding him. Even though he is not with us anymore, I know my instructor has a special piece of him forever.
Kristen Hazlett, Florida
Two of my students who had been riding with me for many years made a 15-bridle rack using spray painted horseshoes attached to a long 2-by-4 board. They even put enough thought into it to attach them with long screws through wooden beads to put them far enough away from the wood for the bridles to hang on. They got together with my husband to mount it at the barn four years ago for my birthday.
Danielle Geisert, Virginia
A couple of years ago I had taken an obscure but terrific book out of local library titled How to Ride a Horse by Eugen Abel, which I then shared with my instructor. We both loved it. That Christmas, I found a copy online for her gift. As we exchanged our little baggies, I found a copy of the same book in mine. We had a good giggle and were able to compare notes easily from there.
Outi Putkonen, New York
Read more answers to this question in the December 2011 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.