Truth be told, I’m really nervous about writing this today.
Your Gift Horse is 16 years old this year and what an adventure it’s been over the years. We started out selling horse gifts 100% online in the mountains of Wales and attending most of the major horse events across the UK with a pop-up shop to spread the word. The business was set up by my mother Sandra and over the years I’ve become more involved but it was always more her baby than mine, even when she stepped away to semi-retire. Mum was really shy about appearing on social media or in emails (it took me years to persuade her to set up a Facebook profile) so you might not have heard from her very often, but she was always here in the background and many of the products we sell feature her artwork or were sourced by her.
You’ll notice I say was… Deep breath here as I break every rule of gift shop marketing…
6 months ago mum stepped out of the office on a Friday afternoon to meet a local gallery owner about exhibiting some of her artwork. During that meeting she had a massive stroke and passed away in hospital shortly after.
Which is one of the reasons things have been a bit quiet around here. The run up to Christmas passed in a blur, the focus being to keep plodding on in our busiest time of year - as a small business there is no luxury of months of paid leave and to be honest, work was a blessed distraction.
Once Christmas was done & dusted, it was time for a serious look at my own life and as a big part of that, my businesses. Mum was only 60 when she died, so that does tend to focus the mind on the question of is what I’m doing in my life right now what I should be doing with my life. Alongside the ecommerce business I also have a thriving digital agency & know I spend far too much time at a desk.
Yourgifthorse was tricky for me - hard to focus on lovely feel good marketing when you feel bloody miserable yourself plus so much of the business is a reminder of mum. Making decisions about product lines to discontinue because they aren’t profitable is a normal part of biz, but when the products in question were designed by her, not so simple.
But that was minor tinkering, deep down the question I’ve really been pondering is what’s the point of this business? On a superficial level, it keeps me in horses and gin, plus helps the British economy by paying taxes, employing & buying from other British companies which is a good thing.
But still that nagging voice, is this it? Is this enough? Is there something else I should be doing which matters more?
Let’s face it, there are thousands of gift retailers in the UK, as customers you are spoilt for choice. Would me shuttering the doors of this one make any difference? Not really.
At this point we were in early February and I had broken up with my boyfriend of three years (hence why there wasn’t a lot of Valentines promotions going on ;) ). I was being an idiot and it was a spoon that saved our relationship. I’ll write more about that spoon another day but in a nutshell the spoon was his way of showing he cared. A typical northerner, he doesn’t talk much about feelings and until recently, neither did I.
But I’ve lost my filter (if you’re still reading you might have worked that out by now ;)). I no longer have much patience for small talk nor am I doing that typical British stiff upper lip of avoiding all feelings and soldiering on. Still scared shitless about it though, which is why it’s taken me a month to write this!
Which leads me back to Your Gift Horse and the giving of gifts. I suspect that there are a lot of you out there, lurking in cyberspace, who like me, find it easier to give someone a gift to express how you feel, than say those feelings outloud. (We’ll ignore those gifts that you ‘have to give’ for now, like when your kid is invited to a party or you get dragged to your bosses second wedding when you can’t stand her new husband…)
Gifts allow you to show people that they matter to you, when sometimes you can’t always tell them in words. Your mum, your dad, your sister, your brother, your aunt, your uncle, your niece or nephew.
Your best friend, your old school friend, your uni mates who have those dodgy pics sat in their attics from the time before Facebook existed.
The teacher who inspires your children, the carer who looks after your elderly parent, the mentor who’s guided your career.
These people matter to you and I want to help you tell them that.
So what does this mean? No more stiff upper lip and bland, faceless marketing. Things are getting gritty around here. On a practical level, Your Gift Horse & Your Gift House are being merged into one website, full of lovely gift ideas.
But more importantly, I want to help you have those conversations with the people that matter to you.
If that sounds appealing, then that’s great, stick around because there’s lots more like this coming your way. Feel free to comment below and let me know what resonated with you.
If it doesn’t appeal, then that’s great too. Of course, you are welcome to return at anytime but I know this direction isn’t every ones cup of tea and that’s absolutely totally fine.
I now feel in need of a stiff gin to hit publish on this post - still a work in progress but am closing my eyes, hitting the button & sending it on its way…
Your Gift Horse
4th August 2016
So sorry there has been a big gap, where has this year gone !! Like everyone else I am sure :so much else of deadly serious and frightening stuff is also going on in the world that sometimes it holds you back from writing about what then seems to be banal stuff. You beat yourself up about even thinking about some trivia but you know what it is also an essential part of life is to do all those basics , cleaning , food on the table , laundry , meeting up with friends , family , and new experiences. Then we or I may feel even more bad that I am spending so much time on molly coddling my own people and animals - this is a universal dilemma I am sure . Almost like the chicken and egg which came first question ? I don’t know the answer but yes you definitely should look after your own to the best that you can do - this can vary widely depending upon where you live , cultural background, and value of equality between the species – if I live on a mat and eat out of a tin then I am sure I is OK for my good animal friend too until maybe one day we both win the lottery as long as I do no harm. The Gambia Horse & Donkey Trust is helping animals and their owners in often dire situations that would break your heart when you see the photos but their love and work has results.
It was a last minute run last Thursday 28th July to take all he amazing boxes and boxes of goodies that our customers and their friends and customers had kindly donated and perfect weather that enabled me to sort it all out in piles on the Hickstead turf behind The Gambia Horse & Donkey Trust stand. Small bits , girths leather or webbing to be made into breech straps and all stirrup leathers , small saddle pads all to go to the Gambia. The remainder is sold or the very damaged and old big items sold for scrap to pay for freight charges of the needed bits. I had been leaving it late as hopefully coinciding with a good friend Di Brooks also joining us but sadly could not be there this time . Heather Armstrong who started this whole charity project and has recently won the accolades for all the sheer determination, hard work and love that has achieved so much not only for the animals but the local people connected with the animals, was manning the whole stand , answering e mails and queries late into the night and then was heading out to the Gambia on the Wednesday. I salute not only your love , fortitude but also your stamina – !
July 5th, 2016 - Huge congratulations to our Charity Director, Heather Armstrong! Today her work has been recognised by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, by being awarded a Points of Light award.
PETPLAN AND ADCH ANIMAL CHARITY AWARDS 2016 - RESULTS
April 21st, 2016 - We are pleased to announce that Heather Armstrong was the winner in the 'Animal Charity Volunteer of the Year' category in the Petplan and ADCH Animal Charity Awards 2016.
Thank you every one who contributed so much, so little is needed compared with the ‘need’ requirements of Uk & European family life the main costs are the training , import costs and basic veterinary medicines. Read next what happened on Heather’s journey:
Facebook entry 17 hours ago
Fed up in the extreme, planned ahead, contacted the airline , got permission to carry potassium iodide for lots of horses and donkeys with EZL, got to the airport and they refused to allow it in board. They said it could go as cargo but not in my suitcase. There was no time to send it as cargo so after a lot of stress and a lot of help from a lovely lady called Sue who is The Gambia Experience rep. I had to go through passport control, back through customs ( mega queues as height of the tourist season) and off load the medicine for Garth to collect. At one stage they were saying that neither me or the suitcase could go. After racing to do all that so that I could have some clean underwear on my trip and thinking that I had missed my flight, I rechecked in to find it is delayed by several hours! Big black mark to Small Planet Airlines for going back on their agreement and causing a lot of animals to suffer and perhaps die unnecessarily .
To add insult to injury after sitting on the plane all day they said the staff had run out of hours so they couldn't fly so I am now back home and will try again tomorrow.
Lots of friends have responded , my view was : perhaps we should all write in as they should have honoured what was said even if they had to send on a later flight - like you . your love and fortitude is amazing XX
Read here the heart warming story of an old 'bad' donkey
he had become a problem angry and scared living on the edge of a village
As you’re probably aware, Fathers Day is fast approaching, and if you have a horse mad dad who spends the majority of his time either at the races or down at the yard then don’t worry, you're in safe hands!
Our Black Horse and Rider Cufflinks are a perfect gift idea, and co-ordinate effortlessly with this Manifredi Jacket. If it's country class you're after this is it. This combination is exactly the 'equestrian zing' that every father needs, so do yours a favour and kit him out!
As shown by Patrick Dempsey (below) we can tell that equestrian fashion, when styled correctly can create a sophisticated look, which even non-horse enthusiasts will love. Our range of cufflinks can add the finishing touch to any outfit, and is enough to take any guy to an icon of equestrian fashion.
Alternatively, add a touch of humour with these cufflinks, which may be appropriate for those Fathers who spend the majority of their time at the side-line of many prestigious racing events. We've also got fishing cufflinks, racing cufflinks, and even tractor cufflinks so you can be sure that whatever your dad is into, we've got something for him.
For those Fathers that aren’t as horse crazy, don’t worry; we also have a range of products which may appeal to those who prefer their other four legged friend. Our Jack Russell sculpture by Harriet Glen and our Pointer Dog Sculpture are a perfect gift idea for any guy who adores their dog, with the nature and elegance of the sculpture fitting with any home setting. What’s not to like?!
If none of these ideas catch your eye, check out our full collection of horse gift ideas for men here.
So go on, treat your Father this June with a gift that reflects their character, who knew it could be this easy?!