From 2010-2015 Hawk Hill’s stable was inhabited by a horse or two.
I ran a tack store out of a warehouse building on the property (which happened to be designed to look like a barn), so it seemed appropriate for both my use of the property and the design of the buildings themselves to integrate the equestrian theme with our annual horse Christmas decorations.
Most of my photos depict distinctively English-riding elements, however, this look is easy to convert to western-style Christmas decorations simply by replacing distinctively hunter/dressage tack to that of western pleasure or rodeo equipment (example: swap out the tall boots for cowboy boots, English saddle for western, etc) to decorate with horse tack, and over the years I got more elements for my equestrian Christmas display.
1. Horse Head Shaped Wreaths
With annual pageviews in the six-figures, the 2013 tutorial I created for making this horse Christmas wreath is one of the most popular posts on this blog. The secret for making these wreaths elegant and classic, in my opinion, is making the wreaths large, using quality garland, adding a high-end real halter, and keeping the design very, very simple (i.e. not trying to create a mane with a different type of greenery or adding a cartoonish eye with pinecones or berries). These wreaths make really distinctive decorations for fences, gates, or sides of barns. I made 2 facing horse wreaths and affixed them to the front gates of the property each Christmas for years, until I sold my stuff in a flea market booth, rehomed my dog with a lovely family, and moved to a gritty urban neighborhood in Seattle in 2016
2. Pair Old Tack with Decorations for Porch Decorations:
I think this vignette, my tack store’s porch Christmas decor from 2014, is my favorite setup that I created. It’s a super-easy way to decorate a front porch or add holiday cheer at the entrance door to your barn, store, or stable. My typical all-season decor included this wreath, picket fence, and this old saddle. At christmas, I’d add weights to a few cardboard boxes and then wrap the boxes with vinyl table clothes to create a stack of “gifts.” Decorated with a sprig of greenery, pinecones, bells, and a miniature-horse bit for a bright, silvery equestrian finish. I’d also keep a large gift bow on hand and use floral wire to attach it to the D-rings of the saddle during the holiday season- pairing with the wrapped gifts to create the feel of christmas-morning surprises.
3. Don’t Neglect the Classics:
When thinking of equestrian style it’s easy to get hung up on how to make the look distinctively equestrian- forgetting that much of the essence of equestrian style is classic traditional lines and patterns, and that definitely includes basic wreaths, bows, and garland. Though it may seem obvious, the best tip for decorating your farm or stable for Christmas is placing traditional
decorations in unexpected but appropriate locations. I personally prefer classic looks around the farm, such as this plain wreath with a plain red bow. Paired with the stark landscape of winter snow, this classic Christmas decoration adds charm to a traditional chicken barn’s siding and wood planter boxes.
4. Use folded horse blankets and coolers for cozy decorations
I love decorating with elements that many people think are not beautiful or items to decorate with. In this photo I’m using faux wool blankets to add warmth and charm to a holiday porch display. I’ve added this photo to this collection because horse blankets in traditional colors and patterns work great for this purpose. Folded and stacked, the trim and hardware of horse blankets as a distinct equestrian flare to a vignette like this one which shows fake wool blankets paired with a wood bench, vintage buckets of pinecones, vintage ice skates, and a vintage lantern.
5. Make your own horse wreaths using equestrian elements:
This wreath was a prototype I made and displayed on the front door of my tack store for years. Using a basic wreath from a hobby store, purchased without any decoration, I added silver mirror – finish ornaments, winter berries, and ribbon before adding, atop those things, two full-sized horse bits and one orphan english riding spur. This wreath was a popular seller in my store, but not at all difficult to make for the average crafter – – in fact, it’s much easier than my popular horse wreath that I give instructions for making.
6. Decorate your barn or stable with Horse Christmas Decorations:
This photo is from a professional photographer’s photoshoot done on my farm in 2014. Setup as a backdrop for family photos, it was compiled by collecting my Christmas decorations from other areas of the property. My classic style barn doors in red and white provide a natural backdrop for a Christmasy photo shoot. Old wooden sleds, pinecones, are paired with a faux Norfork Pine. To beef it up a little bit the base of this scrawny Christmas tree is placed in an old galvanized metal washtub which is then weighted with firewood. I liked this Norfork Pine as a quirky Christmas tree decorating my porch, and my gelding Hemingway seems to enjoy it in this photo as well.
7. Use what you have & add greenery & bows
This image shows my saddle and boots the first year I created a display at Christmas using them. In this picture, you can see that my saddle (although it has a broken tree) is still in pretty good shape compared to later photos. I would store this giant bow from year to year to place on my saddle on the porch as if it was a Christmas present.
Any saddle rack would work for this purpose, but to display my saddle, I picked up an old barstool for a buck or two at a garage sale and screwed a 2 x 4 to the top to hold the saddle securely. Painted black, this created a stable surface to store and display my saddle at a decorative height. (Actually, I totally think this would work as a way to hold lightweight saddles in a tack room – it was just a tiny bit less stable than the average saddle rack)
8. Wrap packages with equestrian inspiration:
Wrapped prisons are a surprising place where you can insert equestrian elements into your Christmas decorations. If you are decorating for a stable, a horse club, or a business, you can wrap empty packages in the style and use them from year to year (just be sure to use high quality heavy wrapping paper, which holds us much better to storage)
In this photo, horse bits, hoof picks, horse hardware, surcingle buckles, and horse show ribbons are paired with classic textures like burlap and leather and equestrian inspired patterns like plaids to create distinctive equestrian themed wrapped gifts. To see more examples and how to create the packages you see here visit my page on wrapping gifts with equestrian style.
9. Host an elegant Christmas party in the barn
A Christmas table set for a holiday dinner in a rustic outdoor setting. Paired with comfortable seating, linens and table dressings, and outdoor heaters, a clean barn or stable can be a charming location for a holiday dinner.
10. Make wreaths with old horse tack:
Whether it’s adding a simple bow or creating a horse harness wreath complete with greenery and sprays of holiday decorations, old horse harnesses can be transformed into horse christmas decorations with just a bit of creativity. Visit my tutorial on making a wreath from a horse harness.
11. Fill Trophy Cups (or fake reproductions) with Greenery or Ornaments for Horse Christmas Decorations
Trophy cups are decorative as standalone items but and also work great as vessels to display other items. I use my trophy cups to display modified Ikea fake plants and/or fresh flowers throughout the year. For Christmas, try wrapping a few hardcover books in wrapping paper with classic plaid patterns, then topping the stack with a trophy cup filled with sprigs of evergreen or winterberry springs.
If you don’t have trophy cups around (because 1. they’re kinda tough to get and 2. cup-style trophies (for some reason I totally don’t approve of fell out of fashion in the late 20th century) you can buy them- and believe me, buying them is way cheaper than the training, travel, and show fees it takes to buy trophies the old fashioned way!
If you hunt online for decorative versions or second-hand award trophies, try searching with the traditional name for this style of trophy: “loving cup” – after their original use in weddings as a two-handled cup. These days, Etsy’s vintage section has a much better selection of loving cup style trophies than Ebay, which is hit or miss. For a cheaper alternative than actually second-hand trophies, try this unique string of search terms on amazon to locate vases with a trophy cup style look and color. Try staggering 2 or 3 trophies of varying size or color for a more dramatic effect.
12. Repurpose Stirrups as LED Candleholders
Placed strategically, or even hung from the ceiling by their attached leathers, stirrups can make elegant candle holders for LED tealights or pillar style flameless candles. Because the stirrup doesn’t make a totally stable surface for the candle, avoid traditional candles with open flames.
13. Use boots as Oversized Vases for Boughs of Evergreens
Filed under “use what you have” even well-loved boots can serve beautifully as holders for bright greens and reds of christmas florals. If your boots are a little too worn for display, check out my tutorial on a cheap, 5-minute fix for discolored leather riding boots.
14. Use Bits as Wreath Hangers & Garland Filler
Every equestrian has a small library of unused bits. Their silvery finishes make cheerfully bright additions to any equestrian-inspired arrangement of greenery.
On the front of one of my barns, beams that display buckets of flowers in the summer convert to wreath holders in the holiday season, where wire and ribbon are used to join wreath to snaffle bit in a horse Christmas decoration display.
Each year I try to post a preview of my Equestrian Christmas decorations before the rush of the holiday season begins- and then a full followup and a few tutorials during the relatively quiet season of the weeks following the new year.
My favorite display, though still a work in progress, features a wreath + chalkboard element, and a unique take on horse-themed outdoor Christmas decorations: and old hunt seat saddle on a modified stool with a large red bow, and DIY outdoor presents decorated with greenery, pinecones, jingle bells, and a silver snaffle bit.
Emily of Emily Anne Photography styled some of my favorite winter-themed props in front of the double dutch doors to the stable in order to do some winter family portraits. I nabbed the opportunity to get some christmas-y shots of my horse Hemingway.
Even the coop got a bit festive this year, with the addition of a tiny boxwood wreath sized just right for the door to our 100 year old chicken coop.
Some of my favorite Equestrian Christmas decorations- that are generically winter-themed enough to use as decoration on the porch all winter: ice skates, lantern, galvanized buckets of pine cones, and faux wool throws that I made a tutorial for a while back. These “winter” decorations are part of how I save money and time by having a sort of a capsule wardrobe version of holiday decor- swapping out specific-holiday decorations for a few classic, high-quality seasonal decorations like real skates, blankets, and buckets.
One “trick” to using old or vintage elements outdoors (and not having to trash them at the end of the season!) is to spend a bit of time investing/restoring your items before you put them away for the season.
For example, after 2 or 4 months outdoors, my vintage sleds get the wood oiled and waxed and the runners oiled before being stored high and dry for the summer, the old saddle gets a scrub annually and, once dry, sprayed with olive oil to condition the leather and prevent cracking, the leather ice skates get oiled and then polished, etc. A few minutes restoring what the sun and weather does to your decorations can mean they’ll last for years longer. (Personally, I avoid preservatives like lacquer or polyurethane)