The Season of Goodwill

Every year I have this little argument with myself about Christmas cards. Do I send them; are they bad for the environment; are they too expensive.

And each year I come back with the following decision.

Yes, printing of Christmas cards can be seen as detrimental to the environment. But to me, they are an important part in the run up to Christmas. I love getting cards through the post(it makes a change from bills!), and I feel a room isn`t properly decorated without some cards propped up. A lot of families I know do newsletters to accompany their Christmas cards, which is a way of keeping long distance friends and family up to date with growing children. Although it can become a bit of a bragging session. Regular updates on social media is taking over from newsletters now, though.

Writing Christmas cards to family and friends is quite personal, I think. You`ve made the effort to put pen to paper, and written an individual message to them. It proves that you are thinking of them, and helps maintain that link of friendship, which despite social media is very easy to overlook.

Social media is a great way to send a mass message; be it a positive announcement, such as a baby, or a method of telling people bad news which makes it slightly less painless than retelling everyone individually and dealing with their emotion as well as your own raw pain. But it lacks that personal touch. Which I think is why I like written cards.

Many people aren`t on social media, such as grandparents or children. Or perhaps only one half of a couple is online, in which case a card is more important to show that you are thinking of them.

So I think cards definitely have a place at Christmas. Then I return to the whole environmental and economy arguments. In terms of the environment, perhaps it is wiser to verbally wish those people you see on a daily basis, colleagues, livery owners, “Merry Christmas” in the week leading up to the Big Day, and save sending cards to those who you won`t see over the festive period, such as family. As a kid, there was a lot of peer pressure to write cards to everybody in your class, but thankfully I think this trend is dying out. There`s a balance to be found. You can help the environment by not sending cards to everyone in your life, but can still spread Christmas cheer and well-wishes to those who you don`t see.

Then it`s onto the economy of cards. For a lot of charities, the sale of Christmas cards is an important form of revenue, so buying charity cards, direct from the charity if possible, is a good thing. You are giving something back, and helping those less fortunate. On this point, did you know that if you log in to instead of a donation is made on your behalf to your chosen charity with everything you buy? Even buying presents for friends (or yourself) can help others! Royal mail is always hiking up stamp prices, but again if you`re organised you can send cards second class, thus saving a significant amount. Also, if you care about someone enough to pen them a card, are you really going to quibble over the cost of a stamp?

I`ve satisfied myself, in that I think Christmas cards should be sent to family and friends far away, to show that you are thinking of them, and value having them in your life. But we should all be sensible about the number we send, and where we source them from.

Keeping with the theme of goodwill and charity, I was wondering about what to do from a business perspective. I often get cards and gifts, which are thank yous as much as anything, and I sometimes feel that I should be the one thanking my clients as much as anything. But I don`t want to send cards as I`ll see them frequently throughout December. Which led me to decide to play the Christmas spirit forward, and to make a charitable donation to an equine charity on behalf of all the clients of Starks Equitation.

Last year I donated to the RDA, but this year I decided to donate to the Society of the Welfare of Horses and Ponies, SWHP, which is a charity local to my home town. Their founding member and Chairwoman recently passed away and I know there was talk about how the society would continue. This made me feel that my donation would be put to good use securing the charity`s future and helping the equines in their care and in need. Their website is here.

Christmas is a time for spending time with family and friends, and of helping those in need, and even the laziest of us can make a difference to those less fortunate by buying charity cards and making a donation to a charity from the comfort of our sofas. And if we really want to, we can volunteer at soup kitchens or buy some extra tins in our Christmas shop for the food banks. I`ll start with taking a couple of boxes to the charity shop this week.

Thank You

Us horse riders get quite a lot of flack on the roads, and it causes a heated debate with motorists. Usually all I hear about is moaning and groaning as equestrian martyrs risk their lives.

Yes, I’ve encountered my fair share of idiot drivers, but I’ve also encountered my fair share of idiot riders. Like the pair trotting two abreast along a winding village road, waving me on to overtake in my car.

But I think one way we can promote road safety is by showing appreciation. It’s hard, because we can only wave and nod to private cars, and sometimes our thanks are missed.

A couple of weeks ago some of the local roads were resurfaced, so my hacks were limited and in different areas. The following week I gladly returned to my favourite routes, but on the way home with Horse Number 1, who on a scale of nought to five (bombproof) is about a three, when I saw a caravan of highway maintenance vehicles with flashing lights, come to put the finishing touches to the new road.

Fluorescent jacketed, hard hatted, men were redirecting traffic and parking lorries in the necessary spots. I asked politely if I could walk down the road. The man nodded and said “there’s a lot of traffic but if he’s ok with them then yes”.

As I turned onto the road the nearby vehicles turned off their engines. Then as I approached the cross roads where I needed to turn left, one man asked which way I was going and then promptly moved the vehicles on my route (even though there was space for me to pass) and they were all turned off and the men stood back for me to pass.

As I walked home I thought about how good the workforce had been and how promoting good driving could help our cause in Road Safety.

I couldn’t manage to remember the company’s name, but I knew the town they were from so with the help of Google I deduced the name of the company and found their website.

I emailed the manager, telling him that the workforce were courteous and very helpful, and to pass on my thanks.

I actually got two replies, which were both happy managers so I hope that the men are more likely to pass horse riders slowly in both their private and working lives in the future. And not mind meeting horse riders on the road. You never know, they may tell their friends!

Thanks very much for taking the time to write this. In this day and age it is very easy to complain, but not many take the time to say thanks.

It goes a long way with the gang when they get a thanks and they will then do the same in the same situation as they know it is appreciated. I will ensure your thanks are passed down the line.

Thanks again

Good morning,

Thank you for taking the time to notify us of this. We are always very pleased to hear these kinds of things.

It’s great for the drivers too – we always pass on these messages to them.

Thanks again.

So perhaps the way forward in promoting horse and rider safety on the roads is positivity. Thanking company managers, or sharing thanks on social media, and generally making drivers feel good about themselves to give positive reinforcement so that they are more likely to repeat their sensible behaviour.