In the era of email and voicemail, handwritten notes and cards bring a lot of joy to the person receiving them—which makes them that much more fun for the sender, as well. A thoughtful line or two expressing gratitude, congratulations, or friendship packs an outsized punch because it offers the priceless gift of human connection.
Hunter/jumper equestrian Helen Voss, the National Account Manager for her family’s Horseshoe Greetings and Wall Street Greetings in Versailles, Ky., is in the perfect position to explain why the simple combination of card, pen, and envelope can have such a magical effect on someone’s day—and why the handwritten thank-you note will never go out of style.
There are so many opportunities in the equestrian world to express gratitude, because every equestrian has people who help them or their horses: trainers, veterinarians, grooms, farriers, feed suppliers, family, and friends—the list is long! When is a good time to drop them a note?
“Absolutely! Every holiday, every trainer and pretty much everyone that has touched my horse’s life throughout the year is getting a Christmas card or a Thanksgiving card. We do birthday cards at the barn. Those are the most obvious times. If you have had a groom who has taken care of your horse, a vet who has worked on your horse in an emergency, or a farrier who came out on a special request, taking the time to acknowledge that and thank them for taking care of your animal is always a nice thing. Vets and farriers have demanding, grueling jobs that don’t always go well, and sometimes they can have more tough days than good days. A greeting card with a handwritten note gives them that spark of positivity and a little pat on the back.
“Even at the end of a horse show, I love sending thank-you cards to my trainers. I always look for opportunities to send notes, and maybe I send them too much, but it’s so fun to send them out and know people are happy when they receive them.
“There’s someone else I’ve picked up on thanking with thank-you cards and notes: my parents. Unfortunately, they can sometimes be the last people I think about because I’m around them so much. I tell them thank-you and I text them all the time. But at the end of the day, they’re the ones supporting me on the horse journey. So I’ve really gotten in the habit of picking out one card for my dad and one for my mom. I write each one a personal message on the inside, thanking them for supporting me on this journey and that none of this would be possible without them. That’s meant so much to them, because they’re the last people to expect it. I do think it’s important to thank the people around you, both inside the horse world and outside the horse world, who are supporting you and getting you to the next phase of your life or career, professionally or horse-wise.
“I try to tailor each greeting card to who the recipient is. What does my groom like or what would they find funny? If I know my trainer likes florals or likes gold foil, I’ll choose something along those lines. It makes a more personal connection with whoever is receiving the card, and they know I took the time to make sure they know I’m thinking about them, that it wasn’t just a random selection pulled off a shelf.
“And it’s so much fun! It’s almost like a little treasure hunt to find the best card or the funniest message that I can for each person.”
It’s interesting that in today’s digital age, mailing or giving a handwritten note seems even more special. Is there something about their relative rarity that you feel makes them more appreciated?
“Yes, I think so. The nice thing about a greeting card, too, is that you don’t have to send the most expensive one. They can be high-quality, and they’re probably still the most inexpensive way to physically give someone something. Most people are so pleasantly surprised and so happy to receive a card, and that’s part of the joy of purchasing and sending these cards. It’s more the thought behind the gift than what the card cost or what it is. The real gift is in the thought.
“With an email or a text, I get so many digital messages throughout the year, and they just pile up until I have to clean things out. Or I have so many that I’m reading and then deleting. But in my house I have a box where I keep every card that is sent to me. My parents do the same, and my grandparents have always done it, too. Some people like to display their cards. They’re like little tokens of appreciation or gifts that are tangible. They don’t disappear and they’re not words on a screen; they give you something to hold onto and remember, and they are keepsakes for as long or short as you’d like.
“In the age group of teens to the early 30s and 40s, we’re seeing a revival of the handwritten note. It’s become trendy to send them again. When social media first took off, that was all the rage; everybody wanted to touch base with each other via social media and on their cell phones. But now notes are making a comeback, and it’s such a fun thing to do.
“I’m going to sound so cheesy here, but it makes my day when I get home, check the mail, and find a letter or a card that someone sent me. You appreciate it and understand that someone took time out of their day to write, that they are thinking of you. It’s just that personal touch of someone taking the extra step. That’s a special touch you really only get with handwritten notes and greeting cards these days.”
What are your tips for writing a thank-you or personal note?
“I think as long as you’re sincere and you’re heartfelt, it doesn’t need to be a novel. It just needs to get the point across that you are reaching out, whether it’s a thank-you for doing something or that you’ve been thinking of them recently or want to get in touch. Maybe you’re reaching out after the loss of their animal or something else in their life.
“You can keep it brief, but writing a long message is totally fine, too. I just think as long as the people reading it on the receiving end can feel the personal outreach, that’s what is going to mean the most to people receiving the card.
“You don’t need to sit and sweat over what you’re going to write or try to make every word perfectly correct. It’s not a school assignment, and it shouldn’t be looked at as a chore. In a way, I think imperfect cards and the perfect cards, because they come from the heart, they’re honest and truthful. A handwritten note is just like a conversation you would have with someone, but you’re sharing that conversation on the inside of a card.”
How does this practice benefit you, as the sender, too?
“Whenever there’s a situation where you need to write someone a card, it’s like you kind of remove yourself from your day-to-day life or whatever situations are going on. You stop and are able to just focus on this, and on this person. It really kind of gets your brain thinking about other people that you might ant to reach out to or who have suffered a loss. As good as it feels to receive a card, I almost feel better sending one, because I know that I feel good about myself, that I’m taking time to reach out to someone and let them know that I care. It’s spreading joy.
“It’s such a quick, easy, thoughtful way to touch as many people as you can, and it makes you want to do more.
“When COVID-19 hit in 2020, there was a lot of isolation. It felt like there wasn’t much to celebrate, and there wasn’t much gathering of friends or family. I think that really did spark thank-you notes and greeting cards again, because we were so desperate to have a sense of normalcy. While we couldn’t be together and many were suffering from illness or loss, it was such a great way to put those thoughts, feelings, and gratitude for people and then let them know. I still see that trend happening. And once you get that ball rolling, you do keep thinking about other people to reach out to. It’s just a very pleasant process all around.”