Dear Dobbin,

I keep my horse in a medium sized boarding barn that is conveniently located to my home. Overall the service is decent, but I have had a problem that I have mentioned to the barn manager/owner and nothing has changed. Do you have any suggestions on how to approach this individual to have them understand the seriousness of my concern and effect real change? At this point I am,



dear-dobbin2Dear Frustrated,

Dobbin is glad you are asking for help before signing your query, ANGRY. First, timing is everything. While she is with a horse/farrier/vet/cleaningbarn/turning out/bringing in, are all bad times to try to solve your problems. Make a point to ask if there is a convenient time for her to talk for a few minutes. Meeting her for coffee or lunch is perfect. I would suggest your treat as a show of appreciation and investment in the care of your steed. Perhaps bring coffee or lunch to the barn, if she is tethered there. Your main goal is privacy and time to talk. This way your concerns become conversational, not confrontational.

Only make a thoroughly educated and informed complaint. Do not complain unless you’ve considered the other side and you’re fully confident in your complaint. You don’t mention what you are paying for board. If it’s $400 a month, please don’t complain you aren’t getting multiple daily blanket changes, unless you are offering to pay more. If you have already mentioned it before, explain that you need her help to understand her decision not to comply with your wishes. Display a genuine desire to work together and to understand any difficulty she may have in correcting your problem. Come to the meeting with an idea of how you could contribute to a solution. Also, don’t be the person in the barn who instigates negativity, complain only to the people who can actually solve your problem.

If your problem involves the staff of the barn, avoid supervising them, that is the manager’s concern. That said, Dobbin would take every opportunity to thank and praise them when they are doing things the way you would like. “ Thank you so much for making sure Penelope was in for the farrier. It saved so much time today!”. As a working class mount, Dobbin has always been aware of the importance of recognizing the efforts of the low men on the totem pole.

Dobbin also recommends to all citizens of the world, do some reading on the art of negotiation. But you didn’t ask me for my reading list on the topic, did you? If after following the above suggestions, no progress is made, maybe you are at the wrong barn.

— Dobbin



Your friend Dobbin invites your questions regarding the horse life. Dobbin’s experiences span 45 years of teaching hunter/jumper and combined training riders, fox hunting, trail riding for pleasure and competition , sales, dressage and a smattering of Western riding. Dobbin is at the ready to handle questions and your identity may remain confidential if you prefer. No inquiry too big or too small. Email Dobbin c/o Please put Dear Dobbin in your subject line.