Dear Dobbin,

The world of teen girls is filled with eyeliner, emojis and drama. Put those girls on a horse and you’ve just added another variable. Suppose you are a non-horseknowledgable Mother of such a girl. How do you know if a trainer is being too hard on your teenage rider or if he/she is being the right amount of strict?

– #arethesetearsnormal? Mom


Dearest # Mom,

Every child is different so it is up to the trainer to properly “read” the personality of the child and decide the best way to work with them. All the parent needs to do is ask two questions if the child seems upset. ” Do you want to stop riding?” and “Do you want to have a different instructor?” (even if that means moving to another barn). If the answers to those two questions are no, even if tearful, then leave it alone. Keep in mind that your child is participating in a dangerous and often frustrating activity. Instructors must be strict regarding safety issues and often are concerned for your child’s safety when seeming a bit harsh. Mastering the basics is essential for survival. Dobbin recommends against excessive comforting when a child is working out normal frustrations. Remember riding is known for its inherent character building nature. If you are still unclear regarding the degree of strictness, watch the movie WHIPLASH to establish a sound reference point.

– Dobbin

 I need drama in my life to keep making music– Eminem


Dear Dobbin,

As a “barn mom”, I view the barn as a team. I know a lot of sports teams adhere to a code of conduct. Social media has become so prevalent in today’s world including the equestrian circuit where people like, follow, kick, snapchat and Instagram each other, even those they don’t actually know. Do you think inappropriate posts jeopardize the integrity of the team? Do you think equestrian teams should adhere to a code of conduct? And how should a “barn Mom” address inappropriate posts?

-Concerned about Social Media


dear-dobbin2Dear Concerned,

My answer to your question is that reacting to inappropriate social media posts does the most to jeopardize the integrity of the team. Your friend Dobbin once pulled a buggy for the Amish, where much was learned about the art of shunning those who behaved inappropriately. There’s also a theory that the only way to extinguish undesirable behavior is to ignore it. I believe a barn mom should ignore and/or only discuss with the barn owner or manager if there is pervasive cyberbullying/inappropriate posting related to the barn. It never serves to feed the drama. Here at the fantastical DOBBIN’S SCHOOL FOR YOUNG RIDERS, we follow genteel rules regarding the internet. We ask that all posts pass the “is it kind, necessary and true” test. All our barn Moms know photos posted should have approval of subjects. We allow no posting of veterinary information regarding our mounts. We kindly invite disruptive clients to seek services at another barn. I hope this helps. I must leave my desk at a brisk trot as I’m late for a meeting with my agent to discuss my developing reality TV show, BARN MOMS.

– 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.