Bobby Dean has been around horses all his life – as a competitor, as an owner, and as a coach. As the head coach of West Virginia University’s Western Equestrian team, he puts all three experiences to use. Coach Dean has been more than just the team’s leader since its founding in 2002. He’s also the owner and operator of the farm the team trains at, a competitor in his own right and a teacher to the WVU student riders, many of whom have minimal experience with horses before they join the group.
Although Coach Dean had only a handful of riders that first year of 2002, the team has grown to include as many as 40 members, and currently has about two dozen participants. The team calls Bobby Dean Show Horses home, where he continues to train both his riders and their horses after more than a decade at the helm of the program. His main focus is getting his riders ready to jump in the ring, along with teaching other riders who may not have competitive ambitions.
He has taken on the challenge of preparing his competitors for “catch riding,” where riders go to a show without a horse and ride whatever horses are available. Because they haven’t trained with the animals they’re competing on, it adds to the difficulty of the competition.But while he has had success in the standings while coaching the WVU Western Equestrian team, he still takes the most pride in taking people who may not have any experience around horses and help foster their interest in riding.
“My favorite part is taking the beginners and seeing them learn how to ride and become
more accomplished, and see them become productive members of the horse industry. Some
of them had never been around horses, joined the team, learned to ride and actually
bought a horse and went on to join the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association)
and showed their whole lives. That’s the cool part for me.”
~ Coach Bobby Dean