Help your horse to help you, with Emma Weinert

dressage performance dressage training emma weinert rider effectiveness Jul 26, 2022

Training is just one part of the equation when it comes to dressage. I believe managing the horse and thoroughly understanding what each individual needs to thrive as an athlete should take up around half of the time and energy you invest in the sport. That’s how important it is to your success.

I do my best work when I am 100% managing my horses. I want them in my stable, and under my 24/7 care, so I can personally manage their every need. 

Currently I am doing 10 horses a day, and when I was in the United States with Steffen Peters I was doing 12 a day, and always I will make sure I personally make every feed, oversee the vets and farriers, and know each horse inside and out. 

I might be a little bit fussy, but I do it because I know it matters. Every Grand Prix rider around the world is refining their programs to get an edge, but it’s not only for that level of rider. No matter what level you're competing, or even if you just ride for enjoyment, you can get so much out of your horse if you can help your horse help you. 

 Image of Brett Parbery at Parbery HQ doing his daily management tasks for his horses. 

Image of Emma Weinert and her own Zidane 


Phase One: Observation

When I initially get a horse I am observing its character and behaviours to see what category it fits into. I consider, is it a hot horse, is it easily distracted, or is it dull and overly quiet. Instantly I have my senses going, figuring out how I manage this particular horse. 

The horse's feet are very important, and it’s always a good idea to take photos of new horses so you can always refer back to it to see improvement down the road. 

I am very big on running my hands down the horse, having a little feel here and there to feel the muscles, are they tight or loose, are they developing well and whether or not there are any reactive areas. I don't analyse the horses like a vet, but I like to pay close attention to my horses bodies so I know what their weaknesses are and what immediate needs they have. 

The observation phase isn’t only when you first get a horse, it’s actually constant. Everyday you feed them, ride, groom and put them in the paddock where you are looking at them, observing their behaviour and their condition.

Everything means something and everything matters. 

Why wouldn't you want to watch horses all day... So much love!!


Phase Two: Make Records

Record-keeping is essential when it comes to a management plan for your dressage horse. I put everything in my phone because I have it with me all the time and I can refer to any of my horses records at any time, which is very helpful for vet and farrier situations when I need to show them photos or videos. Each of my horses has a photo file that has their original feet, images, vet checks, x-rays, and everything relating to the horses physical wellness. I like to keep a notes section for each horse to just record anything that is important throughout their training such as notes from a vet, or a chiropractor, and even any observations that I make myself.  

It’s a good idea to have particular checkpoints in your management plan to analyse how your horse is developing. Look at what's changed for the good and what needs to be improved. I would recommend that every month you take the time to look at your horse and compare your before photos to see how their condition is going. 

When I get a new horse I use the first months checkpoint to see what's working and what's not, because for a young horse particularly any muscle changes will happen in the a month and if there is good change you will be able to see it, if not then you need to make a plan to help improve the horses weaknesses. 

Phase Three: Find Patterns 

Understanding your horse inside and out means that you can easily connect the dots between factors that may be causing an issue. 

This can take some experimentation because obviously horses can't talk. This is why it’s up to us to be our own horse advocate. As an example if you find there is an issue with your horse's behaviour, maybe they are being a bit explosive and reactive in their training, you can then think… what am I feeding this horse? How much grass have they eaten? Have they been in the paddock a lot or have they been stabled? How much work have they had this week? Connect the dots and then make a plan to adjust your management for that horse. 

Being able to find the patterns in their behaviours is vital when it comes to your management plan because you need to be ready to make changes instantly. Adapting to the personal needs of the horse is so important. 

One of the challenges of horse sports is that you do need to have knowledge in so many different areas, but don’t forget you have professionals at your disposal. Getting advice from vets, nutritionists and farriers can be expensive, however it’s beneficial to have regular check ups with professionals just to make sure your horse is on the right track. Even if it’s just every six months, I can guarantee you it will make a world of difference to your planning and management. 

Don't forget that you do know a lot and you have most likely been in the horse industry for many years. You have more of the answers than what you think, you just have to listen carefully to your horse and yourself. 

Emma and Zidane strutting their stuff, showing what excellent management can achieve!



Not entirely sure what to work on, especially when you're by yourself?

Unsure if you're focusing on the right things at the right time?

I challenge you to take on my 5 rules to making every dressage training session productive and enjoyable.

It's all in our free guide... 'Beyond the 20 Metre Circle'

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