Horseback Riding Instruction – How to Recognize Bridle Lameness

Often a confusing and difficult to diagnose condition, bridle lameness is also referred to as Zügellahmheit or ‘rein lameness’ in German. It is important that you watch your mount carefully as you ride him for signs of discomfort which need to be cared for as soon as possible.

What Are The Signs Of Bridle Lameness?

A horse that appears perfectly fine while in the paddock or lunged in a halter may go lame when being ridden or lunged in the bridle. When this happens, the horse is said to be “bridle lame” and may manifest in uneven head nodding, the horse appearing to be lame in one foreleg, or appearing to have spinal pain or stiffness.

The horse will lean towards one rein and away from the other which will affect his strides when walking or trotting. Apparent lameness results from the horse’s unbalanced contact as he may appear crooked and may shorten his stride in one hind leg to compensate for the lean to one side.

Bridle lameness can effect a horse regardless of energy level or health. If a horse is not managed properly in the early phases of its training, even an experienced rider may unwittingly cause the condition by forcing the animal to over exert itself. The horse may fluctuate between being hesitant and rushing ahead. Horses may not exhibit the behavior in an extended trot, though in collected trot they may try to go above the bit and refuse to step forwards. Nodding head and non-symmetrical stepping is also common.

What Are The Causes Of Bridle Lameness And How Can It Be Treated?

A rider who lacks balance and is stiff in one arm can cause bridle lameness in his mount. Rider stiffness results in a mount that is not able to relax in the back. As a result, the horse’s legs are forced to work harder to compensate for the imbalance. This can result in an injury to the horse’s leg due to the uneven stress.

It is important that the rider learn to develop a balanced seat and proper and equal contact on both reins if their horse is showing signs of bridle lameness. Allow the animal to discover his natural stride and rhythm without rushing him as you ride forwards.

It will take a lot of patience to correct a horse that has been bridle lame for an extended time. Learning to function without being crooked will take some time to get used to. Once the manner of his movement is corrected to maintain an even, flexible contact he will perform properly when in the saddle.