So what is bridle lameness?
Bridle lameness is when a horse appears lame when ridden but not in the paddock under its own steam. I should also say that bridle lameness can be seen in horses being lunged or long reined. And I will explain why.
Bridle lameness I believe could be renamed balance lameness or fitness lameness. As we have discussed several times horses were not born to be ridden, through adaptation we have progressed to riding them over the years. So here’s my take on it, if you have ever broken in or ridden a green horse you will know that feeling of them having no balance, and how for the first few weeks there can often be times where they feel unsound or a bit off, this is often accompanied by holding their head too high or off to one side in order to balance themselves, corners are often near impossible. The lameness comes from them having no balance, so with an older horse it’s no different the lameness comes from muscle weakness and incorrect limb placement.
When a horse loses balance he will often rush to try and cope or stop mid stride, so while the horse is developing muscularly and strengthening you must ensure he is working within his comfort zone. If he is rushing to try and maintain his balance try slowing him down, this means slowing the tempo below what you would normally consider to be his trot, you will often find that if you slow down, the unsoundness will disappear, this is due to the horse having time to balance and complete his stride without having to rush to put a foot down part way through the movement.
It seems common in my work to see horses who have no control of there shoulders, and riders who do not ride the shoulders, but instead ride the neck and hind end and just let the shoulders trail along behind and ultimately fall in or out. This is where exercises like shoulder in, if ridden correctly become invaluable. If you watch a barrel racer or campdrafter you will see how much the horse is ridden off the shoulders.
What we must realise is no two horses are the same and you need to trust yourself enough to know when they are strong enough to move up to the next level, because if you move them forward without the strength and balance this is when injuries occur, supporting them through periods of growth and steps up in training with massage and laser, exercises and fitness training are all very important.
If you lay the foundations correctly you are less likely to experience the side effect that is Bridle Lameness.