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View Full Version : "Rein lame"---please explain



TheHorseProblem
Aug. 20, 2009, 03:07 PM
This is one of those terms that I used to understand, now I'm not so sure. A horse that I am interested in trying was described by a trainer as being "a little rein lame when we first got him, but he worked out of that." There was no mention of any additional lameness at all. This is a horse I have not ridden or seen video of, only still pictures, and the trainer has no interest in the selling of the horse. Is rein lame something caused by the rider not releasing or something? It's not true something's-wrong lameness, right?

bort84
Aug. 20, 2009, 03:21 PM
Generally "rein lame" is a weird "lameness" that crops up that apparently has no physical cause. I've seen it happen a few times with horses when their riders had very unsympathetic hands and the horses tried to evade the pressure in one way or another. One of them was in training with us, and when her owner started riding her again after a hiatus, I was shocked to see her get noticeably hitchy behind. It never happened when we were riding her or long lining her, just when her owner would get on. Her owner was just a bit "handsy" and stiff, so the mare tried to evade her rough hands by doing weird things with her body like hitching or going crooked. If this kind of thing is allowed to continue, horses can develop very ugly, very hard to break habits that look like physical lameness (hitching, short striding, looking three legged, carrying themselves very crooked, etc).

It certainly pays to be a little wary of the term because someone could interpret a mystery physical lameness as a rein lameness when there really is a physical discomfort somewhere. But I have experienced this phenomenon in more than one horse if their rider had bad hands or was one sided etc. So, if diagnosed correctly, rein lameness doesn't actually have a physical cause other than poor training/riding. It can be overcome, though some horses will revert to the habit if they feel they're being unfairly pressured. Should be something you can easily figure out in a test ride or two (whether he's likely to carry on the habit with you or not).

Eclectic Horseman
Aug. 20, 2009, 03:22 PM
There are some people who do not believe in "rein lame." Lame is lame.

I think that sometimes it is just poor terminology used to describe gait irregularities that can occur because of bad riding.

smithereens_86
Aug. 20, 2009, 04:25 PM
There are some people who do not believe in "rein lame." Lame is lame.

I think that sometimes it is just poor terminology used to describe gait irregularities that can occur because of bad riding.

It can also be caused because of questionable training techniques - I've seen a young horse lunged with very, very high, tight side reins that was "off" looking, but as soon as the side reins were removed, the gaits were fine. No signs of offness.

~Shelly~

Ajierene
Aug. 20, 2009, 04:40 PM
When I was growing up, rein lame meant a horse was pretending to be lame to get out of work.

An example was a friend's trail horse - the family owned a business that, among other things, offered trail rides to people. One horse, at one time, would limp on the way out to the trail. The horse-minded person who be concerned and turn the horse back....well, this horse turns back to the barn and no lameness! Turn around to walk down the trail again...lame...turn back...not lame.....rein lame horse.

Some horses learn that a little limping gets them done for the day, so they do it - maybe they stepped on a stone once or twice and discovered that the same limping action resulted in them being put away, so they would start their ride limping.

Recently, my trainer uses rein lame to mean my horse is being 'lazy' and not using herself properly. She has one slightly club foot and it can cause her to short stride with that leg, if I do not ride her properly. She does this sometimes at the beginning of the ride and I have to make sure I am riding her correctly, then she works out of it.

Equibrit
Aug. 20, 2009, 04:41 PM
Is rein lame something caused by the rider not releasing or something? It's not true something's-wrong lameness, right?

Correct.
However, rein lamenes can escalate into "something's wrong lameness".

YankeeLawyer
Aug. 20, 2009, 04:42 PM
It is supposed to describe lameness that is not due to a physical problem, but rather is an unevenness or evasion caused by poor riding. I have seen the term misused or overused, though, to apply to a horse that is simply lame. As in... "oh, he's just rein lame" when the horse clearly is head bobbing lame.

twofatponies
Aug. 20, 2009, 04:43 PM
Generally "rein lame" is a weird "lameness" that crops up that apparently has no physical cause. I've seen it happen a few times with horses when their riders had very unsympathetic hands and the horses tried to evade the pressure in one way or another. One of them was in training with us, and when her owner started riding her again after a hiatus, I was shocked to see her get noticeably hitchy behind. It never happened when we were riding her or long lining her, just when her owner would get on. Her owner was just a bit "handsy" and stiff, so the mare tried to evade her rough hands by doing weird things with her body like hitching or going crooked. If this kind of thing is allowed to continue, horses can develop very ugly, very hard to break habits that look like physical lameness (hitching, short striding, looking three legged, carrying themselves very crooked, etc).

It certainly pays to be a little wary of the term because someone could interpret a mystery physical lameness as a rein lameness when there really is a physical discomfort somewhere. But I have experienced this phenomenon in more than one horse if their rider had bad hands or was one sided etc. So, if diagnosed correctly, rein lameness doesn't actually have a physical cause other than poor training/riding. It can be overcome, though some horses will revert to the habit if they feel they're being unfairly pressured. Should be something you can easily figure out in a test ride or two (whether he's likely to carry on the habit with you or not).

This is how I've always understood the term, too.

TheHorseProblem
Aug. 20, 2009, 05:16 PM
Thanks, everyone!

It sounds like I should ask a lot of questions about this horse. I would describe myself as "handsy" sometimes, when I am unfamiliar with a horse or am nervous or tired. I have had trainers tell me that the horse tripped on the reins because I didn't release. So that's something I need to really pay attention to with this horse.

I love the trail horse story, Ajierene! I used to have a dog that wold limp on her front paw so that I'd let her stay in the house all day instead of making her go out in the yard. She was a total couch potato.

slc2
Aug. 20, 2009, 08:02 PM
A rein lame horse is doing exactly what a lame horse does - altering his gait from a normal stride. But the reason the rein lame horse does this is not pain or disability - it is due to being incorrectly ridden.

Some people don't feel rein lameness exists.

It's a difficult issue. A skilled rider can indeed mask lameness by supporting a horse and pushing him to take an even stride. I've watched sales agents have their rider ride a horse around and it looks fine - let the customer get on, the horse is uneven. Seller says, 'oh, he's rein lame, you must be doing ABC'. And it can be utter baloney.

But I don't think the fact that some people are dishonest, means there isn't rein lameness. The problem comes in convincing someone who doesn't believe it's possible - they'll say any unevenness you see is due to pain/disability.

I believe rein lameness exists. But I also believe you have to be careful. If you're buying a horse, don't easily believe he is just showing 'rein lameness'. He may very well have pain/disability and 'real lameness'.

Too, with rein lameness, even if you believe the horse really is rein lame, don't assume it can be 'cured' by 'correct riding'. Once it is an established habit the muscles shorten and tighten up, it actually IS uncomfortable to be 'ridden correctly', and the horse gets more and more resistant to changing his habits. It is not always fixable, and even if it is, it isn't always easy to fix.

The toughest thing is that there is indeed 'rein lameness' that is actually masking a physical problem. Horses do indeed get crooked and uneven in an effort to protect an area. Even them up, and they WILL eventually become lame. There is no one rule that covers all the possible cases.

The bottom line is that to one extent or another, the hind legs are not driving - pushing, bending, reaching, flexing, both in the same way. From whatever cause - crookedness in whatever form or type.

ontarget
Aug. 20, 2009, 10:15 PM
I had a jumper mare who was completely rein lame. I might not even have believed in such a thing if I had not ridden her and felt it. We had her vetted for everything under the sun to make sure it wasn't more than just being rein lame, but no, rein lame she was. She had slightly awkward conformation, and if you did anything wrong at all with your hands that would upset her balance, she would bob her head and feel like she was lame, perhaps with the exception that it didn't really feel pain-related--definitely more of a crookedness issue that could easily be mistaken for true lameness. As my riding improved and I learned how to use my seat/hands better, the rein lameness all but disappeared. I learned how to recognize days that I was not riding my best because it would flare up again. If I used my hands too much, she would start bobbing and hobbling. Otherwise, she was a tireless, brave, and careful jumper, and even began to excel in some more complicated dressage movements. With regular chiro work, she never took a true lame step in her life. She was one of the most difficult horses I have ever ridden and the best teacher I ever had.

That said, if the horse is rein lame to such a degree, it can make them very difficult to show and even more difficult to sell. People would come to try my mare when she went up for sale (and of course these were lower level riders since she was only a very solid 1.20m jumper), immediately pull on her mouth (she was very forward), feel the lameness and completely lose interest. Personally, I would watch videos of the regular rider of the horse you are looking at who has gotten the horse going well and compare it to yourself. If you use your hands a lot, then it might not be the right match unless you are not looking for a future resale and are prepared to be tested every single day (once again depending on degree of rein lameness).

Hope that helps somewhat.

EiRide
Aug. 20, 2009, 10:49 PM
When I was growing up, rein lame meant a horse was pretending to be lame to get out of work.

I don't believe horses have that level and type of cognitive ability. I do know my chronically arthritic mare is always better when she is full of happy adrenaline--I bet if she were lazy she'd look more off on her way out than on her way back.

slc2
Aug. 20, 2009, 10:52 PM
It is not possible for a horse to fake lameness - or rein lameness. A horse does not think that way. 'He's pretending to be lame' is an excuse people use when they want to ride a horse and don't care if it's lame.

Icecapade
Aug. 21, 2009, 10:17 AM
I don't believe horses have that level and type of cognitive ability. I do know my chronically arthritic mare is always better when she is full of happy adrenaline--I bet if she were lazy she'd look more off on her way out than on her way back.

Eh they aren't stupid and they will try to get home- its not a complicated thought for them... My dad's race gelding himself w/ me (I was not THE rider, I was the kid) would be very bouncy... to the point of feeling lame... any twitch of a rein would have him spinning around like a reiner to head home... and then he was solid and smooth. He was a smart boy and he was all buisness but not if it wasn't the main man. If it was the kid it was a different story... totally try to get out of working. but hell who wants to put 10 miles in the Ca sun anyway.

flasher
Aug. 21, 2009, 12:58 PM
Slc2 & EiRide- I guess neither of you have worked with any devilishly clever ponies then.

We had one when I was a kid who could start limping the moment she saw a saddle. Didn't even need to put it on her back. You just needed to have it out where she could see it when you were walking her to the barn. Moment it was clear she wasn't going to be put to work, miracle, she was sound as could be. Had numerous vets look her over and she never took a bad step out in the field. That pony also liked to duck into the apple orchard with unskilled riders. All those low hanging limbs were perfect for scraping people off.

You can't tell me she didn't have the cognitive ability to plan those actions. She did both way too many times for it to be just accidental.

Ajierene
Aug. 21, 2009, 01:34 PM
Rein lameness in the case of the trail horse I mentioned is a learned behavior. There are many different types and degrees of learned behaviors, such as Pavlov's dog or Skinner's cats. Conditioning is a form of behavior modification and is the most common associated with animals.

When you are training your horse, you are training your animals, you are using condition, usually in the form of reward/punishment. You kick, when the horse starts walking, you stop kicking. Horse learns that kick (leg, whatever you want to call it) means start moving. Sometimes you have to kick a lot at first, then less as the horse learns.

People describe bad behavior as a learned behavior. This is less obvious training, but it is still training. You get on horse, horse randomly throws a buck while trotting. You get off and put him away. Get on horse the next day, horse spooks, throws a buck and you get off and put him away. You get on horse the next day, horse bucks because buck means he gets put away. Being put away is the reward for bucking - you have just created a bucking horse.

Similarly, a friend had a young horse that just got grumpy and threw a little fit. Instead of riding through it, she got nervous and put the horse away. Next day, horse threw a fit again, after same timeframe. Rider got off, put horse away. Next thing you know, horse was throwing a fit as soon as her feet hit the ring. She admitted it was her fault, sold horse with full disclosure. Friend has ridden many other horses that have not reacted the same way - this was just part of this horse's personality.

You get on horse, horse steps on stone and starts limping. You get all concerned and get off and put horse away. Get on horse the next day, horse takes a funny step, get off and put away. Horse learns that 'taking a funny step/limping' results in reward of being put away.

To put it into terms that may be more understandable. When young parents are learning about raising children, they are told not to give into their children's demands or crying. You tell your toddler NO, toddler cries, you give toddler what they wanted. Next day, tell the toddler NO, toddler cries, you give toddler what they wanted. Toddler learns that crying/temper tantrum means they will get what they want.

Each horse and toddler is different. Some may learn after one behavior/reward cycle while others may never learn.

TheHorseProblem
Aug. 21, 2009, 02:17 PM
It seems to me that rein lameness has two different meanings here: learned behavior that the horse employs to avoid work, and the rider's hands blocking the horse from coming through one one side or another, resulting in the horse taking "off" steps. Does that sound right?

Ajierene
Aug. 21, 2009, 04:35 PM
That seems to be it and both equally valid. In both cases there is not a physical lameness, though in the second case (rider restricting horse), the horse might have a conformation defect that means he needs to be ridden a certain way, by a more sensitive rider, etc.

So, if you are looking at the horse, bring an experienced person to see if there is a rider-related reason for any lameness that you might see.

TSWJB
Aug. 21, 2009, 06:05 PM
It is not possible for a horse to fake lameness - or rein lameness. A horse does not think that way. 'He's pretending to be lame' is an excuse people use when they want to ride a horse and don't care if it's lame.

thats not quite true. i knew a horse named guilly. was a very smart appalossa. and he would be dead lame when you wanted to ride him and saddle him up. put him back in the pasture and he would gallop off soundly. he learned that being lame, meant going back in the paddock. the even tried bareback riding to see if it would help. nope.
he also one time would not get back on the trailer to go home. they tried and tried and then told their daughter you better ride him home the 10 miles. and she did. and he always got on a trailer after that!

Dressage Art
Aug. 23, 2009, 01:58 AM
I've seen it happen at shows when a horse is lame on and off and on again for no apparent reason for several steps. It’s accompanied by a strong pulling of reins, or unsteady hands, or shifting weight of the rider. It's very unpleasant to watch and can be quite tricky to determine if this is just rein lameness or real soundness lameness.

Rein-lame is a stiff/blocked in the shoulder b/c horse is fighting with the bit and rider's hands and doing it with his shoulders/neck. It should go away for a stretchy circle of for the lengthening as soon as the rider would release her death grip on her reins.

Some people may mistake a true floating undiagnosed lameness as rein-lame.

Eclectic Horseman
Aug. 24, 2009, 10:02 AM
Slc2 & EiRide- I guess neither of you have worked with any devilishly clever ponies then.

We had one when I was a kid who could start limping the moment she saw a saddle. Didn't even need to put it on her back. You just needed to have it out where she could see it when you were walking her to the barn. Moment it was clear she wasn't going to be put to work, miracle, she was sound as could be. Had numerous vets look her over and she never took a bad step out in the field. That pony also liked to duck into the apple orchard with unskilled riders. All those low hanging limbs were perfect for scraping people off.

You can't tell me she didn't have the cognitive ability to plan those actions. She did both way too many times for it to be just accidental.


I agree. It can be a learned behavior like anything else. If you get off a really clever pony and reward it and bring it back to the barn, he can easily learn that "trick" in order to get his reward.

I don't think its common. But I had an old buckskin pony when I was a kid that did that--stopped limping the minute that you turned him toward home, or whenever you were going to do something that he considered "fun" (gymkhana.) Somewhere along the line, this pony had also learned to rear on command. All you had to do was twist his mane right in front of the withers, and he would rear like Zorro's horse in the movies. Someone had clearly taught this horse tricks, and "lame horse" was one of them!

Janet
Aug. 24, 2009, 10:15 AM
Yep- my sister rode a Connemara pony that would "fake" a stone bruise.

Dressage Art
Aug. 24, 2009, 01:41 PM
When I was a kid, I rode an Arab pony that would FALL down (or lay down) with more skilled rider who would ask for harder work. Then he would stand up, shake and keep on going like nothing ever happened. He was fine with little kids - he was a school horse and my trainer used him as a vaulting horse and used him to teach us how to fall off the horse properly. But when he started tripping, we all would bail out from him. Then the next new working students would get on him to teach him how it's done and we would say oh, he'll fall on purpose, be careful - she would not believe us and what do you know... I have to add that the fall was more like a slow motion lay down on the ground and then several minutes of playing "dead"... If the rider would not get off him, he might add a dirt roll :lol:

Oh yes, ponies can be way too smart if they have a desire to get out of work!

JackSprats Mom
Aug. 24, 2009, 08:48 PM
Be very careful of looking at a horse with 'rein lameness' as SLC said its not always easy to cure.

A friend of mine has a wonderful horse who for no known reason is rein lame. Sound on a loose rein, ANY contact becomes rein lame (this horse used to be an upper level showjumper, of which some can be a little more handsy then dressage riders- NOT ALL).

Velvet
Aug. 24, 2009, 08:56 PM
When the term is used by a knowledgeable trainer or a judge they are talking about the obvious rein lameness that is not caused by anything being physically wrong. Typically it will show up only when the horse goes in a certain direction. It's usually not due to overly strong hands, but more that the horse is not through and working into the contact evenly. An uber tight rein can cause problems, but in this case only if the rider is not driving more than they're holding. (Thus you don't see rein lame race horses, etc., when a jockey is pulling them up or holding them back.)

Also, since not all horses ridden with a heavy hand and not much leg do this is because it is horse specific and often rider specific. It can be easily unlearned with correct training and riding. It's just not that big of a deal to overcome. (Rein lameness, that is.)