Glossary of Common Terms

Here are some common horse terms that will help you better understand the world of horses!


Alphabetical List of Terms

Bareback: Riding a horse without a saddle.

Barefoot: A term that describes a horse that doesn't wear shoes.

Bloodline: The pedigree, or family tree of a horse.

Bombproof: A term used to describe horses that are not easily scared or startled.

Breeches: Pants worn by those riding in the English disciplines. They are usually mid-calf in length, and have a leather patch inside the knee and sometimes on the seat. They are designed to be worn with tall riding boots.

Breaking: The initial process of training a horse to accept a saddle and a rider.

Broodmare: A mare used for breeding.

Canter: A three-beat gait between the trot and canter.

Chaps: Protective leg coverings that are usually made of leather, and are worn by equestrians. Chaps are most often worn by western riders. English riders sometimes wear "half chaps" which are worn over paddock boots and cover the rider's calf.

Chinks: A shorter version of the western chap, chinks end a few inches above the knee, and often have fringed edges.

Cold-Blooded: A term used to describe horse breeds that are usually drafts. These horses are of large stature, and have a quiet demeanor. Also called "heavy horses."

Colic: A medical problem in horses which refers to gastrointestinal pain. Episodes of colic can range from mild to life-threatening.

Colt: A male horse, less than 4 years old.

Dam: The mother of a horse.

Draft horse: A large heavy horse, usually bred for pulling and work (ex: Clydesdale, Shire, Percheron).

Easy keeper: A term that refers to a horse that is "easy to keep." This means that the horse maintains its weight well, without needing extra feed or supplements to remain healthy.

Equestrian: A person who rides horses.

Equine: Animals belonging to the family equidae: Horses, zebras, and donkeys/asses.

Equitation: The skill of riding horses. In an equitation class at a horse show, the rider is judged on his/her riding performance, which includes proper form, use of aids, and his/her seat.

Farrier: Also called a blacksmith, the farrier trims a horse's hooves and puts on horse shoes.

Feathers: Some breeds have long hair that grows on their lower legs. The purpose of this hair is to protect the leg. Many draft breeds have feathering on their legs.

Feral: This term describes horses that roam free, but did not evolve in the wild. The mustangs of the American west and Chincoteague ponies are both examples of feral horses.

Filly: A female horse, less than 4 years old.

Floating: A term used to describe the process of filing of a horse's teeth. A horse's teeth grow as they age, and sharp points and hooks can develop. These are filed down, so the horse can chew properly and without discomfort.

Foal: A young horse of any gender, less than 1 year of age.

Forelock: The hair that grows at the very top of the mane, and falls over the face from between the horse's ears.

Gallop: A four-beat gait that is the fastest gait of all. For a moment, all four feet are off the ground!

Gelding: A castrated male horse.

Get: A stallion's offspring.

Grade horse: An unregistered horse with no breed papers or pedigree. Often, grade horses are of mixed breeds.

Green: A horse that is only beginning its under saddle training. These horses are also sometimes called "green broke."

Groom: Grooming is the process of brushing and cleaning a horse. When grooming for a show, this also can include clipping, braiding, and applying hoof polish.

A groom is someone who cares for, feeds, and grooms the horses in their charge.

Hand: Horses and ponies are measured in "hands." A hand is equal to four inches. The measurement is from the ground to the withers of the horse.

Hinny: The offspring of a male horse and a female donkey. All hinnies are sterile.

Hot: A term used to describe a horse that is easily excited.

Hot-Blooded: A term used to describe horse breeds that are usually fast and reactive, such as Thoroughbreds and Arabians. Also referred to as "light horses."

In Foal: When a mare is "in foal" it means that she is pregnant.

Jack: A male donkey or ass.

Jenny/Jennet: A female donkey or ass.

Jockey: Someone who rides racehorses in races.

Jodhpurs: Jodhpurs, or "jods" are pants worn by those riding in the English disciplines (often children) and have leather patches inside the knee. Unlike breeches, they extend to the ankles, and are designed to be worn with low riding boots.

Jog: A two-beat gait similar to the trot, but usually a bit slower, and is used in western disciplines

Lame: A horse that is unable to move normally (on all four feet) without limping, stiffness, or other signs of pain and injury.

Lope: A three-beat gait that is similar to the canter, but usually a bit slower and is used in western disciplines.

Lunge: To lunge a horse means to exercise a horse by having it move in a circle around a handler, who controls it with a long line ("lunge line") attached to its halter. Horses can also be "free lunged" (without a lunge line) in a round pen. Some riding lessons given to beginners are on a lunge line, so the instructor still has control of the horse.

Mane: The hair that grows from between a horse's ears, along the top of its neck, down to its withers.

Mare: A female horse, 4 years old or older.

Mule: The offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. All male and most female mules are sterile.

Neck Reining: A way of steering/controlling a horse by using rein contact on the sides of their neck vs. direct contact with the bit. Commonly seen in western disciplines.

Pace: A lateral two-beat gait where the legs on the same side of the horse move forward together. The pace is a gait commonly demonstrated by Standardbreds.

Paddock: A small outdoor area, enclosed by a fence, where horses are kept.

Pony: Any horse that stands 14.2 hands high and under is considered a pony. Just like with horses, there are many different breeds of ponies.

Posting: The act of moving out of the saddle for a beat, then sitting the next in rhythm with a horse's trot. Posting minimizes the bounce of the trot, and is most commonly seen in the English disciplines.

Purebred: A horse whose sire and dam are both of the same breed and are registered.

Sire: The father of a horse.

Sound: A term used to describe a healthy horse showing no lameness.

Stallion: A male horse, 4 years old or older.

Sulky: A lightweight, two-wheeled cart pulled by Standardbred racehorses in harness racing. This is where the driver sits. Also called a "bike."

Tack: Riding equipment worn by the horse, such as a saddle and bridle.

Trot: A two-beat gait, where the feet move in diagonal pairs.

Veterinarian: The veterinarian is a doctor for animals.

Walk: A slow four-beat gait.

Warmbloods: A term used to describe horses that are of mixed cold- and hot-blood breeding, but the horses do not have to be a direct cross. These horses usually are tall with good bone, and are very athletic. A few examples of warmblood breeds are the Hanoverian, Belgian Warmblood, and the Selle Francais.

Weanling: A young horse less than a year old that has been weaned from its mother.

Withers: The top of a horse's shoulders, where the back meets the mane. This is where the height of a horse is measured to.

Yearling: A horse of any gender that is a year old.