Basic Horse Terms to Know

Adult Horses:

  • MARE – Adult female horse (3 years and older).
  • GELDING – Castrated adult male horse (3 years and older).
  • STALLION – Uncastrated adult male horse (3 years and older).
  • PONY – A full-grown small horse (14.2 hands and under).
  • DAM – The term give to a female horse when she becomes a mother.
  • SIRE – The term given to a stallion when he becomes a father.

Young Horses:

  • FOAL – A newborn baby horse (before weaning).
  • WEANLING – A colt or filly who is 6 to 12 months old.
  • YEARLING – A horse who is between 1 and 2 years old.
  • COLT – Male horse (3 years old and under).
  • FILLY – Female horse (3 years old and under).

The Horse’s Body:

  • CONFORMATION – The shape of a horse’s body. A horse with good conformation is stronger and more likely to stay sound than one with weak conformation.
  • HAND – Measures how tall a horse is (one hand = four inches).
  • LAME – A “lame horse” has an injury that interferes with his performance and/or health.
  • SOUND – A “sound horse” does not have any injuries that interfere with his performance and/or health.
  • POINTS – This word is used when describing the color of a horse. The “points” of a horse are his mane, tail, lower legs and the tips of his ears.
  • GAIT – The different speeds a horse can travel. Every horse has 4 natural “gaits”, the (1) walk (2) trot (3) canter (4) gallop.
  • Horse Gaits:
  • GAIT: The paces at which horses move, usually the walk, trot, canter, and gallop.
  • WALK: A slow four-beat gait.
  • TROT: Moderate-speed gait in which the horse moves from one diagonal pair of legs to the other, with a period of suspension in between.
  • CANTER: Three-beated gait of the horse in which one hind leg strides first (the leading leg), followed by the opposite diagonal pair and finally the opposite foreleg. Called the lope in Western riding.
  • GALLOP: Four-beated gait of the horse, in which each foot touches the ground separately, as opposed to the canter, which is a three-beat gait.

 Riding Terms:

  • ABOVE THE BIT: Where the horse evades the rider’s aids by raising the head above the level of the rider’s hands. This reduces the amount of control the rider has over the horse.
  • AIDS: Signals or cues by which the rider communicates his wishes to the horse. The “natural” aids include the voice, the legs, the hands, and weight. “Artificial” aids include the whip and spurs.
  • BUCK: A leap in the air with the head lowered and the back arched.
  • CAVELLETTI: Adjustable low wooden jumps used in the schooling of horse and rider.
  • COLLECTED: Controlled gait: a correct coordinated action.
  • COLLECTION: Where the rider, by means of carefully balanced driving and restraining aids, causes the horse’s frame to become compacted and the horse light and supple in the hand. The baseline is shortened, the croup is lowered, the shoulder is raised and the head is held on the vertical.
  • COMBINED TRAINING: Equestrian competition held over one or three days and including the disciplines of dressage, cross country, and show jumping. Also known as Eventing.
  • EQUITATION: The art of horse riding.
  • EXTENSION: The extension of the paces is the lengthening of the frame and stride. The opposite ofcollection.
  • FLYING CHANGE: Change of canter lead performed by the horse to rebalance during turns and changes of direction.
  • HALF HALT: An exercise, basically a “pay attention, please” used to communicate to the horse that the rider is about to ask for some change of direction or gait, or other exercise or movement.
  • HALF PASS: Dressage movement performed on two tracks in which the horse moves sideways and forwards at the same time.
  • HALT: When the horse is at a standstill.
  • IN FRONT OF THE BIT: A term used to describe a horse which pulls or hangs heavily on the rider’s hand.
  • LEG UP: Method of mounting in which an assistant stands behind the rider and supports the lower part of his left leg and giving a boost as necessary as the rider springs up off the ground.
  • NEARSIDE: The left hand side of the horse.
  • OFFSIDE: The right hand side of the horse.
  • ON THE BIT A horse is said to be “on the bit” when he carries his head in a near vertical position and he is calmly accepting the rider’s contact on the reins.
  • OVERREACHING: Faulty gait in which the hind foot steps on the heel of the front foot on the same side. Occurs most often when the horse is galloping or jumping.
  • PASSAGE: Dressage movement in which the horse trots in an extremely collected and animated manner.
  • PIAFFE: Dressage movement in which the horse trots in place, with forehand elevated and croup lowered.
  • PIROUETTE: Dressage movement in which the forelegs of the horse describe a small circle, while the hind legs remain in place, one of them acting as a pivot.
  • REIN BACK: When a horse moves backward with the hooves being set down almost simultaneously in diagonal pairs.
  • REINING: Type of Western riding in which advanced movements such as spins and slides are executed in various patterns.
  • REVERSE: A command used in the show ring to indicate a change of direction.
  • RISING TROT: The action of the rider rising from the saddle in rhythm with the horse’s trot. (Also calledPosting Trot.)
  • SERPENTINE: School movement in which the horse, at any pace, moves down the center of the school in a series of equal-sized loops.
  • SHOULDER-IN: Two-track movement in which the horse is evenly bent along the length of its spine away from the direction in which it is moving.
  • WARMING-UP: The process of going through the gaits while performing suppling exercises to limber up both horse and rider in the beginning of a workout.

Other Words:

  • TACK – All equipment used on a horse (bridle, saddle, halter, etc.)
  • LUNGING – A way of exercising a horse, using a lunge line that is attached to the horse’s halter. The horse moves in circles around the trainer, who stands in the middle holding the lunge line.
  • LUNGE LINE – A very long rein (about 20-40 feet) used to lunge a horse.


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