35 Horse Terms You Always Wanted to Know the Meaning Of
“My mare was cold-backed this morning. Then, I was posting on the wrong diagonal, messed up my dog-leg line, and then she cut her fetlock. It was a tough day.”
If that makes sense to you, then congratulations, you are probably a horse person! There’s almost an entirely different language that goes along with the equestrian lifestyle. Do you know it? Check out these horse terms to truly test your knowledge.
A foal is a baby horse that is under one year old. The term applies to both male and female offspring.
A Numnah is a saddle-shaped saddle pad, made of felt with sheepskin underside. The word is derived from a Hindustani word that means “felt.” It can also be called a numdah.
A mare is any female horse over the age of four years old. While you can spay a mare, it is highly unusual. Most mares are left intact, whether they are used for breeding or not.
A stallion is any male horse over the age of four years old. Usually, people only keep stallions intact if they plan on breeding them. It takes special knowledge to own and train a stallion in order to make sure they are safe to handle, especially around other stallions and mares.
Earning Your Colors
In fox hunting, clubs have sets of activities, usually including a written test on fox hunting, that members work to complete. Once completed, the riders are rewarded by “earning their colors,” a special-colored collar and buttons they wear on their hunt coat.
The poll on a horse is right behind their ears. For those that ride their horses, the poll is an important part of getting their horse moving correctly.
A horse that is cold-backed is one that often bucks as soon as you get on them. Sometimes, you can avoid this by warming them up on the ground first.
Western riding is a type of riding defined mainly by the saddle used. Western saddles have a horn, larger pommel (rise in the front of the saddle) and cantle (rise in the back of the saddle). There are many versions of a western saddle, but they all will have a horn.
Western movies are the most common depiction for someone riding western, though there are many disciplines in which people use a western saddle, including barrel racing, western dressage, western pleasure and trail.
English riding is a type of riding defined mainly by the saddle used. English saddles are light and much less bulky than western saddles; they have no horn, though some have larger pommels (rise in the front) than others. Some have deep seats with a tall back (cantle), while others are completely flat with no cantle at all. The most recognizable sport that uses an English saddle is racing, but there are many disciplines including dressage, jumping, saddle seat, English pleasure and trail, that can be ridden English.
A drag hunt is a traditional fox hunt without the fox! More humane, drag hunts follow a scent that is laid down by a human, aka “the fox.” Hounds are still used to track the scent, and riders still follow at exhilarating speeds through fields and forests while taking jumps.
Dam is the word used for the mother of a horse. Instead of saying “that horse’s mother,” you would say, “that horse’s dam.”
Stud is another word for stallion. It can also be used as a verb: “A stallion standing at stud” is a stallion that is currently being used for breeding.
The Halter is a piece of tack used to lead a horse. In some places, it’s referred to as a head collar. The halter usually consists of a noseband, two cheekpieces, a throat latch that goes under the horse’s jaw line at the neck, and a crown piece that goes over behind the ears. It is used for in-hand work.
The bridle is a piece of tack commonly used while riding. A bit attaches to it, which goes into the horse’s mouth. The reins attach to the bit, and the rider holds the reins to communicate with the horse. Bridles vary widely in looks and the pieces they have. For example, some have browbands that go in front of the horse’s ears, and some do not. Some have nosebands, some do not.
Irons are another word for the stirrups on an English saddle. Stirrups are the piece of the saddle where a rider’s foot sits while in the saddle. Irons were originally made of iron, hence the name, but now they come in a variety of metals and even plastic.
In jumping, if the horse does not start at the correct distance away from the fence, they have to take an extra half stride right before the jump to avoid taking off too early or jumping from underneath the fence.
A gelding is a male horse that has been castrated. Horses are usually gelded around one year of age, though some are gelded later in life after being used as a breeding stallion. Geldings are the preferred riding horse by many people, who wish to avoid the hormones of intact male and female horses.
A half halt is a term used mainly in dressage, a type of riding, where the rider pushes a horse forward without releasing rein. Since the horse cannot go forward more, they go “uphill” producing a more balanced and collected gait.
Tent pegging is an ancient sport where a rider pierces a ground target with a long lance or sword. Depending on the game, they may pick up the target and carry it a certain distance. Other variations include rings on stands that the rider must pick up using the lance or slicing an object on stands with the sword.
Renvers is a dressage move where the horse is riding “haunches out,” meaning the horse’s body is bent around the riders outside leg (the leg on the rail of the arena) and the haunches (hips) are moving along the wall while the shoulders are inside the wall.
Travers is the opposite of renvers, so “haunches in.” In Travers, the horse is bent around the rider’s inside leg, and their haunches are inside the arena, while the shoulders are along the wall.
Withers are the point on the horse’s body where the shoulder blades meet, creating a rise. Depending on the horse’s body shape, he may have high withers (a thinner horse with a narrow rib cage, like a Thoroughbred) or low withers (a wider horse with a rounder body shape and large rib cage, like a Gypsy horse). The withers are used as the place to measure height from in horses, so they measure from the ground to the top of the withers.
Chrome on a horse is their white markings. A horse with “a lot of chrome” usually has a big blaze and four white stockings.
Blue Hen Mare
A blue hen mare is a mare that produces quality foals consistently. The foals usually go on to become champions. Sometimes, it’s the grand foals of said mare that become champions and earn her the prestige of being a blue hen mare.
The Fetlock on a horse is similar to the ankle on a human. When looking at a horse, it’s the protrusion you see at the bottom of the leg just above their hoof.
The whipper-in is a member of the hunt field. They help the huntsman by bringing back any stray hounds that may have left the pack.
Dog Leg Line
In jumping, if a pattern calls for the horse to land and immediately curve toward the next jump, it’s called a dog leg line.
An alamar knot is a decorative-type knot used to tie the mecate rein of a bosal around a horse’s neck. It looks similar to a Celtic knot.
The bell mare is a mare with a bell around her neck in a line of horses during a drive that get turned out free at night. This way, the owner can find them in the morning. She may also lead a pack string.
Posting is when a rider rises out of the saddle and then sits back down in rhythm with the horse’s trot. In a circle, the rider should be rising when the outside front leg is moving forward.
Park classes are a type of rail class for saddle horse breeds (Saddlebreds, Arabs, Morgans, Hackneys, etc). It is the “highest action class,” meaning the horse is being judged on how flashy and high-stepping their gaits are.
The class is a remnant of when people would show off their best, highest-stepping horse by riding it through the park on Sundays.
A war bridle is a type of bit where the “bit” is a piece of rope that loops around the bottom part of the horse’s mouth with reins attached. Normally, there are no other straps attached to it to keep it on the horse’s face, though sometimes there may be a single strap connecting either side over the poll.
Garrocha is the Spanish word for the long pole used in Working Equitation (WE). The pole is used during the ease of handling and speed phases of WE. It represents the traditional poles used when working cattle in Spain.
A horse that weaves is a horse that moves side to side in their stall, usually at the front of it. They often move their head back and forth as well. It is seen as a vice and is something that a horse may develop if they are confined for too long or are nervous about being confined.
This is a horse that stays at a healthy weight easily, without needing expensive food or a large quantity of food. Usually, owners of easy keepers have to worry about their horse getting too fat and may have to be aware of how much sugar and starch they are getting in their diet to keep them from developing problems like laminitis.