Horse Terms (For Beginners)

horse terms

The horse world can be confusing for a newbie with a range of horse terminology and slang. The following list consists of the most common horse terms in the english language today, and should hopefully help you when entering into the equine world.

Horse Riding Terms

  • Trot – A two-beat diagonal gait that is slightly faster than walk
  • Canter – A three-beat gait that is faster than the other gaits
  • Bolt – A horse cantering very fast
  • Pigroot – A horse throwing its back up in the air while being in a hollow position with its head down with an arched back, sometimes includes a leg out too 
  • Buck – Bucking is similar to pigroot but the horse has its back feet in the air
  • Lead Change – When the horse changes lead when cantering
  • Piaffe – A dressage term where the horse performs an elevated trot on the spot
  • Half Seat – When a rider half stand in the saddle
  • Posting Trot – When the horse sits and stands while trotting to the horse’s trot rhythm.
  • Passage – An elevated trot performed in upper level dressage
  • Leg Yield – When the horse’s body moves sideways after responding to pressure from the leg

Horse Body Parts Terms

  • Hoof – The horse’s foot
  • Hind legs – The rear legs of the horse
  • Haunches – Back end of the horse (butt and rear legs)
  • Navicular bone – A bone inside the horse’s hoof that is prone to Navicular disease
  • Cannon bone – A bone that goes from the knee to the fetlock of the horse
  • Wither – The ridge between the shoulder blades on the horse, where the horse’s height is measured
  • Hock – Located on the rear legs above the cannon bone

Horse Health Conditions Terms

  • Lame – The horse is limping on one or more legs
  • Hoof Abscess – A common issue in horses that usually comes from the hoof standing in wet conditions for too long. They can cause severe pain and lameness. 
  • Colic – A condition where horses experience abdominal pain
  • Cribbing – A bad habit where the horse sucks in air by biting down on an object (it releases endorphins hence its a very bad habit to stop)

Horse Gear Terms

  • Bitless Bridle – A horse bridle without a bit
  • Bit – The tool that goes in the horse’s mouth, often made of stainless steel. It is used to steer and stop the horse when ridden
  • Lead Rope – The rope that connects to a halter, used to lead a horse around
  • Saddle Rack – A rack usually attached to a wall, used to hold up horse saddles
  • Halter – A harness that is used on top of the horse’s head to lead the horse arounf
  • Chin Strap / Curb Strap – A piece of tack that connects to the bid and headstall and keeps the headstall in place and puts pressure on the horse’s chin when the reins are pulled
  • Reins – The straps that connect to the bit of the horse and are held by the rider’s hands when riding.
  • Snaffle Bit – A soft (often jointed) mouthpiece popular amongst english riders.
  • Bridle – The headpiece used when riding
  • Hoof Pick – A tool to clean the horse’s feet
  • Breast Collar – A piece of tack used over the horses shoulders to keep the saddle in place and to attach a martingale to
  • Jump Saddle – A flat seat close contact saddle used for jumping
  • Dressage Saddles – Deep seat saddle with long flaps and large knee blocks used for dressage
  • Stirrups – A pair of stirrups attaches to each side of the saddle for the rider to keep their feet inside, they are often made of metal
  • Girth – The strap that goes underneath the horse’s belly and keeps a horse saddle in place 
  • Western Tack – A general term for horse gear used for western riding disciplines such a Western saddles, and Headstalls
  • Curry Comb – A brush used to remove dust or dirt from the horse, often used in a circular motion
  • Western Saddle – A heavier style leather saddle with a horn, high cantle, skirt and fenders. Used for western riding disciplines
  • English Saddle – A smaller style saddle that is used for english disciplines such as jumping, dressage and cross country. English saddles offer less support than western saddles and features large flaps with small stirrup leathers rather than large fenders.

Riding Disciplines Terms

  • Barrel Racing – A western discipline where the horse and rider needs to finish a cloverleaf pattern around barrels in the fastest time possible.
  • Eventing – An event where riders compete in 3 disciplines: Showjumping, dressage and cross country
  • Western Pleasure – When the horse and rider combination performs three different gaits (walk, jog, and lope on the correct lead) on both reins. 
  • Dressage – An english discipline where the horse and rider performs different movements in all three gaits including leg yielding, halt, piaffe, passage and more. It almost looks like the horse is dancing.
  • Rodeo – A rodeo event includes a range of fun performances and shows including barrel racing, team roping, bull riding, Steer wrestling and more.
  • English Riding – When a rider uses english tack (Bridle, jump or dressage saddle) and rides with shorter reins and usually a soft snaffle bit and wants the horse to collect while holding contact.

Horse Color & Breed Terms

  • Dorsal Stripe – A dark stripe that runs over the horse’s back, moslty seen in dun horses.
  • Dapple – Can show on some horses coat with genetic predisposition to dapples and is generally a sign of good health
  • Buckskin – A yellow ish color on horses with darker mane
  • Pinto – A color of horses which contains large patches of white in combination with any other color.
  • Draft Horse – A heavier breed horse, for example Persian, Clydesdale and shire.

Other Horse-related Terms 

  • Mare – A female horse
  • Stallion – A male horse that is not castrated
  • Foal – A young horse 
  • Filly – young female horse
  • Gelding – Castrated male horse
  • Colt – Young male horse that is not castrated
  • Mule – Offspring of a male donkey and a female horse
  • Barn – The Building where the horses live
  • Pasture – The fenced in area where horses are turned out. 
  • Round Pen – An exercise pen used to train horses, especially useful when training young horses.
  • Show Ring – Where horse shows are held 
  • Starting Gate – Ensures a fair start in horse racing
  • Horse Hands – The height of a horse is measured top of the withers and is measured in hh (horse hands)
  • Farrier/Blacksmith – A professional who works with putting on horse shoes and trimming the horse’s feet

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