A Glossary Of Horse Terminology

 Look up the meaning of horse terms below:

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Above the Bit: Where the horse evades the riders 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.

Action: The movement of the horse's legs.

Aged: A horse of 15 years of age or older. Prior to this age, experienced horsemen can estimate the age of a horse by examining the teeth.

Aging: The process of estimating the age of a horse by examining the appearance and development of the teeth.

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 the weight. "Artifical" aids include the whip and spurs.

Airs Above the Ground: High school movements performed by highly trained horses, where either the front legs or all four legs are off the ground. Airs above the ground include the levade and the capriole.

Akhal-Teke: Ancient breed of horse originating in the Turkmenistan area, north of Iran and east of the Caspian Sea.

Albino: Term used to indicate lack of pigment. True albino horses have pink skin, white hair coat and pink eyes.

Amble: The slower form of the lateral pacing gait. (See Pacer)

Andalusian: Elegant breed of horse originating in the Iberian Peninsula. Known in Portugal as the Lusitano.

Anhidrosis: A condition in which the horse has a limited ability to sweat.

Anthelmintics: Name given to the various deworming medications used to control equine internal parasites.

Appaloosa: Breed of horse exhibiting one of a number of distinct coloration patterns of spots on the body. Develeped by the Nez Perce Indians and named for the River Palouse. Coloration patterns include leopard spot, blanket, snowflake, frost.

Appendix: A horse registered in the Appendix of the American Quarter Horse Registry. Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred cross.

Arabian: Ancient and graceful breed of horse, originating in the deserts of the Middle East and having a strong influence on many other breeds, including the Thoroughbred.

Ascarids: Equine internal parasite, also known as roundworms.

Artificial Aids: Mechanical means by which the rider conveys his wishes to the horse. Includes spurs and whip.

At Grass: A horse that has been turned out in a paddock or field.

Azoturia: Condition in which the horse experiences prolonged muscle contractions during exercise. Exercise-induced myositis. Also known as tying-up and Monday Morning sickness, because the condition often appears in fit horses following a period of rest.

Azteca Horse: Relatively new breed of horse, developed in Mexico by crossing Andalusians, Criollos and Quarter Horses.


Back at the Knee: A conformational fault where the upper leg is set back in comparison to the lower leg. This fault is more serious than over at the knee because it places additional strain on the tendons running down the back of the lower leg.

Back-breeding: The practice of breeding back to a certain stallion to preserve a particular desirable trait.

Bald-Faced: US term used to describe a horse with a predominantly white face.

Bandy-legged: Where the hocks turn outward. (See also bow-hocks). Opposite of cow-hocks.

Banged tail: A tail which has been trimmed level at the bottom, seen in dressage horses and hunters, but not in Arabians and western pleasure horses.

Barn Sour: Horse that objects to being ridden away from the barn. Also herd bound horses that object to leaving their pasture mates.

Barrel: The area of the horse's body between the forelegs and the loins.

Barrel Racing: A timed event in Western Riding where horse and rider complete a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels.

Bars: In the horse's mouth, the fleshy area between the front and back teeth, where the bit rests.

Bascule: Term used to describe the arc a horse makes as it jumps a fence.

Bashkir Curly: Breed of horse exhibiting a unique curly coat. Also called simply the Curly Horse.

Bat: Artificial aid by which the rider may emphasize and back up the natural aids of seat and legs. Used to encourage reluctant or lazy horses to move forward. Sometimes used to punish. See also whip and crop.

Bay: Coat color - deep reddish brown with black mane and tail.

Behind the Bit: An evasion where the horse holds his head behind the vertical, thereby decreasing the rider's control. See also Overbent.

Belgian Draft Horse: Breed of heavy horse, originating in Belgium and used for heavy draft work. Also known as the Brabant.

Billets/Billet Straps: Straps by which the girth is attached to the saddle.

Bit: Mouthpiece, of made of metal but may be made of rubber or other man made material and held in place by the bridle, by which the rider conveys instructions to the horse.

Blaze: Elongated white marking down the front of the horse's face. (Also called a stripe)

Blazer Horse: Breed of horse developed in 1959 by Neil Hinck in Idaho. Known for their easy maintenance and versatility.

Blemish: A permanent mark or scar made by either an injury of disease. Examples of blemishes include curbs and girth galls.

Blistering: Application of a caustic agent, or blister, to the leg. Formerly and, occasionally, still used in the treatment of a number of conditions, such as spavin, ringbone and bowed tendon. Thought to encourage internal healing in some cases.

Blood Horse: A Thoroughbred horse.

Bloodstock: Thoroughbred horses bred for racing.

Boarding Stable: Equestrian facility where horse owners may keep their horse for a monthly fee. See also Livery Stable.

Bog Spavin: Soft, synovial swelling seen on the inside of the hock. Does not usually cause lameness, unlike regular spavin.

Bone: The measurement around the leg, just below the knee or hock. This measurement determines the horse's ability to carry weight, therefore a light-boned will be limited in weight carrying capacity.

Bosal: A braided noseband used in western equitation. Western bitless bridle.

Bots: Equine parasite.

Bow-hocks: Bandy-legged, where the hocks turn outwards. The opposite of cow-hocks.

Bowed Tendon: Injury to superficial digital flexor tendon, which runs down the back of the lower leg.

Boxy hooves: Narrow, upright hooves with a small frog and closed heel. Also called club foot.

Brabant: See Belgian Draft Horse.

Breaking, or Breaking-In: The early education of the young horse, where it is taught the skills it will need for it's future life as a riding or driving horse.

Breed: An equine group bred selectively for consistent characteristics over a long period of time.

Bridle: Item of equipment worn on the horse's head, enabling the rider to communicate his wishes through use of the bit and the reins.

Bridoon: Snaffle bit used in conjuction with a curb bit in a double bridle.

Brindle Horse: Breed of horse exhibiting a distintive marbelized coat coloring, similar to that seen in brindle dogs.

Brood Mare: A mare used for breeding purposes.

Broken-In/Broke to Ride: Horse that has been accustomed to the tack and the rider and has begun initial training. (Also called greenbroke)

Broken Winded: Term used to describe horses having an abnormal breathing pattern due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Also known as heaves.

Brushing: Where the hoof or shoe hits the inside of the opposite leg, at or near the fetlock. Usually caused by poor conformation or action.

Brushing Boots: Item of horse equipment used to protect the horse's legs from injury due to brushing.

Buck: A leap in the air with the head lowered and the back arched.

Buckskin: Coat color - body can range from creme to dark bronze, mane, tail, legs and tips of ears are black or dark brown. Horses showing similar coloration, but with a dorsal stripe, are called dun.


Cannon Bone: The bone of the lower foreleg between the knee and the fetlock. Also called the "shin bone". In the hindleg, the corresponding bone is called the shank.

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.

Cantle: Back ridge of an English saddle.

Capped Hocks: Swelling or puffiness on the point of the hock. Can be cause by a blow or injury, or may be caused by a horse lying down repeatedly in a stable with insufficient bedding.

Capriole: One of the Airs Above the Ground in which the horse leaps with all four legs and strikes out with the hind legs in mid-leap.

Carriage Horse: An relatively light and elegant horse used for carriage driving.

Cart Horse: A coldblood draft horse.

Cast: A horse which rolls and gets stuck, either up against the wall of his stall, or near a fence, etc. Is said to be cast. Human intervention can be necessary to release the horse.

Cavelletti: Adjustable low wooden jumps used in the schooling of horse and rider.

Cavesson: (i) Simple noseband fitted to a bridle. (ii) Leather or nylon headgear, with attachments for side reins and lunge line, worn by the horse when it is being lunged.

Chestnut: (i) The small rubbery protrusion on the inside of all four legs. (ii) Reddish-brown coat color (also see Sorrel).

Chin Groove: The groove above the lower lip in which the curb chain of a curb bit lies.

Chip/Chip-In: When a horse puts in a short, additional stride in front of a fence.

Chrome: US term used by auctioneers and in sales ads to describe the white markings of a horse.

Cinch: Means by which a Western saddle is secured to the horse, which attaches to the saddle on one side, running under the barrel just behind the legs to the other side. Called a girth in English Riding.

Clean-legged: Without feathering on the lower legs.

Cleveland Bay: Breed of horse. Originating in England as a carriage horse. Increasingly popular for crossing with Thoroughbreds to produce versatile sport horses used in a number of equine sports.

Clydesdale: Breed of heavy horse originating in Scotland and used for heavy draft work.

Coach Horse: A powerfully built horse, capable of drawing a heavy coach.

Cob: A type of horse, rather than a breed, a cob is a horse of stocky appearance, well-adapted to carrying heavyweight riders in all circumstances.

Coffin Bone: Small bone within the hoof. In severe cases of laminitis, this bone can detach and rotate, causing extreme lameness. See also Founder.

Coggins Test: A blood test for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA). Horses which test positive may be required by the state of occupancy to be destroyed or permenantly quarantined. See also EIA.

Coldblood: The name used to describe the heavy European breeds of horse descended from the prehistoric Forest Horse.

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.

Colic: General term describing abdominal pain in the horse. Ranges in severity from mild to life-threatening. A veterinarian should always be consulted in case of suspected colic.

Colostrom: First milk produced by a mare following foaling. Contains globulins to provide the newborn foal with temporary immunity against disease.

Colt: Uncastrated male horse up to four years of age. Male foals are called "colt foals".

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

Coming: Term used in the US to describe a horses age. For example, a horse approaching the age of four is said to be "coming four". In the UK the term rising is used.

Conformation: The overall way in which a horse is put together and also the relationship of specific parts of the horse in regards to its proportions.

Connemara: One of the nine breeds of ponies native to the British Isles. Originating in Ireland.

COPD: Abbreviation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or heaves. Brought on by allergies and characterized by abnormal breathing pattern and reduced tolerance to exercise. See also broken winded.

Courbette: One of the Airs Above the Ground. After performing the levade, the horse bounds or hops forward on bent hind legs.

Counter Canter: School movement in which the horse canter in a circle with the outside leg leading, instead of the more usual inside leg.

Cow-hocks: Hocks turned in, like those of a cow. Opposite of bow-hocks.

Cracked Heels: Inflammation of the heels, resulting in cracked skin and discharge of pus.

Crib-Biting/Cribbing: A stable vice in which the horse hooks his teeth onto something solid, such as the door of his stable, and sucks air through his open mouth. Said to be addictive behavior, cribbing straps and collars have varying degrees of effectiveness at discouraging the behaviour. Horses which suck air, without latching their teeth on to something are said to be wind sucking.

Crop: Artificial aid by which the rider may emphasize and back up the natural aids of seat and legs. Used to encourage reluctant or lazy horses to move forward. Sometimes used to punish. See also whip and bat.

Crossbreeding: The mating of horses of different breeds or types.

Cross-Ties: A method of tethering a horse using two ropes or ties, one on each side, connected to a solid post or wall.

Croup: The top of the hind quarters, from the point of the hip to the tail.

Crow hopping: When a horse hops or leaps repeatedly in the air, with all four feet off the ground at the same time, he is said to be crow hopping.

Cues: Another name for aids. Signals by which the rider communicates his wishes to the horse.

Curb: Thickening of the tendon or ligament below the point of the hock, resulting from a strain.

Curb Bit: Bit fitted with cheeks and a curb chain which lies in the chin groove. Operates on the leverage principle acting on the lower jaw. In a double bridle, the curb bit is used in conjunction with a bridoon, or snaffle bit.

Curb Chain: Chain used with a curb bit.


Daisy Clipper: Term describing a horse with a ground-hugging action.

Dales Pony: One of the nine breeds of horse or pony native to the British Isles. Originating from the Pennines, from Derbyshire to the Scottish border.

Dam: A horse's female parent.

Dartmoor Pony: One of the nine breeds of horse or pony native to the British Isles. Originating in the Dartmoor region of southwest England.

Deep Going: Term used to describe ground that is wet or soft, into which the hooves sink.

Depth of Girth: The measurement from the wither to the elbow. A horse with a generous measurement between these points is said to have a "good depth of girth".

Desert Horse: Term used to describe horses bred in dry, desert conditions, or horses descended from such horses. Examples are Arabian and Akhal Teke.

Diagonals: The horses legs move in pairs at the trot, called diagonals. The left diagonal is when the left foreleg and right hindleg move, the right diagonal is when the right foreleg and the left hindleg move. When on a circle, the rider rises as the outside foreleg moves forward.

Dipped Back: An usually hollow back between the withers and the croup. Often occurs in old age. (See also Sway Back)

Dished Face: The concave head profile seen in breeds such as the Arabian.

Dishing: A faulty action, where the toe of the foreleg is thrown outward in a circular movement with each stride.

Distemper: Highly contagious disease caused by the bacteria Streptococcus Equi. More commonly known as Strangles.

Disunited: Canter in which the horse's legs are out of sequence.

Dock: The bony part of the tail, from which the hair grows.

Docking: Amputation of the dock for the sake of appearance. (Illegal in the UK)

Dutch Warmblood: Popular sport horse derived from the breeding of French, German and English horses with native Dutch horses. Bred originally as a carriage horse, but has evolved into a versatile horse which excels at many equestrian sports, including dressage, showjumping and eventing. See also Warmblood.

Dorsal Stripe: A continuous stripe of black or brown hair from neck to tail. Seen in horses of "primitive" breeding, such as the Exmoor and the Norwegian Fjord and is often seen in dun-colored horses. (Also called Eel Stripe)

Double Bridle: Traditional English bridle with two bits (snaffle and curb) giving the rider a greater degree of control than a single bit.

Draft Horse: A term applied to any horse used for hauling vehicles or loads, but most usually associated with the heavy breeds.

Draw Rein: A rein which attaches to the girth at one end, passes through the rings of the bit and back to the rider's hands. Used to increase control and give a better head position, but is difficult to use correctly and is very easy to abuse.

Dressage: (i) The art of training the horse so that he is totally obedient and responvie to the rider, as well as supple and agile in his performance. (ii)Competetive sport which, by a series of set tests, seeks to judge the horse's natural movement and level of training against an ideal.

Dropped or Drop Noseband: Noseband which buckles beneath the bit to prevent the horse from opening its mouth to "take hold of" the bit and ignore the riders rein aids.

Dryland Distemper: Disease, also known as Pigeon Fever, which causes abcesses on the chest and belly.

Dun: Coat color. Yellow or sandy colored body with black points. Also has a dorsal strip.


Eel Stripe: A continuous stripe of black or brown hair from neck to tail. Seen in horses of "primitive" breeding, such as the Exmoor and the Norwegian Fjord and is often seen in dun-colored horses. (Also called Dorsal Stripe)

EIA: Equine Infectious Anemia. Viral disease for which there is no known cure or vaccine. Also known as Swamp Fever. See also Coggins Test.

Engagement: The hindlegs are engaged when they are brought well under the body.

Entire: Uncastrated male horse. (Also called Stallion)

EPM: Equine Protozoal Myleoencephalitis. Neurological disorder caused by a protozoa which invades the spinal cord, causing a variety of symptoms attributed to nerve damage - stumbling, loss of coordination, muscle atrophy, etc.

EPSM: Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy. Muscle wasting condition seen in Draft horses and other breeds.

Equine Infectious Anemia: Viral disease for which there is no known cure or vaccine. Also known as EIA or Swamp Fever. See also Coggins Test.

Equitation: The art of horse riding.

Ergot: Horny growth at the back of the fetlock joint.

Ewe Neck: Conformation fault in which the neck appears to be "upside down", concave along it's upper edge with a consequent bulging of muscles along the lower edge.

Eventing: Equestrian competition held over one or three days and including the disciplines of dressage, cross country and show jumping. Also known as Combined Training

Exmoor Pony: One of the nine breeds of horse or pony native to the British Isles. Originating in the Exmoor region of southwest England.

Extension: The extension of the paces is the lengthening of the frame and stride. The opposite of collection.

Extravagant Action: High knee and hock action such as that seen in the Hackney and the Saddlebred.


Farrier: Skilled craftsman who shoes horses.

Feathering: Long hair on the lower legs and fetlocks. Abundant on heavy horse breeds.

Fell Pony: One of the nine native breeds of Britain. Originating in the fells of northern England.

Fetlock (Joint): Lowest joint on the horse's leg.

Figure-Eight Noseband: (Also called a Grackle noseband) Noseband with thin leather straps which cross over at the front and buckle both above and below the bit.

Filly: Female horse under four years old. A female foal is called a "filly foal".

Firing: Treatment in which the skin over a leg injury is burned with a hot iron to produce scar tissue.

FistulousWithers: Inflammation of the bursa at the height of the withers. May become infected and result in foul-smelling discharge.

Five-Gaited: Horses shown at the walk, trot and canter, as well as the "slow gait" and the "rack" are called five gaited.

Fjord/Fiord: Norwegian Fjord Horse. Ancient breed of horse, retaining the characteristics of the primitive wild horse, the Przewalski.

Flexion: When the horse yields the lower jaw to the bit, with the neck bent at the poll. The term also describes the full bending of the hock joints. Vets perform "flexion tests" when diagnosing lameness.

Flexor Tendon: Tendon at the back of the horse's leg.

Floating: (i) The action associated with the trotting gait of the Arabian horse. (ii) The action of rasping the horse's teeth (US).

Flying Change: Change of canter lead performed by the horse to rebalance during turns and changes of direction.

Foal: Colt, filly or gelding up to one year of age.

Forearm: The upper part of the foreleg, above the knee.

Forehand: The horse's head, neck, shoulder, withers and forelegs. Horses in lower levels of training, who have not yet learned to balance themselves in self carriage and are heavy in the bridle are said to be on the forehand.

Forelock: The mane between the ears, which hangs forward over the forehead,

Foundation: Foundation Quarter Horses are Quarter Horses whose bloodlines have not had any Thoroughbred blood added since 1940. Must be registered with the AQHA and have less than 10% Thoroughbred blood.

Founder: Term used to describe the detachment and rotation of the coffin bone which happens in severe cases of laminitis. If this happens, the horse is said to have foundered. Causes severe lameness.

Four-In-Hand: A team of four harness horses.

Friesian: Elegant breed of horse originating in the Netherlands. Always black in color with wavy mane and feathering at the fetlocks.

Frog: Triangular, rubber pad on the sole of the foot which acts as a shock absorber.

Full Mouth: A six year old horse, with all his permanent teeth is said to have a "full mouth".

Furacin: Brand name for nitrofurazone, an antibacterial medication.

Futurity: Incentive breeding program to promote a particular breed or type of horse.


Gait: The paces at which horses move, usually the walk, trot, canter and gallop.

Gaited Horse: Horses which move at paces other than the walk, trot and canter - such as the Saddlebred, the Paso Fino and the Icelandic.

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.

Galvayne's Groove: Dark line which appears on the upper corner incisor of horses between 8 and 10 years of age. Since it extends downward gradually, it can be used to estimate the age of a horse.

Gaskin: The "second thigh" extending from above the hock upwards to the stifle.

Gelding: Castrated male horse.

Girth: (i) The circumference of the body measured from behind the withers around the barrel. (ii) Means by which an English saddle is secured to the horse, which attaches to the saddle on one side, running under the barrel just behind the legs to the other side. Called a cinch in Western Riding.

Going: Term used to describe the nature of the ground, i.e. deep, good, rough.

Good Doer: Describes a horse that is easy to keep, which maintains good condition of small rations. (See also Thrifty)

Goose-rumped: Pronounced muscular development at the croup seen in some jumping horses. Sometimes called "jumper's bump".

Grackle Noseband: (Also called a Figure-Eight noseband) Noseband with thin leather straps which cross over at the front and buckle both above and below the bit.

Grade: Term used to describe an horse that is not registered with any breed association.

Grease: Inflammation of the skin at the back of the fetlock and pasterns. Seldom seen now, but does occur in horses pastured on wet grass. Can be likened to diaper or nappy rash in babies.

Greenbroke: Horse that has been accustomed to the tack and the rider and has begun initial training. (Also called broken-in or broke to ride)

Green: A horse that is in the early learning stage of his particular discipline is said to be green.

Grey: Coat color ranging from pure white to dark grey. Further described by terms such as "dappled" (small iron-grey circles on a lighter background) and "flea-bitten" (flecks of dark grey on a white background).

Grooming Kit: The various brushes, combs and other equipment used to clean the horse's coat, mane, tail and hooves.

Ground Line: Pole placed on the ground in front of a fence to help the horse and/or rider judge the take-off point.

Ground Manners: Term used to describe the behavior of a horse while being handled on the ground, being groomed, saddled, in the stable etc.

Gymkhana: Mounted games, including bending poles, sack race, musical sacks and a variety of other games and races.

Gymnastic: Combination of fences placed at relative distances to each other, used in the training of the jumping horse.


Habit: Traditional riding attire for sidesaddle riders.

Hack: (i) A type rather than a breed, hacks are elegant riding horses, popular in the show ring in England. (ii) "to hack" i.e. to go for a ride.

Hackney: Breed of horse exhibiting a disctinctive high-stepping action. Popular as a light harness horse.

Haflinger: Attractive breed of horse originating in Austria. Always chestnut in color, with light colored mane and tail.

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.

Halter-broke: Term used to describe a young horse that has been accustomed to the very basics of wearing a halter.

Hames: Metal arms fitted into the harness collar and linked to the traces.

Hand: Unit of measure used to describe a horse. One hand equals 4 inches, partial measurements being described as 14.1, 14.2, 14.3.

Hanoverian: Popular sport horse derived from the breeding of German horses with Thoroughbred horses. Bred originally to refine the quality of cavalry and farm horses , but has evolved into a versatile horse which excels at many equestrian sports, including dressage, showjumping and eventing. See also Warmblood.

Harness: Term for the equipment of a horse that is driven, as opposed to being ridden.

Harness Horse: A horse used in harness and having "harness" type of conformation, with straight shoulders etc. and having an elevated "harness action".

Haute Ecole: The classical art of advanced riding. See also Airs Above the Ground.

Heart Room: Term used to describe a horse's barrel. A deep-chested horse with well-sprung ribs is said to have plenty of heart room. Indicates that the horse will have enough heart and lung capacity to stand up to strenuous exercise.

Herring Gutted: Term used to describe a horse with a barrel that slopes up sharply behind the girth, like that of a greyhound.

Heaves: Term used to describe the abnormal breathing pattern seen in horses with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease COPD, or broken winded. Also a common name for COPD.

Heavy Horse: Any large draft horse, such as the Shire, the Clydsdale, the Belgian Draft.

Heavyweight: A horse that is judged capable, by virtue of its bone and substance, capable of carrying weights of more than 196 lbs.

Highland Pony: One of the nine native breeds of Great Britain. Sturdy pony originating in the highlands of Scotland.

High School: See Haute Ecole.

Hind Quarters: The part of the horse's body from the rear of the flank to the top of the tail down to the top of the gaskin. Also called simply the quarters.

Hinney: Offspring of a male horse and a female donkey (See also Mule)

Hives: Allergic reaction characterized by bumps or weals on the skin. More properly called Urticaria.

Hock: Joint midway up the hind leg, responsible for providing most of the forward energy of the horse.

Hocks Well Let Down: Term used to indicate a horse that has short cannon bones (shanks) which is considered to be a good conformational trait giving the horse strength in the legs. Long cannons, on the other hand, are considered a conformational weakness.

Hogged Mane: A mane that has been shaved close for its entire length. (See also roached mane)

Holsteiner: Breed of warmblood horse derived from native north German horses. Bred originally as a cavalry and carriage horse , but, with infusions of Thoroughbred blood, has evolved into a versatile sport horse which excels at many equestrian sports, including dressage, showjumping and eventing. See also Warmblood.

Horn: (i) Hard, insensitive outer covering of the hoof. (ii) Prominent pommel at the front of a western saddle around which the rider loops or twists the lariet when a steer has been roped to secure the animal. See also Saddle Horn.

Horsemanship: The art of equitation or riding.

Hot: A horse that becomes overly excited is said to be "hot". Easily excitable horses are also called "hot".

Hotblood: Term describing horses of Arabian or Thoroughbred blood.

Hunter: In England, a type of horse, rather than a breed, suitable for being ridden to hounds. In the US, a well mannered, smooth gaited jumping horse shown in Hunter Under Saddle and Hunter Over Fences classes.

Hybrid: A cross between a horse and one of the other equids, such as an ass or a zebra.

HYPP: Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis. Genetic muscular disorder causing muscle weakness and tremors, sweating and difficulty in breathing. Can be traced back to the Quarter Horse stallion, Impressive.


Icelandic Horse: Ancient breed of horse originating in Iceland. Known as versatile riding horses, exhibiting a unique gait, the tolt, or running walk.

Impulsion: Strong but controlled forward movement in the horse (not to be confused with speed)

Inbreeding: The mating of brother/sister, sire/daughter, son/dam, to fix or accentuate a particular trait or character.

Indirect Rein: The opposite rein to the direction in which the horse is moving. When giving an indirect rein aid, the instruction comes by pressing the opposite rein against the horse's neck.

In Front of the Bit: A term used to describe a horse which pulls or hangs heavily on the rider's hand.

In Hand: When a horse is controlled from the ground rather than being ridden.

Inside Leg : The legs of horse and rider which are on the inside of any circle or curved track being travelled.

Irish Draught Horse: Breed of draught/draft horse originating in Ireland. Popular for crossing with lighter breeds to produce the Irish Sport Horse.

Irons: The metal pieces attached to the saddle by means of leather straps in which the rider places his feet. (See also Stirrups)


Jack: Male donkey.

Jennet/Jenny: Female donkey.

Jog: Western riding term for trot. Also used to describe a slow, somewhat shortened pace in English riding.

Joint Ill: Disease in foals caused by bacteria that enter the body through the navel, resulting in infection which spreads to the joints and causes inflammation, pain and heat.

Jumper: Type of horse suited to jumping and which competes in jumping classes.


Knabstruper: Breed of horse from Denmark, known for its spotted coat, similar to that of the Appaloosa.

Knackers: Slang word for slaughterhouse, abbatoir. Someone who buys horses at auction for purposes of taking to slaughter.

Knock-Kneed: Conformation fault in which the knees point in toward each other.


Laminitis: Condition, caused by systemic upset, in which the laminae inside the hoof become inflammed and painful to the horse. Severe conditions can lead to founder.

Lampas: Swelling of the hard palate in a horse's mouth. Sometimes seen in young horses as they transition to hard feed and grain.

Lateral Cartilages: Wings of cartilage attached to the coffin bone, within the foot.

Laryngeal Hemiplegia: Partial paralysis of the larynx causing difficulty in breathing and a characteristic noise, known as roaring as the horse breathes.

Lead: Term used to indicate the horse's leading leg in canter i.e. "right lead canter" or "left lead canter".

Leader: Either of the two leading horses in a team of four, or a single horse harnessed in front of one or more horses. The "near" leader is the left hand horse and the "off" leader is the right hand horse.

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.

Levade: A classical air above the ground in which the forehand is lifted with bent forelegs on deeply bent hind legs -- a controlled half-rear.

Light Horse: Horse, other than a heavy horse or pony, which is suitable for riding or carriage work.

Light of Bone: Insufficient bone below the knee to support the horse and rider's body weight without strain. Conformation fault.

Line-breeding: The mating of horses having a common ancestor some generations removed, to accentuate particular traits or characteristics.

Lippizan/Lippizaner: Elegant breed of horse from Europe. Most famous for their performances in the Spanish Riding School in Austria.

Livery Stable: English term for boarding stable.

Loins: The weakest part of the horses back, lying either side of the vertebrae, just behind the saddle.

Lope: Slow western canter.

Longe or Lunge: The act of training a horse by working it in the various paces on a circle using a long longe or lunge rein. This rein is attached to the cavesson. Also novice riders may have their first lessons on the lunge as they learn the basics of position, without having to concern themselves with the control of the horse.

Lusitano: Portugese name for Andalusian horses.

Lymphangitis: Condition in which the lymphatic system, usually in the hind legs, becomes swollen and painful. Seen in working horses on full feed that have to be confined to their stall for some reason, such as severe weather or illness.


Mammoth Jack: Breed of donkey known for it's large size and height.

Manege: An enclosure used for training and schooling horses. Also called a school.

Mangalarga Marchador Horse: Breed of horse adopted as the national horse of Brazil.

Mare: Female horse aged four and over.

Martingale: Item of tack which consists of a neck strap which buckles around the horse's neck and another one which attaches to the girth at one end, passes through the neck strap and attaches to either the noseband (standing martingale) or the reins (running martinglae) at the other. Used to prevent the horse from raising his head above the level of the rider's hand and evading the rein aids.

Mealy muzzle: Oatmeal colored muzzle, such as that seen in the Exmoor.

Meconium: Firm, dark brown or black fecal matter passed by the foal shortly after birth.

Melanoma: Growth or tumor often seen in grey or white horses. May or may not be malignant.

Middleweight: A horse that is judged capable, by virtue of its bone and substance, capable of carrying weights up to 196 lbs.

Missouri Foxtrotter: Breed of gaited horse developed in the Ozark Mountain region of Missouri.

Mitbah: Term used to describe the angle of at which the neck of the Arabian horse joins the head and which gives the characteristic arched set to the neck.

Monday Morning Disease: Common name for Azoturia, or tying up.

Morab Horse: Breed of horse derived from crossing Morgan horses with Arabians.

Morgan Horse: Gentle and elegant breed of horse developed in the 1780's. The founding stallion was a bay colt named Figure, owned by Justin Morgan, from whom the breed gets its name.

Mountain and Moorland: Name given collectively to the native breeds of Britain. See also native ponies.

Mucking or Mucking Out: Daily stable chore which involves the removal of wet and soiled bedding and general tidying of the stable.

Mule: Offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. See also Hinney.

Mustang: Wild horse of the American West.

Mutton Withers: Withers that are wide and flat seen in horses such as the Quarter Horse, as opposed to the prominent, bony withers often seen in the Thoroughbred.


Native Ponies: Another name for the Mountain and Moorland breeds of the UK - i.e. New Forest, Exmoor, Dartmoor, Highland, Fell, Dale, Shetland, Connemara and Welsh.

Navicular Bone: Small bone within the hoof, fitting horizontally between the second phalanx, or short pastern and the coffin bone.

Navicular Disease: Degeneration of the navicular bone, usually on the back surface where the deep flexor tendon passes over the bone. Causes pain and lameness.

Nearside: The left hand side of the horse.

Neck Reining: The art of turning the horse by using the indirect, or opposite rein against the neck.

Neck Strap: Simple leather strap bucked around the horse's neck to give security to novice riders. Also refers to that part of a martingale which buckles around the horse's neck.

Nerve Block: Diagnostic tool in which the veterinarian progressively blocks the nerves of the hoof and leg in order to determine the seat of a lameness.

Neurectomy: Cutting of nerves supplying sensation to the foot. Also known as de-nerving. Used as a treatment in cases of navicular disease.

New Forest Pony: One of the native breeds of Great Britain, originating in the New Forest area of Hampshire.

Nick: The division and resetting of the muscles under the tail to give and artificially high tail carriage. (See also Set Tail)

Norwegian Fjord Horse: Ancient breed of horse originating in Norway. See also Fjord Horse.


Offside: The right hand side of the horse.

Oldenburg: Breed of horse originally used as a carriage horse in Europe. Since the early twentieth century, the breed has been refined with infusions of Thoroughbred blood. Oldenburgs now excel in the dressage and jumping arenas.

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.

Orlov Trotter: Breed of horse originating in Russia. Used for light and heavy draught work, for pleasure and competition, and to improve other breeds of horse in Russia.

Overbent: An evasion where the horse tucks his head close in to his chest, reducing the rider's control. The horse is said to be behind the bit.

Overface: To present a young horse at a fence which is beyond his level of training, or beyond his physical capability.

Overo: Coat pattern seen in Paint Horses. Uneven splashes of white over the horse's belly, legs, neck and head. See also Paint Horse and Tobiano.

Overreaching: Where the toe of the hind foot catches and injures the back of the pastern or heel of the front foot. Occurs when the horse is galloping or jumping.

Oxer: Spread fence. Can be an ascending oxer - with the front rail lower than the back rail, or a square oxer (also known as a parallel), with front and back rail of the same height.


Pacer: A horse which moves its legs in lateral pairs, rather than the conventional diagonal pairs.

Pack Horse: Horse used to carry goods in packs placed in packs on either side of its back.

Paddock: Small enclosure in which horses are turned out for grazing.

Paint Horse: Breed of horse exhibiting pinto coloring. See also Tobiano and Overo.

Palomino: Coat color in which the body can be varying shades of gold, with a silver or white mane and tail.

Parietal Bones: The bones on the top of the skull.

Parrot Mouth: Overbite in a horse. The top jaw extends forward over the lower jaw.

Part-bred: Result of breeding a Thoroughbred with a horse of another breed i.e. Welsh part-bred.

Paso Fino: Breed of horse, originally from Spain, known for it's comfort and endurance.

Pastern: The sloping bone in the lower leg which connect the hoof to the fetlock.

Passage: Dressage movement in which the horse trots in an extremely collected and animated manner.

Pedigree: Details of parentage and ancestry recorded in a studbook or registry.

Pelham: Curb bit with a single mouthpiece to which two reins may be attached. Aims to combine the two bits of a double bridle into a single mouthpiece.

Percheron: Breed of draft horse, originally bred in the Normandy region of France, but popular throughout the world.

Peruvian Paso: Breed of horse originating from breeding stock brought from Spain during the Conquest period, displaying a comfortable ambling gait. National horse of Peru.

Piaffe: Dressage movement in which the horse trots in place, with forehand elevated and croup lowered.

Piebald: English term for body color of white with black patches.

Pigeon Toed: Conformation fault in which the feet are turned inward.

Pinto: Term for coat color of white with patches of another color. See also piebald and skewbald

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.

Points: (i) External features of the horse making up its conformation. (ii) in relations to coat color, the points are the lower legs, mane and tail. For example, bay with black points is a bay with black lower legs as well as the customary black mane and tail.

Poll: The highest point on the top of the horse's head.

Pommel: The center front of an English saddle. In some designs the pommel is cut back.

Pony: A small horse, standing 14.2 or less.

Port: Raised section in the center of the mouthpiece on some curb bits. The amount it is raised affects the severity of the bit (low ported bits being milder)

Posting Trot: The action of the rider rising from the saddle in rhythm with the horse's trot. (Also called Rising Trot)

Prepotency: The ability to consistently pass on character and type to the progeny.

Primitive: A term used for the early sub-species of Equus caballus: the Asian Wild Horse, the Tarpan, the Forest Horse and the Tundra Horse.

Purebred: A horse with both parents being of the same breed.


Quadrille: Performance given by a team of four, six, eight or more riders, involving riding an intricate pattern to music.

Quarter Horse: Breed of horse, originating in the United States and popular for ranch work, racing and riding in all equestrian disciplines.

Quarters: The part of the horse's body from the rear of the flank to the top of the tail down to the top of the gaskin. Also called the hind quarters.

Quidding: A horse that drops partially chewed food from his mouth, because of age or dental problems, is said to be "quidding". Floating the teeth usually resolves the problem.


Racehorse: Horse bred for racing. Can be Thoroughred, Quarter Horse, Arabian, Standardbred.

Rack: The fifth gait of the American Saddlebred - a flashy four beat gait.

Rainrot: Painful, skin inflammation caused by the Dermatophilus organism, characterized by patches of raised hair and hair loss and crusty exudate.

Rangy: Used to describe a horse with size and scope of movement.

Reining: Type of Western riding in which advanced movements such as spins and slides are executed in various patterns.

Ridgling/Rig: Male horse that has retained one testicle within the body. Can cause stallion-like behavior. Treated with surgury.

Riding Horse: Horse suitable for riding, with the conformation associated with comfortable riding action (as opposed to draft or carriage horses)

Ringbone: Name given to bony changes occurring within the pastern and coffin joints. May be articular or non-articular. Lameness often occurs while changes are occurring but may go away once callosity is completely formed.

Ringworm: Contagious fungal disease characterized by small circular patches in which the hair falls out.

Rising: Used in the UK to describe the age of a horse. For example, a horse approaching four is said to be "rising four". In the US, the term coming is used.

Rising Trot: The action of the rider rising from the saddle in rhythm with the horse's trot. (Also called Posting Trot)

Roach Back: Convex curvature of the spine between the withers and the loins. Opposite of hollow back.

Roached mane: A mane that has been shaved close for its entire length. (See also hogged mane)

Roan: Coat color in which white hairs are mixed with the base coat color. A strawberry roan is where chestnut and white hairs are mixed to give an overall reddish effect. A blue roan refers to a coat in which black and white hairs are mixed, giving an overall blue effect.

Roaring: Characteristic abnormal noise on inhalation, heard in horses with Laryngeal Hemiplegia.

Roman Nose: The convex facial profile seen in Shires and other heavy breeds.

Rosin-back: A broad-backed horse used in the circus for trick riding acts. Rosin is used on the rider's shoes to increase the grip.

Roundworm: Common name for ascarids, an internal equine parasite.


Saddlebred: Flashy breed of horse, originating in the US, known for its spectacular gaits.

Saddle Horn: Prominent pommel at the front of a western saddle around which the rider loops or twists the lariet when a steer has been roped to secure the animal. See also Horn.

Saddle Horse: A riding horse.

Saddle Marks: White hairs in the saddle area, probably caused by galls.

School: Enclosed, marked out area used for the training and exercise of the horse. (See also Manege)

School Movements: The gymnastic exercises performed in the school or manege.

Scope: A horse which has scope shows potential and capability for freedom and movement to a special degree.

Scours: Name given to diarrhea in foals.

Scratches: Scabby, oozing skin inflammation on the back of the pasterns, just above the heel.

Seedy Toe: Separation of the hoof wall from the sensitive laminae, often caused by neglecting the feet. Sometimes accompanies laminitis.

Serpentine: School movement in which the horse, at any pace, moves down the center of the school in a series of equal-sized loops.

Set Tail: A tail that has been broken or nicked to produce an artificially high tail carriage.

Shank bone: Hind cannon.

Shetland Pony: Small breed of pony originating from the Shetland Isles, north of Scotland. One of the British native breeds. Known for its hardiness.

Shire Horse: Breed of draft horse, originating in northern England. Once used as a war horse and later as farm and draft animals.

Shivers: Abnormal hind leg gait seen in draft horses in which the horse flexes one or both hind legs and tremors can be seen in the large muscles in the upper leg. Thought to be caused by EPSM.

Shoe, To: The act of fitting and securing metal shoes to the horse's feet, usually done by a farrier.

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.

Shy, To: Where a horse jumps suddenly to one side, having been startled by a real or imaginary object.

Sickle hocks: Hocks which are bent, giving the hindleg the shape of a sickle, with the hind legs too far under the body. Although consider a conformation fault, this trait is desired by some reiners as the horse has to almost sit down in some of the reining patterns.

Sidebone: Ossification of the lateral cartilage on either side of the coffin bone within the hoof.

Side Reins: Reins used in training to help position the horse's head. They attach at one end to the bit and to the girth or to the training surcingle at the other end. Often have a rubber "donut" or elastic section in them.

Sire: A horse's male parent.

Skewbald: English term for body color of irregular white and color patches other than black (i.e. brown, chestnut) Called pinto in the US.

Slab-sided: Narrow ribbed.

Snaffle (bit): Design of bit that acts of the corners or bars of the horse's mouth. May be jointed or straight, but does not have shanks and only uses one rein.

Sock: White marking on any or all of a horse's lower legs. Markings extending higher than the knee or hock are called stockings.

Sound: Free from lameness or injury.

Spavin: Name given to degerative arthritis of the lower joints of the hock, characterized by a bony swelling which can be felt on the front and inside of the hock. See also bog spavin.

Splints: Injury to one or both of the metacarpal or splint bones, which run up the back of the cannon bone. Stress or strain can cause the ligaments attaching these bones to the cannon bone to pull and tear, causing heat, swelling and lameness. Eventually additional bone is laid down on the site of the injury, leaving behind a bony swelling. called a splint.

Spurs: Small metal devices worn on the rider's boot to help enforce the leg aids. Come in a range of severety, from very mild blunt spurs to severe roweled models.

Stable Management: The art of looking after one or more stabled horses, including all aspects of their care and welfare.

Stallion: Uncastrated male horse. (See also Entire)

Standardbred: Breed of horse popular as a harness racer.

Star: Name given to any white marking on the horse's forehead. (Small markings are called a snip)

Stock Horse: Name given to horses that are used in ranch work, driving and cutting cattle etc.

Stocking: White marking on any or all of a horse's legs which extends beyond the knee or hock. Markings which are confined below the knee or hock are called socks.

Strangles: Highly contagious disease caused by Streptococcus Equi. Also called distemper.

Stripe: Elongated white marking down the front of the horse's face. (Also called a blaze)

Stringhalt: Condition characterized by the over-flexion of the hind legs, in which the leg often is jerked up toward the belly at each step.

Strongyles: Equine internal parasite, also known as bloodworms.

Stud: Breeding establishment - stud farm. The term is also used in the US to describe a stallion or a colt.

Studbook: A book kept by a breed society or registry in which the pedigrees of horses eligable for registration are recorded.

Substance: A horse possessing quality build and musculature is said to "have substance". Weakly built horses are said to "lack substance"

Surcingle: Webbing strap which passes around the horse's barrel. Can be used to attach side reins to when lunging young horses. Show jumpers, jockeys and eventers use them over the saddle as an added precaution against the girth breaking. Also used over blankets/rugs.

Suspensory Ligament: Ligaments involved in the support of the fetlock and spreading around the fetlock joint.


Tack: Refers to the equipment of a riding horse - saddle, bridle etc. Short for "tackle."

Tapeworms: Internal equine parasite.

Teaser: Substitute stallion used to test the mare's readiness for breeding with the breeding stallion.

Tennessee Walking Horse: Breed of horse originating in the American south, bred for comfort and exhibiting characteristic gaits.

Tetanus: Serious bacterial infection caused by Clostridium tetani, which enters the body through puncture wounds. Also called lockjaw.

Thoroughbred: Breed of horse, originating in England, used as a race horse and also to add refinement to other breeds of horse.

Thrifty: Describes a horse that is easy to keep, which maintains good condition of small rations. Also called a good-doer.

Thrush: Fungal or bacterial infection of the frog, characterized by foul-smelling discharge from the cleft of the frog.

Tied in Below the Knee: Where the measurement below the knee is substantially less than that above the fetlock. Conformation fault.

Top Line: The line from the back of the withers to the end of the croup.

Top Heavy: Overdeveloped (heavy) body in relation to the substance of the legs.

Trailer" Transportation vehicle of one or more horses, which is towed behind another vehicle.

Trakehner: Breed of warmblood horse, popular in a variety of equestrian sports.

Transition: The act of changing from one pace to another. Walk to trot and trot to canter are known as "upward transitions". Canter to trot and trot to walk are known as "downward transitions".

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.

Turnout: (i) The practice of turning horses loose in a field or pasture for all or part of the day. (ii) the standard of dress and appearance of horse and rider, or horse and carriage.

Two Track: School movements in which the hindlegs follow a separate track from that made by the forelegs.

Type: A horse that fufills a certain purpose, such as a cob, a hack or a hunter, but is not necessarily of any particular breed.


Undershot: A deformity in which the lower jaw projects beyond the upper.

Unsoundness: Term used to describe any condition, or conformation fault that limit the horse's ability to perform his job. Including sidebone, ringbone, roaring and others.

Up to Weight: Term used to describe a horse that, by virtue of its size, substance and conformation, is capable of carrying substantial weight.

Urticaria: Allergic reaction characterized by bumps or weals on the skin. More commonly called hives.


Vaulting: Equestrian sport involving gymnastic exercises done on the back of a moving horse.

Vertical: (i) Upright fence with no spread. Can be rails, planks, gate or wall. (ii) Also used to describe the horse's head set, as in on the vertical.


Warmblood: In general terms, a half-bred, or part-bred horse, the result of an Arabian or Thoroughbred cross with other breeds. Also one of a number of specific breeds of horse which were developed by crossing hotblood and coldblood horses to produce a more refined, but athletically strong and capable horse, such as the Swedish Warmblood, the Dutch Warmblood etc.

Weedy: A horse of poor conformation, generally weak in the quarters and shoulders, with long legs.

Weight carrier: Another term for heavyweight, i.e. a horse capable of carrying 210 lb.

Well Ribbed-Up: A short, deep, well-rounded body with well-sprung ribs.

Well-Sprung Ribs: Long rounded ribs giving ample room for lung expansion, well suited to carrying a saddle.

Wheeler: The horse harnessed closest to the carriage, behind the leader.

Whip: The driver of a carriage.

Whipper-In: The assistant to the huntsman of a pack of hounds.

Wind Sucking: Stable vice in which the horse arches his neck and sucks air in through his open mouth. When the horse latches his teeth on to a solid surface in order to suck air, he is called a cribber, or a crib biter.

Withers: Point at the bottom of the horse's neck from which the horse's height is measured.


Xenophon: General in the Greek army (c. 430-356 BC) renowned for his work "On the Art of Horsemanship" which described a progressive system of training horses and which became the basis for classical riding as we know it today.


Yearling: Colt or filly between one and two years of age.


Zebra: Member of the family equus characterized by its striped coat pattern.

Zony: Hybrid cross between a zebra and a pony.

Zorse: Hybrid cross between a zebra and a horse.