Quick Guide to Equine Terms

Do you know any other terms we haven’t included? Let us know, and we’ll add them in.





  • 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, known as a "veteran". 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. "Artificial" 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.

  • Amble - The slower form of the lateral pacing gait.

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

  • Arthritis - Inflammation of a joint. An increase in the amount of synovial fluid in the joint is a result of this inflammation. Accumulation of synovial fluid in the fetlock joint is called a "wind puff" or "wind gall." In young horses, a swelling in the fetlock joint, particularly on the front of the joint where the cannon and long pastern bones meet, is called a "green osselet." This swelling is a result of inflammation and reactive changes of the front edges of these two bones and adjacent cartilage. If the green osselet does not heal, a "chronic osselet" might develop with a permanent build-up of synovial fluid in the joint and inflammation and thickening of the joint capsule over the damaged area with secondary bone changes following the initial inflammation.

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



  • 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 practise of breeding back to a certain stallion to preserve a particular desirable trait.

  • Back Tendons - Bail: Pole separating horses in an open stable

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

  • Bandy-legged - Where the hocks turn outward. 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 Racing - A timed event in Western Riding where horse and rider complete a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels.

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

  • 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.

  • Bay - Coat colour - 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 Over-bent.

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

  • Bit - Mouthpiece, often 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)

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

  • 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 - A soft swelling of the true hock joint (tibiotarsal or tarsocrural joint).

  • Bone - Bone is 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. A hunter with “good bone” should measure 21.75cm or more. Where the measurement falls short of requirements the horse is said to be “light of bone”, indicating that his limbs are not up to the weight that his body should carry.

  • Bones - Bone is living tissue that has a highly dynamic structure, and both its composition and shape is continuously being remodelled, Approximately 30% of bone is made up of a protein called collagen, which provides flexibility and the rest comprises minerals, primarily calcium and phosphorus, which give strength.

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

  • Bowed hocks - Bandy-legged, where the hocks turn outwards. The opposite of cow-hocks.

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

  • 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 Hand - The hand which holds the bridle in riding; the left hand.

  • Bridoon - Snaffle bit used in conjunction with a curb bit in a double bridle.

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

  • Brood Mare - A mare used for breeding purposes.

  • 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.

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

  • Bursae - Bursae are sacs of synovial membrane containing synovial fluid. They are found around bony areas to ease movement of tendons and muscles.



  • Cannon Bone - The bone of the lower foreleg between the knee and the fetlock. Also called the "shin bone". In the hind leg, the corresponding bone is called the shank.

  • Canter - Three beat 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. A capped hock results from a false bursae filled with synovial fluid forming, following a trauma. Capped hocks rarely cause lameness, and are only a cosmetic problem.

  • 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.

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

  • Cavesson - Simple noseband fitted to a bridle. Also, leather or nylon headgear, with attachments for side reins and lunge line, worn by the horse when it is being lunged.

  • Chestnut - The small rubbery protrusion on the inside of all four legs. Also, reddish-brown coat colour.

  • 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.

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

  • Cob - short-legged thickset horse usually 13.2 to 14.2 hands high but not more than 15.2. Rather than a breed, a cob is a horse of stocky appearance, well-adapted to carrying heavyweight riders in all circumstances.

  • Coggins Test - A blood test for Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA). Horses which test positive may be required by the state of occupancy to be destroyed or permanently quarantined.

  • Cold Back - Cold-back behaviour refers to the horse which tenses abnormally or sinks (Bowers) the back either when tacked up, when the girth is tightened or when the rider mounts. Some horses arch the back and buck repeatedly. A few horses throw themselves to the ground, which can be very alarming and is potentially dangerous.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Colt - A male horse up to four years of age that has not been castrated. Male foals are called "colt foals".

  • 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.

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

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

  • Cow hocks - Hocks turned in, like those of a cow. Opposite of bowed hocks. In a person cow hocks would be described as knock-kneed.

  • 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 behaviour, 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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



  • Dam - A horse's female parent.

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

  • Deep Litter - Bedding system that cuts down on the amount of straw or shavings required, but it needs to be managed carefully. You remove all droppings at least once a day, but leave a layer of wet bedding at the base of the bed and simply top up with clean shavings or straw.

  • Depth of Girth - The measurement from the withers 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. This practice is illegal in the UK.

  • 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-coloured horses. The Dorsal Stripe is also called an Eel Stripe.

  • Double Bridle - Traditional English bridle with two bits, a snaffle and a 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 - The art of training the horse so that he is totally obedient and responsive to the rider, as well as supple and agile in his performance. Competitive 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 or to "take hold of" the bit and ignore the riders rein aids.

  • Dun - Coat colour. Yellow or sandy coloured body with black points. Often 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-coloured horses. An Eel Stripe is also called a Dorsal Stripe.

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

  • Entire - A male horse that has not been castrated. Also called a Stallion.

  • Equitation - The art of horse riding.

  • Ergot - Horny growth at the back of the fetlock joint.

  • Eventing - Equestrian competition held over one or three days and including the disciplines of dressage, cross country and show jumping.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • Figure-Eight Noseband - This is 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".

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

  • 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.

  • Floating - The action associated with the trotting gait of the Arabian horse.

  • The action of rasping the horse's teeth is known as floating in the US.

  • 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.

  • Forging - This is when the shoe of the horse's hind foot hits the shoe of a front foot. Forging can cause the loss of a shoe.

  • 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.

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

  • 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".



  • 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.

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

  • Gelding - castrated male horse

  • Girth - The circumference of the body measured from behind the withers around the barrel. 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 on small rations.

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

  • Grackle Noseband - This is 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 a horse that is not registered with any breed association.

  • Greasy Heel - Greasy Heel varies in it's severity and is usually found around the coronet, heels and pastern but as been known to affect higher on the leg or belly. The skin becomes inflamed and cracks developing weepy sores and scabs. The cracks in the skin may allow bacteria to enter and cause infection. In severe cases the leg(s) may swell and lameness may follow. Also known as Mud Fever.

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

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

  • Green Osselet - An inflammation and swelling in the fetlock joint of young horses, particularly on the front of the joints where the cannon and long pastern bones meet.

  • Grey - Coat colour ranging from pure white to dark grey. Further described by terms such as "dappled" which is small iron-grey circles on a lighter background, and "flea-bitten" which is 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 behaviour 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 side-saddle riders.

  • Hack - A type rather than a breed of horse, hacks are elegant riding horses, popular in the show ring in the UK. "to hack" i.e. to go for a ride.

  • Half Pass - Dressage movement performed on two tracks in which the horse moves sideways and forwards at the same time.

  • 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 16.1, 16.2, 16.3. The notation "hh" is normally used to mean hands high.

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

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

  • Haute Ecole - The classical art of advanced riding.

  • Heavy Horse - Any large draft horse, such as the Shire, the Clydesdale, the American Cream Draft.

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

  • Herring Gut - The herring gut is a very sharp narrowing of the belly, which usually indicates poor condition, with insufficient room for the abdominal contents.

  • HH - The notation for the hand measurement of height.

  • High School - The classical art of advanced riding.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hollow Back - Describes a conformation fault where there is a concave curvature of the spine between the withers and the loins. Unduly dipped but must not be confused with the hollowing of the back with old age. Opposite of roach back.

  • Horn - Hard, insensitive outer covering of the hoof. Also, prominent pommel at the front of a western saddle around which the rider loops or twists the lariat when a steer has been roped to secure the animal.

  • Horsebox - Vehicle used to transport horses.

  • Horsemanship - The art of equitation or riding.

  • Hot - A horse that becomes overly excited is said to be "hot".

  • Hotblood - Term describing horses of Arabian or Thoroughbred blood.

  • Hunter - In the UK, 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.



  • Impulsion - Strong but controlled forward movement in the horse. This should not to be confused with speed.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • Interval Training - Method of competitive training in which rest and exercise intervals of controlled duration are alternated. Rest intervals allow time for the athlete's pulse rate to return to near normal before beginning the next exercise period. During exercise intervals, the athlete performs at a specified level of performance, slightly less than his best effort.

  • Irons - The metal pieces attached to the saddle by means of leather straps in which the rider places his feet.



  • Join up - One stage in the process of training a young horse, as taught by Monty Roberts. A method of getting a horse's attention.

  • Joints - All limb joints have similar basic structure and function. Joint cartilage covers the end of the bones for protection. Cartilage has no nerve supply, so damage to it does not cause pain. It also has no blood supply and is reliant on the synovial (joint) fluid for nutrition. This fluid is also important for lubrication of the joint. The synovial membrane has a nerve and blood supply and controls the composition of the fluid. The joint capsule and the collateral ligaments provide stability to the joint and limit its range of movement.



  • 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.

  • Ligaments - Fibrous bands which attach bone to bone. They are similar in structure to tendons but are more fibrous and less elastic.

  • 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. This is a conformation fault.

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

  • Livery Stable - British term for an equestrian facility where horse owners may keep their horse for a weekly / monthly fee.

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

  • 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 riders may have lessons on the lunge as they learn/improve the basics of position, without having to concern themselves with the control of the horse.

  • Lope - Slow western canter.



  • Manege – An enclosure used for training and schooling horses. Also called a school. Often referred to as a "menage".

  • Mare - A 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, known as a standing martingale, or the reins, known as a running martingale, 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 coloured muzzle, such as that seen in the Exmoor.

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

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

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

  • Mud Fever - Mud Fever varies in it's severity and is usually found around the coronet, heels and pastern but as been known to affect higher on the leg or belly. The skin becomes inflamed and cracks developing weepy sores and scabs. The cracks in the skin may allow bacteria to enter and cause infection. In severe cases the leg(s) may swell and lameness may follow. Also known as Greasy Heel.

  • 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.

  • Muscles: Muscles facilitate all movement. Those that bring about movement of the legs are skeletal muscles, which are under conscious control by the horse. Muscles create movement by contracting to shorten their length. They lengthen by relaxation; they cannot push and therefore have to work in pairs. Whilst one muscle contracts the other relaxes for movement in one direction, and vice versa for movement in the opposite direction.



  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Nick - The division and resetting of the muscles under the tail to give and artificially high tail carriage.



  • 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.

  • Osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) - A Latin description for a joint disease involving the cartilage and bone.

  • Over at the knee - A markedly forward direction of the knee also known as "knee-sprung", it can be congenital or acquired.

  • Overbent - The horse is said to be behind the bit when he evades the rider's control by tucking his head close in to his chest.

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

  • Over-reaching - This occurs when the toe of the hind shoe strikes the heel of a front foot. Over-reach injuries can be serious.

  • Over wide hock - The hocks are set wide apart and the toes turned in also known as bowed hocks. Opposite of cow hocks. In a person over wide hocks would be described as bow legged.

  • 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.

  • Palomino - Coat colour 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.

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

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

  • 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.

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

  • Piebald - British term for body colour of white with black patches.

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

  • Pinto - Term for body colour of white with patches of another colour. See also Piebald and Skewbald.

  • Pink Papered - Pink Papered is where the Sire and the Dam are 100% graded warmblood.

  • 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.

  • Plaiting - is done for neatness, to show off the neck and crest and to train the mane to fall to the side preferred, normally the off side of the neck. There should always be an uneven number of plaits down the neck, plus the forelock. The minimum number of plaits for a hunter including the forelock is six.

  • Points - External features of the horse making up its conformation.

  • In relations to coat colour, the points are the lower legs, mane and tail. For example, a 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 centre front of an English saddle. In some designs the pommel is cut back.

  • Pony - an equine animal of about 14 hands high. Breed definitions vary from 14 to 14.2 hands high

  • Port - Raised section in the centre 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 known as 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.

  • Prophet's Thumbprint - This is a natural indentation in the muscle which appears at birth. They are usually found on the neck or thigh muscles.

  • Pulling Manes - To thin out an over-thick mane, to reduce a long mane to the required length, or to allow the mane to lie flat. The longest hairs from underneath should be dealt with first and removed a few at a time.

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



  • 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 / rasping the teeth usually resolves the problem.



  • Racehorse - Horse bred for racing. Can be Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Arabian or Standardbred.

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

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

  • Rasping - The action of filing the horse's teeth to smooth away sharp edges.

  • Rearing - To rise up on the hind legs. Form: rear up.

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

  • Riding Horse - Horse suitable for riding, with the conformation associated with comfortable riding action, as opposed to draft or carriage horses.

  • Rig - Rig (cryptorchid). A horse with only one visible testicle, the other being up inside the abdomen or inguinal canal. Rigs cannot be gelded in the normal way and should not be bred from as the condition is inherited. Rigs that are partially gelded retain the characteristics and behaviour of stallions but are infertile, unless the retained testicle has almost descended. Most colt foals are born with two testicles present, but if not, up to 18 months should be allowed before declaring the colt a rig.

  • Rising Trot - The action of the rider rising from the saddle in rhythm with the horse's trot. This is also known as Posting Trot.

  • 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.

  • Roach Back - Describes a conformation fault where there is a convex curvature of the spine between the withers and the loins. Upward curve of the back and loin. Opposite of hollow back.

  • Roached mane - A mane that has been shaved close for its entire length. Also known as a hogged mane.

  • Roan - Coat colour in which white hairs are mixed with the base coat colour. 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.

  • 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.



  • Saddle Horn - Prominent pommel at the front of a western saddle around which the rider loops or twists the lariat when a steer has been roped to secure the animal.

  • Saddle Horse - A riding horse.

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

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

  • School - Enclosed, marked out area used for the training and exercise of the horse. Also known as a Manege.

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

  • Serpentine - School movement in which the horse, at any pace, moves down the centre 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 bone.

  • Sheath – Shoe - 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 considered a conformation fault, this trait is desired by some reiners as the horse has to almost sit down in some of the reining patterns.

  • 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. They often have a rubber "donut" or elastic section in them.

  • Sire - A horse's male parent.

  • Skewbald - British term for body colour of irregular white and colour patches other than black (i.e. brown, chestnut). Called pinto in the US.

  • Slab-sided - Narrow ribbed.

  • Sloping Shoulder - Term given to the angle between the withers and the top of the chest / base of the neck. For good conformation this should be 45 degrees to the vertical.

  • Snaffle (bit) - Design of bit that acts on the corners or bars of the horse's mouth. It 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.

  • Speedy-cutting - This is when the inside edge of a foot strikes or brushes against the inside of the knee of the opposite leg.

  • Splints - Splints are bony enlargements on the splint bones caused by damage to the bone membrane. They are most common in young horses starting work or from direct trauma to the periosteum. Once formed, splints tend not to cause lameness.

  • Spurs - Small metal devices worn on the rider's boot to help enforce the leg aids. They come in a range of severity, from very mild blunt spurs to severe rowelled models.

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

  • Stallion - A male horse that has not been castrated. Also known as Entire.

  • Star - Name given to any white marking on the horse's forehead. A small marking is called a snip.

  • 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.

  • Stripe - Elongated white marking down the front of the horse's face. Also called a blaze.

  • 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 eligible 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 attach side reins to a surcingle to when lunging young horses. Show jumpers, jockeys and eventer's use them over the saddle as an added precaution against the girth breaking. Also used over blankets / rugs.

  • Swan Neck - The shape comprises an often misleadingly attractive arch at the poll area and a horse who appears to come easily onto the bit. The dip in the top-line of the neck in front of the withers causes the problem. The horse has great difficulty in raising the neck from the base to go correctly.

  • Sway Back - A sway back is when a horse's back dips significantly in the middle, rather than following the more correct flatter shape.



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

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

  • Tendons - Tendons attach muscles to bones and can be thought of as an extension of the muscle. Tendons consist of collagen fibres packed together in groups. These groups run parallel to the length of the tendon and are crimped, which allows a small amount of limited stretch. Tendon sheaths are long sacs lined by synovial membrane, which secretes synovial fluid. They enclose part or all of the tendon and provide lubrication for movement of the tendon.

  • Tendon Sheath  - Tendon sheaths are long, sausage shaped sacs lined by a synovial membrane that encircles a portion of a tendon.

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

  • Thoroughpin - Swelling of the deep digital flexor tendon sheath (known as the tarsal sheath) above the hock is known as a thoroughpin.

  • Tied in Below the Knee - Where the measurement below the knee is substantially less than that above the fetlock. This is a conformation fault.

  • Top Heavy - Overdeveloped or heavy body in relation to the substance of the legs.

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

  • Trailer - Transportation vehicle for one or more horses, which is towed behind another vehicle.

  • 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".

  • Turnout - The practice of turning horses loose in a field or pasture for all or part of the day. (b) 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 fulfils 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.

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

  • Upright Shoulder - Describes a conformation fault where the slope of the shoulder falls away too steeply from the withers.



  • Vertical - Upright fence with no spread. Can be rails, planks, gate or wall.

  • Veteran - A horse of 15 years of age or older.



  • 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.

  • White Papered - White

  • Whip - Instrument used to encourage the horse to move in a certain direction. There are several types of whip e.g.: dressage, schooling, jumping. The driver of a carriage.

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

  • Windgall - Windgalls appear as swellings around the fetlock joint. Heavier types of horses seem to be most affected, but the condition rarely causes lameness.

  • 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.



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