Chapter 5. Horse & Horseback Riding Glossary A – Z

Review the Horse Terms Glossary Below

Click on the letters below to jump to an alphabetical section.

Horse & Horseback Riding Glossary A - Z



AIDS: Signals given to the horse with hands, voice, legs and weight.

APPALOOSA: Appaloosa horses are a spotted breed that originated in the northwestern part of the United States. The breed was developed by the Indians of North America in the 18th century. They are currently used for all kinds of riding including English, western, jumping, endurance, trail and pleasure riding. There are five recognized coat patterns including the blanket, marble, leopard, snowflake and frost.

APPY or APP: Short for Appaloosa.

ARAB: Short for Arabian.

ARABIAN: A breed of horse with a dished face and high tail carriage

ARENA: Location where people ride horses. Usually fenced in with sand or dirt footing.

AT GRASS: A horse that is outside on pasture all year and main source of nutrition is grass.


BALD FACE: A wide white face marking that runs past the inside of the eyes and beyond the nostrils.

BALK: When a horse refuses to move forward

BARREL: The horse’s midsection

BARREL RACE: A rodeo event where the horse is raced around 3 barrels and is timed.

BAY: Bay horses & ponies have a brown or reddish-brown body with black points on their legs, and a black mane and tail.

BIT: The metal part of the bridle that goes in the horse’s mouth.

BLAZE: A wide white marking that occurs below the eye line and above the top of the nostrils, and extends outside of both nasal bones.

BLUE ROAN: A black horse with white hairs speckled throughout it’s coat

BRAND: A design burned into the horse that is usually used to identify the animal with a breed.

BREAK: The act of training or gentling a horse.


BREED: A particular type of horse

BRIDLE: The piece of tack that goes on the horse’s head and is used help control the horse.

BRONCO: A horse that works in the rodeo, bucking off cowboys.

BROOD MARE: A female horse kept for breeding.

BROWBAND: Extends over the horse's forehead and prevents the bridle from sliding behind the poll onto the upper neck.

BUCK: When a horse kicks hind legs into the air with front legs on ground, usually out of joy.

BUCKSKIN: Coat color with a golden colored body with a black mane, tail & legs. Buckskin is similar in color to a Dun, although they do not have dark striping on their shoulders, legs & forehead, or a dorsal stripe down their back.


CANTER: A horse gait with three beats. It averages 8 mph and has a moment of suspension. A Western canter is called a lope.

CANTER LEAD: When you canter, there's always a leading front leg that stretches out further than the other leg. This is usually the inside leg if you're riding in an arena. If you're going around the arena in the right direction, your horse’s right front leg should lead at the canter.

CANTLE: Back part of the seat of the saddle.

CAVESSAN: A standard English noseband on a bridle.

CHANGE REIN: To change direction while riding.

CENTERLINE:The centerline is an invisible line straight that extends down the middle of the long side of a riding arena.

CHESTNUT: Chestnut horses (also known as sorrel) are a reddish-brown color with the same color or lighter mane and tail. They vary from light golden-red to dark brown known as Liver Chestnut. The mane and tail may also be a blond color, also known as a Flaxen Chestnut.

CINCH: The strap that goes around the horse’s midsection to hold the saddle on. A term used for the girth on a Western saddle.

CLYDESDALE: A breed of draught horse that originated from the farm horses of Clydesdale, Scotland. It is often bay in color, usually with large white markings. The breed was originally used for agriculture and hauling heavy loads, and is still used for draught purposes today. The Budweiser horses are some of the most famous Clydesdales.

COLD BLOOD: Cold blood horses include the draft breeds such as Shires, Clydestdales, Percherons and even Friesians.

COLT: A male horse under 4 years old.

COMBINED DRIVING: Similar to eventing in that it has three phases, but you drive a horse from a carriage instead of riding it. The phases are dressage, a marathon section, which is similar to riding cross country in eventing, and a cone section which is similar to showjumping but you drive a horse or pony through an obstacle course instead of over jumps.

CONDITION: A horse’s overall health and fitness.

CONFORMATION: The way a horse’s body is put together. Good conformation improves movement and performance, allows for smoother gaits, and makes horses and ponies less likely to go lame.

CONNEMARA: A hardy pony breed with Arabian and Thoroughbred influences used mainly for pleasure riding, eventing, driving, jumping and hunting.

CORONET BAND: Where the hoof meets the hair on the leg.

CREMELLO: A color of horses that are cream colored from birth. They have a light mane and tail, pink skin, and blue eyes.

CREST: Along the top of the horse’s neck where the mane grows

CRIBBING: When a horse grabs on something, usually its fence or stall, and swallow air. It is a bad habit that is hard to correct.Cribbing is mentally addictive and learned from other horses that crib.

CROP: A short riding whip.

CRUPPER: a piece of leather under tail to keep the saddle from sliding forward

CURRY COMB: Grooming tool used to loosen dirt and hair, as well as stimulate the skin to produce natural oils for a healthy coat. It is usually the first tool used when grooming and is rubbed on the horses coat in a circular motion.

CUTTING HORSE: A horse trained to ‘cut’ a calf out of a herd of cows and keep it separated.


DAM: A mother horse

DAPPLE: Circular markings found most often on gray horses. Dapples can appear between the ages of 4 and 12 as the horse gets lighter as they age. Horses with any base color can dapple.

DANDY BRUSH: Also called a Stiff or Hard Brush. It is used on the coat after currying the horse to brush away the loosened dirt and hair. It is also used on the legs to remove dried on mud. 

DEWORMER: A medicine used to kill parasitic worms in horses.

DIAGONAL: Riders follow the diagonal motion of the trot with up and down "posting" positions. 
One of the first vocabulary words that a beginner rider learns in a mounted lesson is “diagonal.” As riders learn the mechanics of the trot and the up and down motion their seat makes in the saddle, they quickly learn that there is rhyme and reason of when to rise and fall on the correct diagonal.

DOCK: The part of the tail that is bone.

DORSAL STRIPE: A black stripe down the back of the horse.

DROPPED NOSEBAND: Same as a Cavesson, but rests lower on the horses head, at the end of the nose bone, with the chin strap below the bit. Used to keep horse from opening mouth to evade the bit.

DRAFT: A large, slow type of workhorse used for pulling loads. Examples include Clydesdales, Shires and Belgians.

DRESSAGE: A style of riding where horse and rider perform movements with time and precision.

DUN: Horses & ponies with a golden colored body with a black mane, tail & legs. To be considered a Dun, the horse must have a dark dorsal stripe & many will display dark striping on their shoulders, legs & forehead. If they do not have the dorsal stripe, they are considered a Buckskin.


ENGLISH: A style of riding.

EQUINE: A horse, or having to do with horses.

EQUITATION: The art or practice of horse riding or horsemanship. Equitation may refer to a rider's position while mounted, and include a rider's ability to ride correctly and with effective aids. In horse show competition, the rider, rather than the horse is evaluated.

EQUESTRIAN: Someone that rides or interacts with horses.

EQUUS CABALLUS: The scientific name for the horse.

ERMINE SPOTS: Small dark spots that appear on any white marking near the hoof

EVENTING: A competition involving three disciplines of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping.


FARRIER: Someone who trims a horse's hooves, and puts on and takes off horse shoes.

FETLOCK: The leg joint between the knee and hoof.

FEATHER: The tufts of hair around the base of a horse’s legs.

FIGURE-EIGHT NOSEBAND: A part of the bridle that contains two pieces, a cavesson noseband adjusted high, with a bottom chin-strap below the bit. It is used to keep the horse’s mouth closed and hold the bit in position.

FILLY: A female horse under 4 years old.

FLASH NOSEBAND: Contains two pieces, a cavesson noseband adjusted high, with a bottom chin-strap below the bit. It is used to keep the horse’s mouth closed and hold the bit in position.

FLAXEN: Horses that are a reddish-brown Chestnut color with the a lighter or blond mane and tail.

FLY SPRAY: Insecticide or herbicide used to kill or repel flies.

FLYING LEAD CHANGE: When a cantering horse changes leads without breaking gait. 

FOAL: A baby horse.

FOOTING: The sand or dirt that you ride on, usually in a riding arena.

FORELOCK: The tuft of hair that grows between a horse’s ears and extends down his forehead.

FLEA-BITTEN GRAY: A gray horse with flecks of chestnut hairs throughout it’s coat.

FRIESIAN: Horse breed known for its black coat, thick mane and tail, and feathering on the lower legs. It has a powerful, high-stepping gait and excels at dressage, carriage driving and pleasure riding.

FROG: The V-shaped part under the horse’s hoof that acts as a shock absorber.


GAITS: The different ways that horses travel. The main gaits are walk, trot, canter, gallop.

GAITED HORSE: A horse that is either born or trained to do gaits other than the four regular ones.

GASKIN: The muscle above the hock in the horse’s hind leg.

GALLOP: The fastest of the horse gaits. It has four beats, averages 15 mph, and has a moment of suspension.

GELDING: A neutered male horse (also act of neutering a horse).

GIRTH: The strap that connects to the saddle and goes under and around the horse to help keep the saddle from falling off.

GRAND PRIX DRESSAGE: Tests performed at the Olympic Games dressage competition are at the Grand Prix level. This level of test demands the most skill and concentration from both horse and rider. Movements in Grand Prix dressage tests include extended gaits, collected gaits, piaffe, passage, flying lead changes, pirouette, and half-pass.

GRAND PRIX SHOW JUMPING: The highest level of show jumping. Run under International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) rules, the horse jumps a course of 10 to 16 obstacles, with heights up to 1.6 meters (5 feet 3 inches) and spreads of up to 2.0 metres (6 ft 7 in). Grand Prix-level show jumping competitions include the Olympics, the World Equestrian Games, and other series of internationally ranked events. 

GREEN: An inexperienced horse or pony.

GROOM: The act of cleaning a horse or someone that helps take care of horses.

GRULLA: Grulla or Grullo colored horses have the Dun gene and appear to be mouse-colored or tan-grey. They have dark tips on their ears, a dark face and legs, and have a dorsal stripe that runs down their back. Grulla horse & ponies often have dark stripes on their legs, forehead, back, shoulders or neck.

GYMKHANA: An event or show that consists of games on horseback such as a race, egg-in-spoon race, musical chairs, and barrel racing. These events often emphasize children's participation and may be organized by a recognized Pony Club or a 4-H club.


HACKAMORE: A Hackamore is similar to a bit but does not go in the horse’s mouth. Hackamores are a special type of noseband that applies pressure to the horse’s face, nose, and chin to allow you to control the horse or pony.

HAFLINGER: A versatile pony for both riding and driving with a unique golden chestnut coloring with a cream colored mane and tail.

HAND: A unit of measure for height of a horse. One hand is equal to 4 inches. Horse height is measured at highest point of the withers.

HALF-CANNON: A white leg marking that extends up half of the cannon bone. Also called a half stocking.

HAND GALLOP: Not an actual gallop but a fast canter.

HAY NET: A loosely woven rope bag designed to hold hay.

HEADPIECE (Crownpiece): Holds the bridle onto the horse’s head.

HOOF PICK: A tool used to remove dirt and rocks from a horse’s hooves. It frequently has a small, course brush attached that can help remove dirt and mud from the hoof.

HORN: The front part of a western saddle.

HORSEMANSHIP: Deals with the selection, care and training of horses in general.

HUNTER JUMPER: The Hunter division is a branch of horse show competition that is judged on the horse's performance, soundness, as well as conformation, suitability, or manners. Successful show hunters show many qualities that were rewarded in fox hunting such as manners, fluid movement, and correct jumping style. Hunters are shown in English style tack. Any breed can be a hunter, but at the highest levels they are usually of Warmblood or Thoroughbred type, or a hunter-style pony, such as Welsh, in the youth classes.


IRONS: Stirrup irons are attached to the saddle and designed to support the rider’s feet on English saddles.

INSIDE: A riding arena term that refers to the side of the horse facing the interior part of the arena versus the OUTSIDE which refers to the side of the horse closest to the rail.


JOG: A slow trot

JODHPURS (JODPHURS): Stretchy English style riding pants with a cuff at the bottom that is usually worn by children.

JOCKEY: Someone who rides racehorses.


KICK: A term some riding instructors use to encourage a student to tap their legs on the horse's sides to encourage it to go forward.

KICKER: A horse that has a reputation for kicking out with it's hind legs.

KICK RIDE: A term used to describe a horse or pony that is slow or lazy and needs encouragement to go forward. 


LIGHT HORSE: A type of horse used for riding and driving, and not for pulling heavy loads.

LIPIZZAN: A horse breed that excels at dressage and is famous for their “airs above the ground” movements of classical dressage at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria. The breed dates back to the 16th century and was originally used for military purposes. Lipizzan horses are known for their muscular build, roman nose, and wide chest. They are born bay or black and gradually turn gray as they age.

LEAD ROPE: A rope used to lead and tie horses.

LEADING REIN: The inside rein. Usually used slightly to the side to encourage a young horse to turn.

LEFT HAND TO LEFT HAND: A riding arena practice where you pass other riders on the right side so that your left shoulder passes their left shoulder.

LIVER CHESTNUT: A dark brown Chestnut color with the same color or lighter mane and tail.

LOPE: A slow Western-style canter.

LOUNGE: Exercising a horse on a lounge line.

LOUNGE LINE: A long rope attached to a horse's bridle and held by the person. The horse moves in circles at the end of the rope around the person on the ground.


MARE: A female horse over 4 years old.

MANURE: What you muck out of a stall (horse poop!).

MARTINGALE: A type of tack that is used on horses to control their head carriage. The two most common types are standing and the running martingales. Used to control the horse's head height, and to prevent the horse from throwing its head so high that the rider gets hit in the face by the horse's head or neck. When a horse's head gets above a desired height, the martingale places pressure on the head so that it becomes difficult or impossible to raise it any higher.

MORGAN HORSE: A horse breed that is descended from one stallion named Justin Morgan. They are a versatile, powerful and intelligent, and popular for driving and all kinds of riding.

MUCKING OUT: Cleaning manure out of stalls.


NAVICULAR BONE: A small bone in the hoof, just behind the coffin bone.

NAVICULAR DISEASE: A disease that disintegrates the navicular bone. Navicular "disease" is really a group of related conditions affecting the navicular bone and associated structures in the foot that cause pain in and around the navicular bone.

NEARSIDE: The left-hand side of a horse.

NOSEBAND: A part of the bridle that goes around the horse’s nose and is often used to keep the mouth closed, or to attach other pieces of equipment, such as martingales.


OFFSIDE: The right-hand side of a horse.

ON THE RAIL: A riding arena term that refers to riding along the outside rail or fence around an arena.

OUTSIDE: A riding arena term that refers to the side of the horse facing the outside of the arena versus the INSIDE which refers to the interior part of the arena.

OVERO: A type of spotting with large jagged patches of white.


PAINT: A breed of horse that usually has pinto coloration. Some solid colors do occur.

PALOMINO: A coat color of horses & ponies with a golden colored coat with a white or cream colored mane and tail.

PASTERN: The area of a horse’s leg between the bottom of the fetlock joint and the coronet.

PASSAGE: A very collected trot in dressage, in which the horse has an elevation of his stride and seems to pause between each step with a great amount of suspension in each stride.

PIAFFE: A calm, composed, collected, and elevated trot in place. Minimal movement forward is allowed and not penalized in competitions as it is the natural way of performing the movement. The horse should never move backwards during the piaffe.

PINTO: A coat pattern with large blotches of white and black or another color over body. Any breed may be a pinto.

PIEBALD: Piebald is a type of pinto spotting that has large patches of 50% white with 50% black.

PLEASURE RIDING: Riding for pleasure, not showing.

POLL: The highest point of the horse, located in between ears.

POLO: Polo is an equestrian team sport played on a grass field that consists of four riders. The objective is to score goals by hitting a small ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled mallet.

PONY: A horse that is less than 14.2 hands tall.

PULLING COMB: A thin comb used to pull the mane short. 


QUARTER HORSE: Originated in colonial America and was bred for all around work including farming, hauling, working cattle, in harness and under saddle. It gets it’s name from the American settlers racing them in quarter mile stretches. They have strong and muscular hindquarters and are usually calm and intelligent. Today they are used for almost every kind of riding including ranch work, pleasure riding, showing, jumping and racing.

QUARTERLINE: Half-way between the centerline and the long side of a riding arena.


RACING: An equestrian event with two or more horses ridden by jockeys (or sometimes driven without riders) over a set distance, for competition.

REINING: A western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops.

REINS: Long straps that connect the rider’s hands to the bit and the bridle. Used to direct the horse.

ROPING: A Western rodeo event that features a steer and two mounted riders.

ROUGHAGE: A type of horse food. Grass, hay, range cubes, hay pellets, and beet pulp are examples of roughage that is fed to horses.

ROUND PEN: A circular pen used to exercise or train horses.


SADDLE: A type of tack used to ride horses. A supportive structure for a rider of a horse, fastened to an animal's back by a girth or cinch.

SADDLEBRED: A  horse breed from the United States. This breed is referred to as the "Horse America Made". Descended from riding-type horses bred at the time of the American Revolution, the American Saddlebred includes the Narragansett Pacer, Canadian Pacer, Morgan and Thoroughbred among its ancestors. They are considered a gaited breed, as some Saddlebreds are bred and trained to perform four-beat ambling gaits, one being a "slow gait" that historically was one of three possible ambling patterns, and the much faster rack.

SHEDDING BLADE: A grooming tool used to remove loose or shedding hair from the horse’s coat.

SHETLAND PONY: A hardy and intelligent pony breed used mainly as a children’s riding pony and for driving.

SHOWING: Competing for money, ribbons, or points with horses.

SHOW JUMPING: Spectator friendly and easy to understand, the object is to jump over a series of obstacles, where emphasis is placed on height and width, and to do so without knocking down a part of the jump or refusing to jump any of the obstacles. The time taken to complete the course is also a factor. The jump course tests a horse’s athleticism and agility while simultaneously testing a rider’s precision, accuracy and responsiveness.

SKEWBALD: A type of pinto spotting with any other color and white. They usually have large patches of 50% white and 50% brown or chestnut.

SNIP: A white face marking that occurs between the top and the bottom of the nostrils.

SOCK: A white leg marking that covers all of the pastern and over the fetlock joint.

STALLION: A male horse over 4 years of age that has not been gelded. Can be used for breeding purposes.

STAR: A white face marking that occurs above the eye line.

STOCKING: A white leg marking that extends all the way up the cannon bone

STRAWBERRY ROAN: Also known as Red Roan, this horse color has a chestnut base coat with white hairs mixed in that creates a slightly mottled appearance. This creates a range of colors that have a pink tint to the body color. 

STRIP: A white face marking that occurs below the eye line and above the top of the nostrils, but within the nasal bones. Also referred to as a stripe or race.

STUD: A male horse used for breeding.

SWEAT SCRAPER: A grooming tool used to remove excess sweat and water from the coat.


TACK: Equipment or accessories used on horses and ponies, such as saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, and harnesses. When you get a horse or pony ready to perform a job or to be ridden, it is called tacking up. A room that stores tack is called a tack room.

TENNESSEE WALKER: A breed of gaited horse known for its unique four-beat running-walk and flashy movement. It was originally developed in the southern part of the US for use on farms and plantations.

THOROUGHBRED: The Thoroughbred horse was originally bred for racing, but is now used as hunter, eventing, jumpers and dressage horses. The Arabian horse foundation breed for the Thoroughbred horse. Like Arabian horses, Thoroughbreds are considered a hot-blooded breed. They have long, lean bodies, are sensitive and can be high strung.

THROATLATCH: Leather strap that keeps the bridle from slipping off over the horse’s head. Also a part of the horse that is where the jaw connects to the underside of the neck.

TOPLINE: The area on top of the horse’s back that includes the withers, back, loin, and croup.

TRANSITION: A change in a horse’s gait.

TROT: A gait with two beats to the movement. It averages 6 mph and has a moment of suspension. The horse’s legs move in diagonal pairs.

TURN OUT: To put a horse out to pasture.


VICE: A stable vice is an abnormal behavior by a horse or pony. Vices are considered unhealthy behaviors and are usually caused by boredom, unhappiness, or nervousness.


WARMBLOOD: A group of horse breeds that combines the “hot-blood” of Arabians and Thoroughbreds with the “cold-blood” of draft horses. They are usually athletic and strong, and excel at dressage and jumping. Many are bred in Europe and are often used as Olympic team horses.

WEANLING: A horse or pony that is one year old.

WELSH PONY: A pony breed with elegant heads and quality conformation that originated in the mountains of Wales. 

WITHERS: The boney, raised area of the horse’s neck behind the neck and before the back. Used to measure a horse’s height.

WORMS: Parasites that can injure or kill horses.


XENOPHON: A Greek man know as ‘The Father of Classical Equitation’ (430-ca 335 B.C.). He wrote the first fully preserved manual on the care of the riding horse called “On Horsemanship”.


YEARLING: A horse that is 1 year old.


ZEBRA MARKS: Stripes on a horse's legs, withers, neck or rump of some primitive breeds and certain coat colors such as Dun and Grulla.

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