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The equestrian world, with its centuries-old history, has developed a rich and unique language that can often be baffling to the uninitiated. This jargon has a wide range of horse terms covering horse anatomy, health, care, breeds, riding styles, and even the specific equipment used for riding – known as tack.
Each horse term, carrying its distinct nuance, provides precision in communication among horse enthusiasts but can leave novices puzzled.
This guide aims to demystify some of the most commonly misunderstood horse terms. Whether you’re an aspiring equestrian, a horse lover aiming to broaden your knowledge, or simply curious, this comprehensive overview will shed light on the fascinating world of equine terminology.
Horse Anatomy and Health Terms
Colt vs. Filly vs. Foal
A colt is a male horse under four years old, while a filly is a female of the same age range. A foal is a term for a horse of either sex that’s less than one year old.
Gelding vs. Mare vs. Stallion
A gelding is a castrated male horse of any age, a mare is a mature female horse (usually over four years old), and a stallion is an uncastrated adult male horse.
This is a unit specific to horse measurement, with one hand equating to four inches. Horses are measured from the ground to their withers, the highest point of the back at the base of the neck.
Bay, Chestnut, Roan
These terms define horse coat colors. Bays are reddish-brown with a black mane, tail, and points. Chestnuts are solid reddish or golden brown with a mane and tail the same color or lighter. Roan refers to a horse with a mix of colored and white hairs on the body, typically with a darker head.
This term refers to a horse that is suffering from an abnormality or injury causing a disruption in their gait.
Colic is a general term for severe, often fluctuating pain in a horse’s abdomen. It’s considered a veterinary emergency.
Horse Breeds and Types
Warmblood vs. Coldblood vs. Hotblood
These terms are indicative of a horse breed’s temperament and origin. Hotbloods (like Arabians and Thoroughbreds) are celebrated for their speed, endurance, and fiery temperaments. Coldbloods (like Clydesdales and Shires) are draft horses, recognized for their calm demeanor and strength.
Warmbloods (like Dutch Warmbloods and Hanoverians) are a blend of the two, engineered for equestrian sports, harmonizing the size of coldbloods with the speed and sensitivity of hotbloods.
Grade vs. Registered
A registered horse has a known, traceable lineage recorded with a breed association. In contrast, a grade horse has unknown, untraceable, or mixed breed parentage.
Horse Riding and Training Terms
English vs. Western Riding
These are two different styles of horseback riding. English riding, originating from European military styles, includes disciplines like dressage, eventing, and show jumping.
Western riding, on the other hand, evolved from cattle ranching traditions in the American West and includes disciplines such as reining, barrel racing, and trail riding.
Green vs. Bombproof
A green horse is inexperienced or under-trained, while a bombproof horse is highly trained and not easily startled, often suitable for novice riders.
Collection vs. Extension
In horse training, collection refers to a horse carrying more weight on its hindquarters, with its head vertical and its back rounded. Extension is when the horse stretches its stride to the maximum.
Horse Tack Terms
Bit vs. Bridle
A bit is a type of horse tack — a piece of equipment used to control a horse while riding. It’s a metal or rubber bar that goes in the horse’s mouth. A bridle, on the other hand, includes the bit, as well as the headstall and reins which are used to guide or direct the horse.
Saddle vs. Girth
A saddle is the supportive structure fastened onto the horse’s back for the rider to sit. The girth is the strap that goes around the horse’s belly to keep the saddle in place.
Breeches vs. Jodhpurs
These are two types of riding pants. Breeches are designed to stop mid-calf and are typically worn with tall boots, while jodhpurs extend to the ankle and are traditionally worn with short riding boots.
Horse Care Terms
Farrier vs. Blacksmith
A farrier is a professional who is trained to care for horse’s hooves and also creates or fits horseshoes. A blacksmith, on the other hand, is a professional who forges and shapes iron with a hammer and anvil, which can include making horseshoes, but does not typically involve fitting them onto horses.
Blanket vs. Rug
Both terms refer to the coverings placed on horses for protection against weather and insects. The terms are used interchangeably, but “rug” is more commonly used in British English, while “blanket” is more common in American English.