Hey Pals, I know everyone isn’t a horse person and therefore not familiar with a lot of horse terms I will be using. I’m going to explain terms I use and believe will be confusing for non-horse people. These definitions will be how I understand and use the terms which may not be 100% correct all the time. Hope this helps! Also, please let me know if you see any mistakes or need more clarity on anything.

  • Abscess — (in the hoof) When the hoof is cracked or the horse has a small rock stuck in their foot that works its way inside the hoof, the horse goes lame. “Popping” is the term used when the abscess finally leaves the hoof either on its own or having been drawn out.
  • Arena — A fenced off area, sometimes filled with sand, to ride in. They can be outdoor — outside in the open, only a simple fence blocking in the riding area — or indoor — a building to ride in with sides and a tall roof.
  • Bareback riding — Riding the horse without a saddle.
  • Barrel Racing — There are three barrels set up in a triangle. Horse and rider enter the arena by the base of the triangle and run a clover leaf pattern around the barrels. They typically go to the right first and make a right-hand turn around that barrel before racing to the other base corner to make a left-hand turn around that barrel. Then they run to the top corner and make a left-hand turn around that barrel before racing back to the start. Fastest time wins.
  • Bridle — The leather headpiece with a metal bit that goes in the horse’s mouth when riding.
  • Buck — When a horse puts his head down between his front legs and jumps up with his butt higher than his head.
  • Bute (Phenylbutazone) — A pain relieving drug for horses.
  • Canter — The horse’s second fastest gait. It is three beats, meaning that one front foot will move, then the other front foot and opposite back foot move, then the other back foot. To be on the correct lead the foot leading the canter, the front foot moving independently, should be the inside foot.
  • Canter Poles — Poles laying on the ground spaced out for the horse to easily go over them while in the canter.
  • Crossrail — A jump made out of two poles with one end of the pole resting on the standard and the other on the ground so they form an X.
  • Cross Ties — Usually made of nylon or chain, they attach to the barn wall and have a clip on the end to attach to the horse’s halter on either side to keep the horse standing in the aisle way of the barn.
  • Diagonal (trotting) — To post correctly, the rider must be rising when the outside front leg moves forward and sits when it goes back.
  • Diagonal (going down the diagonal) — Leaving the arena from on corner and riding to the opposite corner, cutting the arena into two triangles.
  • Down-and-Back — Horse and rider race from one end of the arena to the other, turn around a barrel set up on the far end, and race back to the start. Fastest time wins.
  • Dressage — Ballet on horseback. The rider asks the horse to perform complicated, precise movements with invisible signals.
  • Equestrian — A person that rides/loves horses.
  • Equitation — How the rider sits on a horse. Also, a flat class in an English show where multiple riders ride around the rail following the directions of the judge as they perform different gaits. The rider is judged on how they sit and ride the horse.
  • Flat work — Horse and rider exercise and perform movements on the flat, no jumping.
  • Flying Lead Change — In the canter, the horse’s inside front foot leads. In a flying lead change, the horse switches the leading foot while staying in the canter.
  • Fly mask — Mesh mask put on the horse’s head in the summer to keep flies out of their eyes. They can cover the horse’s nose for fly and sun protection or go over the ears.
  • Gait — The way a horse moves. Most horses have four gaits: walk, trot, canter, and gallop.
  • Gallop — The horse’s fastest gait. It’s four beats, meaning each foot moves independently, and for a moment in the gallop all four feet are off the ground.
  • Gaming (Western Gaming) — Gaming is four events where the horse and rider run a specific pattern as fast as they can without knocking anything down. The events are down-and-back, keyhole, pole bending, and barrel racing.
  • Grooming — Brushing the horse. Proper grooming begins with the curry comb, a rubber teeth brush, that is moved in circles starting from the neck to the rump to pick up the dust and dirt int he coat. Then a hard-bristle brush is used to flick the dirt away, going in the same direction as the hair. Then a soft-bristle brush can be used in the same way to make the coat shine. Then the hooves need to be picked to make sure no rocks are logged on the bottom.
  • Ground work — Exercising the horse while the rider is on the ground. Typically the horse moves in circles around the rider changing paces and direction as the rider asks with assistance from a long rope attached to the horse’s halter and a long whip.
  • Half-turn — The horse makes half a circle then moves back onto the rail going the opposite direction from before making a teardrop shape.
  • Halter — Nylon or rope headpiece put on the horse for leading around or tying up.
  • Hand — Horses are measured in units called hands. One hand is four inches. Boo Boo is 14.3 hands. Trinity is 14 hands. 15-17 hands is about the average height for horses, but they come in all different sizes. Ponies are less than 14.3 hands.
  • Haunches-in — A dressage move where the horse’s back end moves over so the outside back leg follows the inside front leg.
  • Hunter/Jumper — Hunter/Jumper are two types of English riding competitions. Both involve horse and rider jumping over a set course of jumps. Hunters is judged based on how consistent horse and rider are over the jumps and how nicely the horse jumps. Horse and rider are required to wear specific clothes. Hunters also have some classes where the horse and riders are judged on how the horse moves and they work together on the flat, not over jumps. Jumpers is a timed event. What the horse and rider have on or look like doesn’t matter as long as they have a fast time and don’t knock any of the jumps down. There’s usually two rounds, everyone who went clear, didn’t knock any jumps down, in their first round move to the jump off which is a trickier course than the first round.
  • Keyhole — There is a boxed area at the far end of the arena made out of poles, barrels, and cones. Horse and rider have to race down to the box, get in it and turn around, then race back to the start. Fastest time wins. I don’t do this event.
  • Lame/Lameness — When one of the horses’s legs is in pain and they are limping.
  • Lead Change — When the horse changes the leading leg in the canter either in a simple change or a flying lead change.
  • Lead Rope — Usually a nine foot rope with a clip on one end to attach to the horse’s halter to lead them around or tie them up.
  • Liberty — Horse and rider work and communicate without having a physical connection such as a rope during groundwork.
  • Natural Horsemanship — Training your horse in a way that they understand. Creating a relationship with them so they want to do what you ask rather than being fearful of what will happen to them if they don’t do what you want. I follow the Parelli system of natural horsemanship.
  • Palomino — Golden/yellow coloring on a horse, typically with a cream colored mane and tail. Blonde horses. Boo Boo is a palomino.
  • Parelli/Seven Games — Click here to learn more about Parelli. Click here or here to learn more about the seven games.
  • Pinto/Paint — Horses that are multi colored. They can be any combination of brown, black, palomino with white. Trinity is a tri-colored paint because her body is brown and white, and she has black in her tail.
  • Pleasure — A flat class in an English show where multiple riders ride around the rail following the directions of the judge as they perform different gaits. The horse is being judged by how he moves.
  • Pole Bending — There are six poles standing up set up in a straight line down the center of the arena. Horse and rider race down one side of the poles turning around the furthest one to begin weaving the poles. They make a full circle around the last one to weave back to the far end of the arena. Then they turn around the last one and race back down to the start, parallel to the poles again. Fastest time wins.
  • Posting Trot — The rider moves his/her hips up and forward as the horse trots, or more simply, the rider moves up and down as the horse trots. To post correctly, the rider must be rising when the outside front leg moves forward and sits when it goes back. This is the correct diagonal.
  • Quarter Horse (American Quarter Horse) — This is a bred bred in the American west. They are the cowboy horse. They are a very versatile horse. They are able to do most things, and they are mostly identified by their big butts. Boo Boo is a Quarter horse that loves to jump, he can do the western gaming, and he is great on the trail. They usually have a very calm temperament.
  • Rain Rot — A skin condition caused by bacteria in moist weather. It causes scabs on the affected area. Using the same bushes or saddle pad on a horse that does have rain rot then on one that doesn’t without disinfecting it can cause it to spread.
  • Rear — When the horse stands up on its hind legs and the front legs are in the air.
  • Reins — The leather or rope connected to the horse’s bit that the rider holds in their hand to help guide the horse’s nose or slow them down.
  • Round Pen — A circular pen most commonly used to do ground work with horses, but you can ride in it.
  • Rump — The horse’s butt/hind-end/rear.
  • Saddle — It goes on the horse’s back for the rider to sit on when riding. English and western are the two most common saddle types.
  • Shoulder-in — A dressage move where the front end of the horse moves in so that the outside front foot leads the inside back foot.
  • Simple Lead Change — Changing the horse’s lead in the canter by pulling the horse back to a trot then picking up the other lead.
  • Sitting Trot — Sitting trot is when the rider keeps their butt in the saddle as the horse trots. It is slower than the posting trot.
  • Standard — Piece of jumping equipment that holds poles up to jump over.
  • Swayback — When the horse’s spine curves down in the middle back.
  • Tack up — Putting riding equipment (saddle and bridle) on the horse.
  • Trot — Horses’s second slowest gait. It is two beats meaning the opposite front and hind feet move together. It is the bounciest of the gaits, so in English riding there are two types of trotting, the sitting trot or posting trot.
  • Trot Poles — Poles laying on the ground spaced for the horse to easily move over them while trotting.
  • Turn on the Forehand — The horse’s front feet stay in the same spot as the hind end turns around the front.
  • Turn on the Haunches — The horse’s hind feet stay in the same place as the front end turns around the hind.
  • Vertical — A type of jump made from one pole with both ends being held up by a standard.
  • Walk — Horse’s slowest gait. It is four beats, meaning that each foot moves independently of the other.

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