Glossary

All those Strange Terms:

Horsemanship uses a specialized, precise vocabulary. Keep in mind that exact meanings may vary depending on time and locale, and whether it's a Western United States or English context.

Horses have more parts than head back and legs. It might indicate the importance of the horse that each feature has a specific name as is demonstrated in this drawing.


Above the Bit
When a horse raises its head and stretches forward so that its mouth and the bit are above the rider's hand.
Ass
The correct term for the donkey, burrow, or jack stock.
Back at the knee
A conformational fault in which the foreleg is bowed backwards at the knee.
Bascule
The arc the horse forms with its head neck, and back while clearing an obstacle.
Bay
A color of horse. Black mane and tail, black lower legs, and reddish brown over the rest of the body.
Bedding
Wood shavings, shredded newspaper, straw, sand or other materials used to line the floor of a stall.
Bell boots:
Protective boots that cover the hooves.
Bit
Metal bar on a bridle that goes in the horses mouth and is used to control the horse while riding.
Blaze
a broad white stripe down the face.
Bowed hocks
A conformational fault in which the hocks on the hind legs are turned too far outwards. See also "Cow Hocks"
Bowed tendon
a permanently swollen tendon. Does not result in lameness but tendon will not be as strong.
Breed
A distinct genetic entity. Recognized members of a breed are entered in an official stud book.
Brown
A color of horse, with a mixture of black and brown hairs on the body and black points.
Burro
Spanish for common donkey.
Canter
One of the four natural gaits of a horse. Slower than a gallop, this is a three beat gait.
Chestnut
A color of horse, reddish brown with a similar colored mane and tail, or the bony protrusion on the inside of forearm of each foreleg.
Cob
A small, strong horse descended from draft horses. About 15 hands high.
Colt
A male horse under 3 years old.
Conformation
The build of a horse, the way he is put together. A horse with good conformation will look proportional. Each breed has its own conformation, for example a Thouroughbred is dishfaced, and an Oldenburg is heavily muscled.
Coronet
Surface of the hoof.
Cow hocks
A conformational fault in which the hocks on the hind legs are turned inward towards each other.
Cribbing
A vice in which the horse grabs onto a horizontal object, stretches his esophagus and sucks wind. This behavior is learned and can range from occasional to obsessive.
Crop
A stick, sometimes with a leather loop at the end, used by hunter/jumper riders.
Curb
thickening of the ligament on the back of the hind leg. May or may not result in lameness.
Curb bit
A single-bar mouthpiece that is attached at each end to upright bars (as compared to rings on a snaffle bit). These bits give more control but are not as gentle on a horse's mouth as a snaffle bit. They are usually used in Polo and Western riding disciplines.
Curry comb
A plastic or rubber comb with several rows of short flexible bristles. Used for removing loose hair and dirt.
Dam
The mother of a horse.
Dock
The area at the top of the tail.
Donkey
English word meaning "a little dun animal".
Dorsal stripe
a dark stripe along a horse's back. Common on early horses and seen today on some buck skin or other dark skinned horses. See horse colors.
Dressage
French word that means training. A discipline of riding that is sometimes referred to as ballet on horseback. The best example during our Regency period would have been the Austrian Lippizaner horses. Involves subtle control and compulsory movements. The Grand Prix level is the Olympic level and is the highest level of dressage a horse and rider can achieve.
Dun
A color of horse. Light to medium sand colored with dark skin. Usually has dark points (mane, tail and lower legs.)
Eohippus
small (14"), earliest (prehistoric) ancestor of the modern day horse.
Farrier
A professional who shoes horses.
Farriery
The practice of shoeing horses.
Feathers
The long hairs of the fetlock that cover the hooves of some draft horses. Clydesdales have the thickest and most beautiful feathers.
Fetlock
The "ankle" joint of each leg.
Filly
A female horse under 3-4 years old.
Foal
A male or female under a year old. The female is a 'filly foal,' the male a 'colt foal.' In the West, all foals may be called 'colts,' so the female is a 'filly colt' and the male a 'horse colt.'
Frog
The fleshy triangular underside of the hoof.
Gait ('Paces' in England):
The different ways a horse can move. The standard natural gaits are: walk, trot, canter and gallop. There are also bred or trained additional gaits: pacing, ambling, running walk---describe precise and different ways in which a horse moves its legs. A horse can only do one pace at a time!

Gait is the repetitive limb coordination pattern used in locomotion.

Asymmetrical gait - gait in which the limb movements on one side are not exactly repeated on the other side. Example: Canter, Gallop.
Symmetrical gait - gait in which limb movements on one side are repeated on the opposite side half a stride later. Example: trot, pace.
Stance Phase - when at least one foot is in contact with the ground.
Swing Phase - when the hoof is lifted and brought forward.
Suspension Phase - when no hooves are on the ground.
Overlap Time - the longer the limbs are off the ground (stride suspension phase) relative to the time on the ground (stride stance phase) the smaller the overlap.
Walk - 4 beats symmetrical gait
Trot - 2 beat diagonal symmetrical gait
Pace - 2 beat lateral symmetrical gait
Canter - 3 beat asymmetrical gait
Gallop - 4 beat asymmetrical gait
Running Walk - 4 beat gait characteristic of Tennessee Walking Horse
Paso Fino - slowest 4 beat gait of the Paso Fino (A Latin American bred horse)
Paso Corto - medium speed 4 beat gait of the Paso Fino
Paso Largo - fastest 4 beat gait of the Paso Fino
Slow Gait - slow 4 beat gait performed by the American Saddlebred. Very tiring gait for the horse and somewhat rough to ride.
Rack - fastest 4 beat gait performed by the American Saddlebred. Very smooth gait to ride.
Gallop
The fastest of the four natural gaits of a horse. This is a four beat gait.
Gelding
A male horse that has been castrated.
Girth
The strap around the horse's belly which secures the saddle to the horses back.
Gray
A color of horse that ranges from white to dark gray. Includes dapple. All grays have black skin.
Green
Used to describe a horse that has had a rider but is in the early stages of training. Can also describe a beginning rider.
Grooming
Maintenance of a horse's coat, including clipping, brushing, washing, trimming mane and tail, and any preparation of the coat for showing such as braiding mane and tail.

This would be a daily process during the London "Season" before anyone would drive through the Park during the fashionable hour.

Hackamore
A bitless bridle used as reins. Pressure on the nose and jaw are used to control the horse.
Halter
A harness of leather or rope that fits over a horse's head. This is much like a bridle without the bit or reins. It is used for leading a horse.
Hand
A hand is 4 inches. Height is measured at the withers, the highest point on a horse's back just before his mane starts.
Height:
horses are measured from the ground to the top of the withers in 'hands.' One hand is four inches. The average horse is 15 to 16 hands. 17 hands is very tall and only unusual specimens reach 18 hands. Some horses, especially in the West, are smaller. Ponies are usually less than 14 hands, two inches, though the words 'horse' and 'pony' can be used in variable ways in different contexts.
Hinny
The hybrid animal produced when a female ass (jennet) is crossed to an older smaller stallion.
Hock
The "knee" of the hind legs.
Hoof
pick A metal or strong plastic tool with a pointed end for picking debris out of the underside of hooves.
Horn
the surface of the hoof. Horns can be pale, dark or mixed, and all colors are similar in hardness.
Jack
Male of the ass species.
Jennet
Female of the ass species.
Jog
A slow trot, mostly in Western disciplines.
Lame
A condition in which a horse does not carry weight equally on all four legs, due to disease or injury.
Laminitis
inflammation of the laminae (the inside lining of the hoof)
Lead
change The "lead" is the foreleg of the horse that is farthest in front during a canter. A good rider can signal the horse to change his lead.
Lope
A slow canter, used mostly in Western disciplines.
Mare
An adult female horse or pony over age four.
Martingale
A leather strap that goes from the girth to the bridle underneath the chin which prevents a horse from throwing his head up.
Mucking
a stall Cleaning out the manure and soiled bedding in a stall.
Mule
The hybrid animal produced when a male ass (Jack) is crossed with a female horse (mare). A Saddle Mule is bred from mares of riding horse breeding. A Pack or Work Mule is bred from mares with some draft blood. A Draft Mule is the largest mule, bred from draft mares such as Belgian, Percheron, Clydesdale, and Shire.
Navicular disease
A disease of the navicular bone (a small bone at the end of the leg) which leads to lameness. Caused by improper shoeing and excess stress on the hooves.
Neck Rein
A method of guiding the horse by placing the rein against its neck, moving the horse in the opposite direction. Both reins are held in one hand.
Over at the knee
A conformational fault in which the foreleg is bowed forward at the knee.
Oxer
A single fence composed of two or three parts to produce a spread, or width, effect. A "square" oxer is equal in height in both the front element of the spread and the back.
Palomino
A gold colored horse with blond or white mane and tail.
Pastern
The area between the hoof and fetlock joint on all four legs.
Pelham
bit A bit that include a chain that goes under the chin. Two sets of reins are used with this bit.
Pigeon-toed
A conformational fault in which the hooves are turned in towards each other.
Pinto
A color of horse. Large patches of brown or black and white. Also called a paint.
Points
Mane, tail, and lower legs. Sometimes includes the nuzzle.
Pommel
The foremost section of a saddle that fits over the withers. In a Western saddle, this is the "horn" which the rider can rest his hands on.
Pony
A full grown horse that is 14.2 hands or under.
Rack
A single-footed, extremely rapid and smooth four-beat gait unique to the American Saddlebred and the National Show Horse.
Ratcatcher
the riding shirt worn under the hunt coat or jacket.
Rearing
A vice in which the horse stands on his hind legs with both forelegs in the air, usually to unsettle a rider or rid himself of irritating tack.
Reining
A Western style of riding demonstrating tremendous agility in turning, stopping, lead changing and more.
Roach
A shaved mane. Usually found on the Three-Gaited American Saddlebred and Western horses.
Roan
A color of horse that has white hairs mixed with black (blue roan), bay (red roan),or chestnut (strawberry roan).
Slow Gait
A single-footed gait performed by the American Saddlebred and the National Show Horse. Similar to the rack, it is performed at a much slower speed with great collection.
snaffle bit
A simple bit, consisting of one bar or two bars linked in the middle. Rings at each end attach to the reins. Usually used in English riding styles.
Snip
a white marking between the nostrils
Sock
white extending up to the fetlock
Spavin
A bone enlargement of the hock resulting in lameness in one or two hind legs.
Splay-footed
A conformational fault in which the hooves are turned away from each other.
Stallion
A male horse that has not been gelded(castrated). Also called 'entire' and in the West, a 'stud' horse.
Star
any white marking above or between the eyes
Stocking
white extending up to the cannon
Stride
The amount of ground the horse covers in one "step".
Stripe
a narrow white stripe down the face
Stud
A stallion that is kept for breeding purposes.
Tack
The equipment worn by the horse including saddle and bridle.
Thoroughbred
These days 'Thoroughbred' is a distinct breed of horse,(first studbook published: 1791), said to be descended from 3 Arab stallions brought to Britain in the 17th century. Thoroughbreds average 16 hands. Most racehorses are thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds make excellent hunter/jumpers.

Many breeds are quite modern, so shouldn't be used in a historic context. Check first!

Trot
One of the four gaits of a horse. One foreleg and the opposite hindleg are on the ground as the other foreleg and opposite hindleg are moving forward. This is faster than a walk but slower than a canter or gallop.
Twitch
A metal clasper applied to the top lip that is used to temporarily restrain a horse, usually for medical treatment.
Walleye
An eye that has no pigment or a blue tint. Vision is not affected by the color of the iris.
Warmblood
A horse type, often also referred to as sport horses. The are the result from crossing heavier draft-horse(cold bloods) breeds with lighter Thoroughbred or Arabian "hot-bloods". They became an entire class of horse as well as breeds, such as the Swedish Warmblood. All coach horses are warmbloods, draft horses are too slow, and even for a curricle, an Arabian or Thoroughbred is too light.
Withers
The slight ridge in a horse's back just before the mane starts. This is where height is measured on a horse.
Yearling:
in the year after the birth year. Incidentally, a yearling is too young to ride! Most saddle horses aren't worked hard until they're at least four years old, though breaking and training may start earlier.


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