Horse Riding Terminology September 23 2013

Simple Terms
Terms vary from country to country and in different disciplines  

A Hack
A ride out of a school environment, encompassing walk, trot, canter and sometimes gallops. Either done alone or in a group.

An area where you exercise or compete a horse. Usually 20 by 40 metres or 40 by 60 metres. Markers on the school allow riders to move their horses around in exercise or competition. Letters are laid at several points so A is usually where you begin, C is the opposite end of the centre line with markers dotted around. You’ll hear things like, ride in walk from A to F then trot from F to M down the long side of the school.

The equipment that is placed on a horse so you are able to ride it.


• saddle

• bit

• girth

• bridle

The terms for getting on and off of a horse.

Measurement of how big a horse is. A hand = 4 inches roughly.

Above The Bit
A horse is above the bit when the horse evades the riders aids by raising his head above the level of the rider’s hands. Being above the bit reduces the amount of control the rider has over the horse.

Behind The Bit
Behind the bit refers to an evasion to the bit, where the horse holds his head behind the vertical, thereby decreasing the rider’s control.



Gait - The name of the various ways a horse moves.

Walk - A 4 beat gait usually the slowest of the horse’s movements. The formation usually takes left hind leg, left front leg, right hind leg, right front leg. Three legs are usually on the ground while one is elevated during the walk. The head moves in rhythm to the beats.

Trot - Trot is a two beat gait. The legs move in diagonals so the right rear and left front move together as the left rear and front right move together. This gait is faster than a walk. It’s also very bouncy.

Sitting trot is where the rider sits to the trot so remains in the saddle. This may sound easy to do but it is a very bouncy gait.

Rising trot is where the rider rises and falls to the beat of the trot. So as one pair of legs move the rider is rising and they sit briefly when the other pair are moving. This is also known as posting in Western riding.

Riding on the trot diagonals is used in a school. So if you’re riding on a clockwise circuit you’d be riding on the left diagonal and counter clockwise you’d be riding on the right diagonal. Your bum should be in the saddle when the inside hind leg is on the ground and out of the saddle when the inside foreleg is on the ground to free up the shoulder.

Canter - Canter is a 3 beat gait. During the canter there is a point where all legs are suspended. It begins with a strike off leg, known as the leading leg, and the formation is like follows: 

• The grounding phase of the outside rear leg. So if clockwise in the school would be the rear leg closest to the edge of the arena in this case the left rear leg. 

• Grounding phase of the inside rear and outside fore leg. The inside foreleg is off of the ground and the outside rear leg is about to be lifted.

• The grounding phase of the inside foreleg. The outside foreleg and inside hind leg are about to be lifted and the outside hind leg is off the ground.

• The inside hind leg and outside foreleg are lifted off the ground. The inside foreleg is the only leg supporting the horse’s weight.

• The inside foreleg is lifted off of the ground.

• Suspension. The horse has no legs on the ground.

Gallop - The gallop is faster than a canter and is a four beat gait. It’s very similar to the canter yet there is an extra beat. It is faster and covers more ground.

2 Point seat - The two point seat is the way a rider sits during galloping and sometimes in an uphill canter. The rider effectively is raised, with their entire weight fixed into their lower leg that must stay steady in the stirrups while leaning over the horse’s neck. It allows the horse to push its hindquarters beneath itself which is required for galloping.

Action - Action refers to the movement of the horse’s legs, such as running, trotting, competing, etc. Viewing a horse in action is helpful to anyone interested in the dynamics of horse motion.

Airs Above the Ground - Airs above the ground refer to classical high school dressage movements. Airs above the ground are performed by highly trained horses, where either the front legs of the horse or all four legs of the horse are off the ground. Airs above the ground include the levade and the capriole.

Amble - An amble is a type of gait of a horse means to go at a slow, easy pace. The amble type of gait is a slower form of the lateral pacing gait. The amble type of gait is smoother for a rider and may be sustained for long periods of time, making the amble gait desirable for trail riding.


A discipline that is often called horse ballet. A set of movements, either in a test or choreographed by the rider in a freestyle test. The horse does various movements both natural and unnatural.

Test and Freestyle Test
A test is a scripted set of movements that is scored on how well the rider and horse accomplish the movements. A freestyle test is usually set to music and is created by the horse’s rider to show off the horse’s gaits and movement.

Cross country
A course of jumps set up in a countryside type environment. It is usually timed and penalties occur if a horse knocks a fence and also if the run is not done within required time. These penalties are known as faults. Usually four faults for every fence down and one fault for every second outside of the time.

Show jumping
A set of jumps set up within an arena to test the horse’s ability to jump. Like Cross country it is timed and fences down cost faults.

Long rides over varying terrane over long distances.

Dressage discipline undertaken by disabled riders. There are five grades at international level, IA being the most severely disabled and Grade IV being the least disabled and comparable to intermediate dressage.

Para show jumping
Show Jumping undertaken by disabled riders. 



Aids - Aids are signals or cues by which the rider communicates his wishes to the horse. Aids may be natural aids or articial aids. Natural aids include the use of hands, legs, seat, weight, and voice to influence a horse. Artificial aids include whips and spurs, which may be used to reinforce the natural aids.

Artificial Aids - Artificial aids are mechanical means by which the rider conveys his wishes to the horse. Artificial aids include whips and spurs, which may be used to reinforce the natural aids.

Crop/whip - An instrument used by the rider to back up the leg. So, if your horse is not responding to a leg aid, you squeeze and tap with a crop. A crop is smaller while a schooling whip is larger.

Riding hat - A protective helmet wore by riders. Even professional riders wear riding hats in disciplines such as Show Jumping and Cross Country but not necessarily in dressage.

Jodhpurs/boots - Jodhpurs are long stretchy pants wore by riders with panels sewn into the inner leg where the leg rests on the saddle. Jodhpur boots are short boots often wore with jodhpurs.

Breeches - Breeches refers to knee-length, fitted, often skin-tight, riding pants worn with tall English boots. There are multiple styles of breeches including knee patch breeches, full seat breeches, and jockeys’ breeches. Modern day breeches have velcro or zipper fastenings, versus the old buckle fastenings

Leg - A term used when squeezing your horse or telling your horse to do something with your leg. Riders often hear, “put your leg on” and it usually means your horse needs more impulsion.

Impulsion - A horse that is going forward.

Bridle - The bridle is an item of equipment worn on the horse’s head. Bridles enable the rider to communicate his wishes through use of the bit and the reins. The bridle includes both the headstall that holds a bit as well as the reins. There are many styles of bridles including English, working and stock, Western, and specialty.

Bridoon - A bridoon refers to a snaffle bit used in conjunction with a curb bit. A bridoon is used in a double bridle. The bridoon is a modified snaffle bit, and is adjusted so that it is above and behind the curb bit.

Seat - Using your bottom muscles to issue signals to your horse. Or, when in canter, we say in your seat which means you’re going with your horse’s rhythm and not bouncing around.

Billets/Billet Straps - Billets, also known as Billet Straps, are leather straps by which the girth of a horse is attached to the saddle. Billets are found on English saddles.

Bat - A bat is an artificial aid by which the rider may emphasize and back up the natural aids of seat and legs of a horse. A bat is used to encourage reluctant or lazy horses to move forward

Brushing Boots - Brushing boots are an item of horse equipment used to protect the horse’s legs from injury due to brushing. Brushing boots are often seen on horses doing fast work, such as jumping, or when the horse is in training or competition. Most brushing boots are made of a synthetic material or leather. Brushing boots can also be used on horses in the field, to prevent injury if a horse gets overexcited and brushes itself.


Additional Terminology:

Akhal-Teke - The Akhal-Teke is an ancient horse breen from Turkmenistan, north of Iran and east of the Caspian Sea. The Akhal-Teke horse is known for speed and endurance on long marches. The Akhal-Teke horse breed have a golden buckskin or palomino color, long ears, almond-shaped eyes, is lightly muscled, and has a flat croup and long, upright neck.

Anhidrosis - Anhidrosis is a condition in which the horse has a limited ability to sweat. Anhidrosis, or dry coat, varies by horse, randing from a mild or unrecognizable lack of seating to an absolutely inability to sweat. In severe cases of Anhidrosis, horses that quit sweating risk brain damage or even death from a lethal increase in body temperature. While the cause of anhidrosis is still unknown due to little research completed on the disorder, anhidrosis is a serious problem.

Anthelmintics - Anthelmintics is a name given to the various deworming medications used to control equine internal parasites.

Ascarids - Ascarids are intestinal worms typically found in foals. Ascarids, also known as roundworms, may cause weight loss, diarrhea and/or colic. Immunity to Ascarids develops with maturity.

At Grass - At grass refers to a horse that has been turned out in a paddock or field. Turning your horse out to grass should be done gradually, as an abrupt change in feed is liable to cause colic or founder. When your horse is at grass, be sure to keep an eye on your horses by checking for heat in their hooves, elevated pulses, or ‘parking’, where the horse’s hind legs are far out behind him.

Back at the Knee - Back at the knee, also called ‘calf-kneed’ is when the horse’s leg appears to bow backwards at the knee. Back at the knee is serious because it places additional strain on the tendons running down the back of the horse’s lower leg. Horses experiencing back at the knee, a serious conformation fault, may be prone to bowed tendons and suspensory injuries. If your horse is back at the knee, keep shoeing simple (no grab effect) and keep your horse’s foot carefully balanced.

Back-breeding - Back-breeding, or breeding back, is the practice of breeding back to a certain stallion to preserve a particular desirable trait. Breeding back is controversial, as the practice of breeding back is a human attempt to assemble or re-assemble the genes of a breed.

Banged tail - A banged tail refers to a horse’s tail which has been trimmed level at the bottom. A banged tail is seen in dressage horses and hunters horses, but not in Arabian horse breeds and western pleasure horses.

Barrel - The barrel of a horse is the main body of the horse enclosing the rib cage and major internal organs between the forelegs and the loins.

Bars - The bars of a horse refers to the fleshy area in a horse’s mouth between the front and back teeth, where the bit rests. The bars is a toothless gap between incisors and molars in the horse’s mouth.

Bascule - Bascule refers to the natural round arc a horse makes as the horse jumps a fence. A horse with a bascule is one with a round jump, wherease a horse with poor bascule may jump flat witch his head in the ar and spine relatively straight.

Blemish - Blemishes on a horse refer to a permanent mark or scar made by either an injury of disease, but they do not affect serviceability. Examples of blemishes on horses include curbs and girth galls.

Blistering - Blistering refers to the application of a caustic agent, or blister, to the leg. Blistering is occasionally still used in the treatment of a number of conditions, such as spavin, ringbone and bowed tendon. Blistering is thought to encourage internal healing in some cases.

Blood Horse - A Blood Horse is a thoroughbred horse, referred to as such for being ‘hot-blooded’. Thoroughbred horses are known for their agibility, speed and spirit.

Bloodstock - Bloodstock refers to thoroughbred horses bred for racing. Bloodstock, or thoroughbred horses, are called bloodstock because one stock all comes from the same bloodline. Bloodstock horses are purebred and recognized by a breed registry.

Boarding Stable - A boarding stable is an equestrian facility where horse owners may keep their horse for a monthly fee. Horses kept at boarding stables may be there for hire, or are just boarded there temporarily by owners. There are multiple types of boarding stables, and owners can select a full board, partial board, or even a self-board. At a self boarding stable, all horse care must be provided by the owner.

Bog Spavin - Bog spavin refers to soft, synovial swelling seen on the inside of the hock. Unlike regular spavin, bog spavin does not usually cause lameness. Bog spavin can be caused by degenerative joint disease or strain on the joint capsule. Bog spavin can be drained, but there is generally an underlying cause to the spavin that must get treated.

Bone - The bone is measurement around the leg, just below the knee or hock. The bone determines the horse’s ability to carry weight, therefore a light-boned will be limited in weight carrying capacity. Horses have very slim legs, so the quality of their bone measurement is a big determinant in their ability to handle weight.

Bots - Bots are a type of equine parasite and bots can lay their eggs into the hairs of horses. Newly hatched bots can burrow into horses’ skin, causing serious problems. Horses can also injure themselves trying to stop the irritation that is caused by hatched bots burrowing into the skin. It is very easy to check to bots in a horse’s coat.

Bow-hocks - Bow hocks are where the hocks turn outwards, causing the horse to be bandy-legged. Bow hocks are the opposite of cow-hocks. A horse with bow-locks may also be referred to as brandy-legged. Bow-hocks can add extra strain on a horse’s bones and create interference in movement.

Bowed Tendon - Bowed Tendon is an injury to superficial digital flexor tendon, which runs down the back of the lower leg. After the injury, the tendon heals with a ‘bowed’ appearance. Bowed tendon can be caused by excessive strain or trauma to the tendon. Bowed tendon can also be caused by a bandage being applied to tightly, creating ‘bandage bows’.

Boxy hooves - Boxy hooves are narrow, upright hooves with a small frog and closed heel. Boxy hooves are also referred to as club foot. Boxy hooves generally arise during foalhood, and need to be corrected very early on. Boxy hooves can be caused by a contraction of tendons.

Breaking, or Breaking-In - Breaking-In refers to the early education of the young horse. During breaking, it is taught the skills it will need for it’s future life as a riding or driving horse. Breaking can occur in many areas, including work, riding, and use of certain equipment. During breaking, a horse is exposed to many new experiences, and this time will determine the future capabilities of the horse

Broken-In/Broke to Ride - Horses that are broken-in or broke to ride have been accustomed to the tack and the rider. Broken-in horses have also begun initial training. Most horses are not completely broken-in until the age of 5. At that stage, a horse is completely ready for multiple uses. A broken-in horse can also called greenbroke

Broke - Broke refers to a horse that is trained; a ‘dead broke’ horse is a well-trained and obedient one. Horses take a long time to become broke, and can become broke for different areas, such as saddling, or riding, or certain 

Brushing - Brushing is where the hoof or shoe hits the inside of the opposite leg, at or near the fetlock. Usually, brushing is caused by poor conformation or action. Brushing can also result an uncoordinated gait, and can cause injury or poor performance Brushing usually occurs at the knees on the front legs and at the fetlock on the hind legs.

Broken Winded - Broken Winded is a term used to describe horses having an abnormal breathing pattern due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Broken Winded is also known as heaves. Broken Winded is caused by an allergic reaction and is most common in the Northern Hemisphere. Broken Winded horses may present coughing, weezing, or struggle with breathing.

Breed - A breed is an equine group bred selectively for consistent characteristics over a long period of time. There are a large variety of breeds within horses for many different purposes. Often, a breed will have a pedigree recorded in a breed registry. Each breed will have it’s own set of distinctive characteristics, setting it apart from other breeds.

Brindle Horse - A Brindle horse is a breed exhibiting a distinctive marbleized coat coloring. Brindle horses have distinctive stripes running vertical along the neck, back, hindquarter, and legs. Brindle coloring in horses is very rare, and it though it is suspected that a brindle coat can be inherited, others say there is no evidence.

Brood Mare - A brood mare is a mare that’s kept specifically for breeding purposes. A brood mare is often chosen for specific traits that an owner wants passed on to offspring. Or, a brood mare could have a desirable ancestry.

Buck - A buck is a leap in the air with the head lowered and the back arched. Bucks are a natural behavior, but can unseat riders. Bucking can occur for a number of reasons, including excitement and pain. Bucking was developed in the wild and is used mainly as a defense mechanism for horses.

Bran Mash - Bran mash is a warm meal made of wheat bran, warm water, and a little sweet feed concentrate and chopped apples or carrots. Bran mash is usually given an occasional treat for horses. Bran mash can be used to give the horse a hot meal during cold weather, or to help introduce more water into the horse’s diet. However, bran mash is a poor choice for regular feeding due to bran mash’s low calcium and high phosphorous content.

Breed Show - A breed show refers to a show in which competition is limited to a single breed of horse; the breed show is sanctioned by that breed’s registry. For example, the Appaloosa Horse Club sanctions breed shows for Appaloosas. Therefore, in most, only purebreds may enter a breed show. The participating breed is judged on proper conformation.

Bald-Faced - Bald-faced is a US term used to describe a horse with a predominantly white face. A bald face horse typically has a long mark running from top of the face down to the nostrils.

Blaze - Blaze refers to the elongated white marking down the front of the horse’s face. Also called a stripe, a blaze runs from above the eyes to the nostrils.