Equestrian glossary - words you need to know

Discover definitions for many equestrian terms!

4th January 2024

Whether or not you have a horse, if you’re visiting this page, it’s likely you’ve come across an unfamiliar equestrian term!

While it’s impossible to know the meaning of every horse-related word, we hope you’ll find this glossary of basic (UK) equestrian terms helpful…

Everyday horse-related words


Broodmare – a mare who has had at least one foal and is used for breeding.


Colt – a male horse or pony, under four years old, who hasn’t been gelded.


Dam – a horse or pony mare who is a mother.


Farrier – a highly trained, qualified professional who cares for horses’ hooves, as well as making and fitting horseshoes.

Feed – types of horse food fed via a bucket.

Filly – a female horse or pony under four years old.

Foal – a young (baby!) horse or pony under one year old (no-matter their height, type, or breed).

Forage – usually refers to hay or haylage.


Gelded – neutered (male horse).


Hands or ‘hands-high’ (hh) – the unit for measuring a horse’s height (one hand = four inches) from the ground to their wither, e.g. 14.2hh = “fourteen-two hands-high” & 16hh = “sixteen hands-high”.

Horse – an equine who measures above 14.2hh at maturity (around 7-8 years old, which may vary depending on the individual).


Lunge – (a.k.a. ‘lungeing’ or ‘lunging’) means to exercise a horse, in an enclosed space (e.g. arena or field), by asking them to walk, trot, or canter in a circle. While lunging, a long lunge line is used to keep a horse at a distance and allow them the space to exercise safely. Lunging a horse is very hard work for their muscles, so sessions should usually be kept to a maximum of 20 minutes – depending on a horse’s fitness levels.


Mare – female horse or pony over four years old.


Pony – an equine who measures below 14.2hh at maturity (around 6-7 years old, which may vary depending on the individual).


Saddler – a highly trained, qualified professional who makes and fits saddles.

Sire – a horse or pony stallion who is a father (also applies to a gelding who previously fathered at least one foal as a stallion, before they were gelded).

Stallion – a male horse or pony, over four years old, who hasn’t been gelded.


Tack – equipment used for horses (e.g. headcollar, bridle, saddle, rugs, etc.).

Turnout – a horse’s time in the field.


Veteran – a horse or pony who is older than 15 years of age.


Yearling – a horse or pony who is between one and two years old.


Horse ‘for sale ad’ acronyms, abbreviations, and phrases


Backed – a horse has worn a saddle and accepted a rider, yet hasn’t been schooled (fully trained).

BD – British Dressage (referring to registration or type/level of competition).

BE – British Eventing (referring to registration or type/level of competition).

BSJA – British Showjumping Association (referring to registration or type/level of competition).

BSPS – British Show Pony Society.


CHAPS – Coloured Horse and Pony Society.


Easy to do – a well-behaved, polite horse.


Forward going – a horse is responsive and may be strong or prone to rushing while ridden.


Green – an inexperienced horse who requires further training.


HT – Hunter Trial(s).


ID – Irish Draught.

ISH – Irish Sport Horse.


KWPN – Dutch Warmblood (horse breed).


LR – Lead Rein, which means a pony has been ridden by a child while being led (it doesn’t necessarily mean a pony is safe for child to ride without a leader, though!).


M&M – Mountain and Moorland (referring to the type of horse/pony or competition classes they’ve entered).


ODE – One Day Event (type of competition that involves dressage, cross country, and show jumping classes on the same day).


PC – Pony Club (referring to type/level of activities).


RC – Riding Club (referring to type/level of activities).


Schoolmaster or Schoolmistress – an experienced horse.


TB – Thoroughbred (horse breed).


XC – Cross Country.


WH – Working Hunter (referring to type of horse or type of competition).


Horse-riding phrases


Arena – (a.k.a. ‘school’ or ‘menage’) an enclosed space covered in a specialist, springy surface (like silica sand, fibre sand, rubber, etc.); can be indoor, outdoor, or covered.


Body protector – rider wear that protects the upper body (must comply with legal safety requirements).

Bridleway – a public right of way for horses.


Canter – a smooth, three-beat pace that can vary in speed and style (e.g. working canter, extended canter, collected canter, etc.).

Change rein – if a riding instructor asks you to do this, it means they need you to change direction safely.

Chaps – made in a choice of different materials and styles, chaps protect a rider's legs from friction against the saddle (e.g. half-chaps wrap around a rider’s lower legs if they’re wearing short riding boots).


Diagonal – this is the term given to the movement of a horse’s legs as they trot.

Top tip: To be on the ‘correct diagonal’, a rider needs to be 'rising' (standing in the stirrups momentarily) as their horse’s outside front leg (nearest the fence) moves forward in trot; then 'sitting' in the saddle as their horse’s outside front leg moves back.

Dismounting – the process of getting off a horse’s back/out of the saddle.


Gallop – a fast, four-beat pace (e.g. the speed a racehorse goes during a race!).


Hacking – riding horses outside an arena or field (e.g. along bridleways, on roads, etc.).


Inside rein – the side of a horse that’s closest to the middle of an area while riding.


Jodhpur boots – short, ankle-high boots designed for riding.

Jodhpurs – (a.k.a. ‘breeches’ or ‘riding tights’) specially-designed riding trousers.

Jump – an obstacle a horse can jump over (must be safe!).


Lead (canter) – (a.k.a. ‘leading leg’, ‘canter lead’ or ‘leg’) a horse who transitions to canter on the ‘right canter lead’ will be balanced, whereas the ‘wrong canter lead’ might make them feel unbalanced.

Top tip: If your horse is on the ‘correct canter lead’, their inside (front) leg (on the inner side of a circle) will stretch or reach further than their outside (front) leg (on the outer side of a circle).


Mounting – the process of getting on a horse’s back/into the saddle.


Outside rein – the side of a horse that’s closest to the fence while riding in an area.


Riding boots – tall, knee-high boots designed for riding.

Riding hat – (a.k.a. ‘riding helmet’ or ‘jockey skull cap’) rider wear designed to protect a rider’s head (must comply with legal safety requirements).


Schooling – training exercises with a horse in an arena or field.


Transition – the movement from one pace to another (e.g. from trot to walk or trot to canter).

Trot – a two-beat pace that can vary in speed and style (e.g. working trot, extended trot, collected trot, etc.).


Walk – a steady, four-beat pace that can vary in speed and style (e.g. free walk, extended walk, collected walk, etc.).

Top tip: If a riding instructor says, “Walk march!”, they’re asking for more of an active walk than a slow stroll.


Points of the horse


Bars (of the mouth) – the gap (consisting only of gums, with their tongue in the middle) between a horse’s front teeth and back teeth, which is where a bit sits.


Cannon bone – the section of a horse’s lower leg below the knee or hock, above the fetlock.

Check ligaments – are situated in a horse’s lower legs and take any strain off their muscles, to allow them to sleep soundly.

Chestnut – the thick lump of keratin attached to a horse’s leg (above the knee on their forelegs, below the hock on their hind legs).


Hind leg – a horse’s back leg.

Hindquarters – the large, muscular areas just before the tail, on either side of a horse, above their hind legs.

Hock – a joint in the horse’s hind leg, above their cannon bone.

Hoof – a horse’s foot.


Fetlock – the joint above a horse’s pastern, below their cannon bone.

Foreleg – a horse’s front leg.

Forelock – a horse’s ‘fringe’.


Mane – the hair that grows along, and flows from, the top of a horse’s neck.

Muzzle – the part of a horse’s head that includes their nose area, nostrils, lips, and chin.


Pastern – the area between a horse’s hoof and their fetlock joint.


Stay apparatus – the arrangement of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that work together to allow a horse to stay standing up safely.


Wither – the arch-shaped, bony section at the base of a horse’s neck.


Tack terms


Bit – usually made of metal (though also available in different materials), the bit attaches to a bridle and sits on the bars of a horse’s mouth.

Blinkers – small pads, attached to the bridle, that are worn over a horse’s eyes to restrict peripheral (side) vision. Blinkers are designed to prevent distractions that might cause a horse to behave unexpectedly and get injured; usually seen when a horse is pulling a carriage or racing.

Bridle – the piece of tack designed to fit around a horse’s head (with a bit or bitless), to allow a rider, leader, or carriage driver to control a horse safely.

Brushing boots – one of the many types of boots available; these boots are used to protect a horse’s legs from brushing against one another while they move.


Girth – the strap that secures a horse’s saddle and keeps it in place (should wrap under the body, just behind the front legs).


Headcollar – headgear designed to control a horse safely from the ground (different types of headcollars are available for a variety of purposes, e.g. field-safe headcollars for turnout, leather headcollars for travelling, etc.).


Lead rope – a rope that attaches to a headcollar, allowing a horse to be led or tied up safely (using a quick-release knot!).


Numnah – a soft, saddle-shaped pad that sits between the saddle and a horse’s back, to protect their back while also providing cushioning for comfort.


Overreach boot – dome-shaped boots that cover a horse’s front hooves to protect them from injuries (caused by their hind hooves cutting into the heels of their front hooves).


Reins – the straps that enable a rider to control a horse, by connecting a rider’s hands to a horse’s bit (or bitless section of a bridle).

Rug – the type of coat used for a horse (available in many designs including turnout rugs for the field, stable rugs, fly rugs to protect from flies, exercise sheets to use while riding, etc.).


Saddle – the piece of equipment that looks like a ‘seat’, secured with a girth, to keep a rider in place on a horse’s back.

Saddle pad – a soft, rectangular pad that sits between the saddle and a horse’s back, to protect their back while also providing cushioning for comfort.

Stirrups – usually made of metal (though also available in other materials), the stirrups hold a rider’s feet in place to help them sit safely in the saddle.

Stirrup leathers – although not always made of leather, stirrup ‘leathers’ are straps that attach stirrups safely to the saddle.


If you’ve discovered a ‘horsey word’ you’d like us to add to this guide, please let us know via Facebook or Instagram

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