Glossary of Terms
Aids: Signals or cues the rider uses to communicate with the horse. The “natural” aids include the voice, the legs, the hands and the rider’s weight. “Artificial” aids include equipment such as whips and spurs.
Arena: An indoor or outdoor space in which horses are ridden. Includes soft sand and/or dirt footing to reduce concussive impact on the horse’s limbs.
Bit: A piece of tack, typically made of metal, that rests on the bars of the horse’s mouth and is used to stop, steer, and otherwise control the horse while riding.
Bridle: A piece of tack that holds the bit in the horse’s mouth, which includes the headstall, noseband, and reins.
Canter: A natural, three-beat gait that is faster than the trot, but slower than the gallop. Also called the lope in western disciplines.
Coldblooded horse: A term used to refer to draft horses, the large workhorse breeds that were bred to pull plows and heavy loads.
Colt: A young male horse
Crop/whip: An artificial riding aid used to reinforce the rider’s natural aids
Dressage: An international discipline that is considered the highest expression of horse training. Horses and riders perform a series of maneuvers during tests, sometimes to music (called musical freestyle). It is often referred to as “horse ballet.”
Equestrian: A person who rides horses
Equine: A term applied to anything horse related
Equitation: Referring to the rider’s position on the horse. Also a division across many breeds and disciplines where riders are judged on their position and effectiveness in riding.
Farrier: A specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming, balancing, and shoeing of a horse’s hooves for optimum health and performance
Filly: A young female horse
Foal: A young horse no older than one year
Gallop: A faster, four-beat version of the canter that covers more ground
Gelding: An adult male horse that has been gelded (castrated) and cannot be bred
Girth: A piece of tack used to keep the saddle in place on the horse’s back
Green horse: Refers to a horse that is in the early stages of training
Halter: A piece of equipment worn on the horse’s head used to control and lead them
Hand: The unit used to measure a horse’s height. One hand equals four inches.
Helmet: A piece of protective headgear worn while riding to prevent head injuries during falls
Hoof: The horse’s foot, or the tip of its toe, analogous to a human fingernail. It has a hard exterior to bear the horse’s weight and protect the softer sensitive tissues of the interior.
Hotblooded horse: A term used to describe horses of Arabian or Thoroughbred descent, which are of a lighter build and often very fast
Jog: When a horse is trotted in hand, without tack, to make sure it is sound for
competition. Also the term for the trot in western riding
Lateral work: Any number of movements in a dressage test where the horse moves sideways or the hind legs travel on a different path from the front legs
Lead Rope: A rope that attaches to the halter used to lead and tie a horse
Mare: An adult female horse
Pony: A small horse that, at maturity, remains under 14.2 hands
Saddle: A supportive structure that provides a seat for the rider on the horse’s back
Saddle Pad: A blanket or pad placed between the saddle and the horse’s back that cushions the saddle and protects the horse’s back
Show jumping: An international discipline in which horses and riders must jump a series of obstacles in a predetermined order within a certain time allowed. The goal is to not have any faults and have the fastest time.
Spurs: An artificial riding aid worn on the heels of the rider’s boots that is used to reinforce the rider’s natural leg aids
Stallion: An intact adult male horse that can be bred
Stirrup: A piece of tack, attached the saddle, in which the rider places his/her feet for stability
Thoroughbred: A horse breed best known for its use in horseracing. They are also very prominent in many other disciplines such as show jumping and three-day eventing. Considered a “hotblooded” horse, being very athletic and agile and possessing great heart.
Trot: A natural, two-beat gait; the horse’s legs move together in diagonal pairs
Warmblood: A group of horse breeds originating in Europe from crossing “coldblooded” draft horses with “hotblooded” breeds such as the Thoroughbred to create a very athletic middle-weight horse.
Western: A style of horseback riding that developed from cattle ranching in the American West. It evolved when the American cowboy required more comfortable equipment for long hours in the saddle over many miles of terrain, opting for the type of saddle the Spanish Conquistadors brought to the Americas.