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Equine Terminology

While a complete list of equine terminology would be hundreds if not thousands of definitions we have endeavored to give a general overall set of short definitions. If you would like to add to this please email us and we will include your word.

A
Action
The way a horse moves at various gaits (walk, trot, canter, gallop)
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Aged
A horse over 9 years old. The average horse is 25 to 30 years.
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Azoturia
Cramping of a horse's large muscles, also called "tying up".
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Bale
A measurement of hay, equal to 10 "flakes". This can vary depending on the type of hay or grass.
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Barn Sour
A horse that doesn't like to leave the or stable.
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Behind the Bit
When a horse places his head down to evade contact with the bit.
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Bomb-proof
A horse that doesn't spook.  Usually well trained and calm minded.
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Breeding Stock
A mare or stallion that meets the eligibility requirements to be registered as a distinct breed.
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Breeder
A person who breeds horses for a living or hobby.
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Bridle
The entire headpiece, the headstall, bit, chin strap, reins, browband, noseband, crownpiece, and throatlatch, etc are called the bridle.
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Broodmare
A female horse that is used strictly for breeding. Although a mare could become a after years of professional life. Sometimes called the Blessed Mare.
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Buck
When a horse jumps upward and arches his back.
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C
Canter
Term used in English riding for a three beat gait. This is the same as a lope or slow in Western discipline riding.
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Colt
A male horse under 4 years old that has not been castrated.
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Choke
Choke is not as common as colic, but is commonly considered a veterinary emergency. The most common cause of choke is horses not chewing their food thoroughly, eating food too quickly, especially if they do not have sufficient access to water, but also sometimes due to dental problems that make chewing painful. It is exceedingly difficult for a horse to expel anything from the esophagus, and immediate treatment is often required. Unlike choking in humans, choke in horses does not cut off respiration.
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Conditioned Response
When a horse is trained to a stimulus the same way every time the animal confronts that stimulus. Associative learning is often a reflexive, response.
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Conformation
The overall structure and proportions of a horse’s body in relationship to one another. What is acceptable conformation will vary depending on the horse bred.
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Cribbing
When a horse chews on wood on a regular basis (i.e wood stall or fence) usually associated with boredom and confinement. Wood chewing is more often linked to simple boredom or to hunger, though there is also a theory that a may also be a contributing factor.
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D
Dam
The mother of the horse.
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Dapples
Round, colored markings on a horse's coat. Silver dapple: caused by a dilution gene that only acts upon black hair pigment, it lightens black body hair to a chocolate brown and the mane and tail to silver. The gene may be carried but will not be visible on horses with a red base coat. Gray dapple: dark-colored horse with lighter rings of graying hairs, called dapples, scattered throughout.
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D.V.M.
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  Often shortened to vet, is a physician for animals and a practitioner of veterinary medicine.
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E
Easy Keeper
A horse that easily keeps his weight. This may have to do with the horse’s metabolism or work schedule.
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F
Farrier
A blacksmith who does horse shoeing and trimming of horses. They are also knowledgeable about health and hoof maintenance.
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Filly
A female horse under 4 years old. In horse racing Thoroughbreds are considered fillies up to age 5.
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Flake
One tenth of a bale of hay. Some hay may not break apart easily for ten flakes.
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Foal
A baby horse or pony still at its mother's side. Can be either male (colt) or female (filly).
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G
Gallop
The fastest gate that a horse uses. The gallop is very much like the canter, except that it is faster, more ground-covering, and the three-beat canter changes to a four-beat gait.
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Gelding
A castrated male horse.
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Groundwork
Lead rope and long-line training, also called long-lining or free lunging. A precursor to both harness driving and having reins used by a mounted rider.
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Gut Sounds
The noises that can be heard from a horse's.
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Gymkhana
Rodeo events made up of games such as pole bending and barrel racing.
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H
Hand (hh)
This is the common way to measure horses height. One hand is 4 inches, so a horse that is 15 hands is 60 inches tall.
Light riding horses such as Arabians, Morgans, or Quarter Horses usually range in height from 14 to 16 hands (56 to 64 in/140 to 160 cm) and can weigh from 850 to 1,200 pounds (390 to 540 kg).
Larger riding horses such as Thoroughbreds, American Saddlebreds or Warmbloods usually start at about 15.2 hands (62 in/160 cm) and often are as tall as 17 hands (68 in/170 cm), weighing from 1,100 to 1,500 pounds (500 to 680 kg).
Heavy or draft horses such as the Clydesdale, Belgian, Percheron, and Shire are usually at least 16 to 18 hands (64 to 72 in/160 to 180 cm) high and can weigh from about 1,500 to 2,000 pounds (680 to 910 kg).
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Hard Keeper
A horse whose weight is hard to maintain. Thoroughbreds are usually considered hard keepers.
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I
In season
When a mare is in her heat. It last several days and this is the time the mare is receptive to the stallion.
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J
Jennet
A female donkey or also a small Spanish horse.
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Jog
Western discipline term for a slow trot.  About the same speed as a healthy adult human can run.
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L
Lope
One of the four gates: Walk, Trot, Canter, and Gallop. Lope is a Western term for a three-beat gait, the same as canter. Some people count these as three gaits by considering the canter a variation of the gallop, while others count them as four separate gaits. All four gaits are seen in wild horse populations. While a few other gaits may occur naturally to some horses, these four basic gaits occur in nature across almost all horse breeds.
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M
Mare
A female horse over 3 years old. However in Thoroughbred horse racing, a mare is defined as a female horse more than four years old.
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Martingale
A leather device used to control the position of a horse's head. See Tie Down.
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Horse Minerals
Horses not unlike people require a balanced and varied supply of, especial if the horse in involved in strenuous work or competition.
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Mule
The offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Mules are almost always sterile. The sterility is attributed to the differing number of chromosomes of the two species: donkeys have 62 chromosomes, whereas horses have 64.
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P
Paddock
A large enclosure to hold a horse(s). The term can mean any field in the agricultural sense.
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Pony
Breeds of small horses, fewer than 14.2 hands tall.
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Purebred
A horse that through generations of unmixed breeding has and will produce the preferred physical characteristics of the breed.
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Put Down
Euthanize, put to sleep. This is unfortunate but if the horse is not able to recover or is in serious chronic pain it is best for the animal.
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R
Rails
The horizontal bars that make up a jump or sides of an enclosure.
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Rogue
A horse with a bad temper. Usually means the horse is in pain or has other emotional issues that have not been addressed.
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S
Saddle Rack
Stand to hold your saddle when it's not on a horse. This protects the spine as well as the shape and leather.
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Sire
The father of a horse.
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Sound
This is the term to describe a healthy horse. A horse can be sound enough for one discipline but not for another. For example a horse could be sound for pleasure riding but not competition jumping.
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Stallion
A male horse over 4 years old that has not been castrated. Stallions will follow the conformation and phenotype of their breed, but within that standard, the presence of hormones such as testosterone may give stallions a thicker, "cresty" neck as well as a somewhat more muscular physique as compared to mares or geldings.
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Stud Book
This is a listing of breeding horses (male or female) that is maintained by a registering organization. This is an official list of animals within a specific breed whose parents are known. Animals are usually registered by their breeders when they are still young. The terms "stud book" and "register" are also used to refer to lists of male animals "standing at stud", that is, those animals actively breeding, as opposed to every known specimen of that breed.
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T
Tack
Horse tack is all the gear that comes with owning a horse. The bridle, saddle, bit, girths, cinches, saddle pads, lead ropes, halters, whips, stirrup irons and stirrup leathers, horse boots, and most other horse things are tack.
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Tie Down
A Western term for a martingale, used to control the position of a horse’s head while riding. A design with one strap that runs from the girth or the chest and attaches to the nose band of the bridle. The standing martingale acts on the horse's nose and creates an absolute limit to how high a horse can raise its head.
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Tree
The basic structure of a saddle, which is then covered with leather. Considered the spine of the saddle and can get damaged with ruff use. 
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Trot
A two-beat gait. There are many different types of trot, from collected trot to racing trot. Names can vary depending on the discipline that one is referring go – Western or English.
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Truck-in
A person who brings their own horse to riding lessons.
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Turnout
When a horse is let out of its stall into a pasture or arena or corral.
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Tying Up
Or azoturia, (painful large muscles) is a condition to which only some horses are susceptible and most cases are linked to a genetic mutation. In horses prone to the condition, it usually occurs when a day of rest on full grain ration is followed by work the next day. The horse will exhibit signs of pain in the abdominal region. The pain is caused by the inadequate blood flow to the muscle tissue, the inflammation from the resulting cell damage, and the release of cell contents. Muscle spasms, caused by the lack of blood to the muscle tissue, are also painful.
The condition may also be related to electrolyte imbalance. Electrolyte or mineral imbalances, especially seen with potassium. A deficiency in selenium or vitamin E. Imbalance of hormones, including the reproductive hormones in nervous fillies and mares. Thyroid hormones in horses with hypothyroidism. Proper diet management may help minimize the risk of an attack.
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U
Unsound
A horse with health problems or lameness. If a veterinarian deems a horse unfit for its intended use, the horse will most likely be considered “unsound”. An unsoundness usually refers to any condition which will severely inhibit the horse from performing. Examples of unsoundness’s include dental diseases, blindness or other eye problems, founder and tumors.
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Under
Is a slag term making reference to the weight of the horse. If a horse is under, then the horse is under weight.
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Under himself or herself
This is when a horse is “under itself”. This indicates that the horse raises its head, arches its back, and in so doing brings its legs more under its body and is ready for action and well balanced.
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V
Vitamins
Are an integral part of good and nutrition as needed for health and vitality.
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V.M.D.
Veterinary Medical Doctor, often shortened to vet, is a physician for animals and a practitioner of veterinary medicine.
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W
Weanling
A horse under one year old that has been weaned from his mother. Once a year old, the horse is referred to as a yearling.
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Y
Yearling
A horse just approaching or just turning one year old. Yearlings are comparable in development to a very early adolescent, they are not fully mature physically or emotionally.
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