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Equestrian Words

Updated on August 17, 2013

What did you say???

The equestrian world has a language all its own. If you're not familiar with the terminology you can quickly become lost in a conversation with an equine enthusiast. If you're in a situation such as riding a horse, grooming a horse or the general vicinity of a horse it is expected that you know this terminology.

After thirty five years in the equestrian world I still hear new words, that I have no idea what the definition is supposed to be. Whether it's a word identifying tack, a horses gait or some other feature pertaining to horses, I haven't heard them all apparently. I can usually make an educated guess at what the word is supposed to mean and get through the conversation. You can too if you have a basic understanding of equine terminology. Often times labels and identifying terms are just shortened versions of the original word or slightly altered.

Below are several words, grouped by their subject, relating to the equine world. This is not a complete list of all terms by any means, but it is enough words to get you moving in the equine circle comfortably.

Common Equine Anatomy Words

Common Anatomy Words
Common Anatomy Words | Source

Western Saddle Identification

Western Saddle Identification
Western Saddle Identification | Source

Saddle Id's Defined

ID
Definition
HORN
A knob coming out of the pommel very much like a boat cleat except the top is not a large "T" it's more of an upside down "L" formation. The horn is for roping cattle, not a source of security for the rider.
POMMEL
The front part of the saddle that sets high. The height depends on the activity the saddle is built for ie: roping = low pommel (for quick dismount & unhindered rope work), barrel racing = high pommel (grasp with your knees).
GULLET
The arched area at the front of the saddle where the horses backbone is allowed to pass through.
LATIGO KEEPER
This flap of leather with a slit in it is for the excess cinch strap to be threaded through so it won't dangle and tangle with the horses legs.
"D" RING
Used to attach the breast/chest collar to the saddle. There is one on each side of the saddle.
CINCH STRAP
A wide strap attached to the saddle below the jockey used to secure the saddle to the horse by attaching at one side, passing under the horses belly and attaching to the other side.
STIRRUP ADJUSTMENT
Either with a buckle or a slide adjustment, this part allows the stirrups to be lowered or raised according to the length of the riders legs.
STIRRUP KEEPER
This is a thick piece of leather on the inside of the fender, often it is a part of the fender, that keeps the stirrup attached.
STIRRUPS
One on each side of the saddle, they are used for the rider to place their boot in.
FENDER
The wide piece of leather that protects the riders legs from the cinch and cinch parts. Usually highly decorated with intricate designs.
2nd CINCH EYELET
This slit is for a second cinch to be attached. Cattle work, endurance riding, mountain riding all require a second cinch to prevent the saddle from sliding and flipping up in the back. It is loosely attached unlike the front cinch that is pulled tight around the chest of the horse.
SKIRT
The skirt protects the horse from the bars that hold the fender and the stirrups.
JOCKEY
The jockey is leather that sits below the seat and above the skirt.
CANTLE
Of various height according to the use of the saddle the cantel rises behind the rider securing their seat.
SEAT
This is where the rider sits on the saddle. When measuring a saddle place the tape measure at the front of the seat and measure to the rear of the seat. A measurement of 14" is a small seat, 16" is a medium seat and 18"+ is a large seat.

Learning & Knowing the Words

There are a lot of words that accompany the equine world, but don't worry, some of the words you'll learn just from hanging out at the stable and listening to other rider's.

Never pass up an opportunity to learn something knew, but take everything with a grain of salt. If I hear something new or something that just doesn't sound right, I will keep my ears and eyes open until I can confirm it myself. For example: Years ago, my neighbors horse started to colic. She asked me if I had any Pepto Bismol for the horse. I did and I gave it to her. I had not heard of Pepto Bismol as a remedy for colic, but that was years ago. To confirm that this was a good treatment, I asked her how the horse was doing the next day and she was more than happy to tell me exactly what had happened. Next, when the veterinarian came out for an annual horse check I asked his opinion on the subject and he filled me in on what he knew. It turns out that everyone had the same opinion about using Pepto Bismol for the onset of colic, it works just fine. But if I had heard conflicting information from any one of the information sources I would keep questioning until I had several answers on either the positive or negative side

It's just a good idea to research remedies and ideas before you apply them to a horse, their life may depend on it.

Below you'll find photos related to the equine with definitions of the photos plus commonly used terms below that.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bridle PartsChestnut on front inside of legs.The Under-hoof.  Identifying the Frog (looks like an owl)Grooming Tools: Soft Brush, Hoof Pick, Curry Comb.Ground WorkingThe PollConformation: The whole horse, muscle tone, head position, legs, back, etc.
Bridle Parts
Bridle Parts | Source
Chestnut on front inside of legs.
Chestnut on front inside of legs.
The Under-hoof.  Identifying the Frog (looks like an owl)
The Under-hoof. Identifying the Frog (looks like an owl)
Grooming Tools: Soft Brush, Hoof Pick, Curry Comb.
Grooming Tools: Soft Brush, Hoof Pick, Curry Comb.
Ground Working
Ground Working
The Poll
The Poll
Conformation: The whole horse, muscle tone, head position, legs, back, etc.
Conformation: The whole horse, muscle tone, head position, legs, back, etc.

Equestrian Terminology & Definitions

Term
Meaning
Term
Meaning
AT STUD
Stallion is available for breeding
GROUND WORK
Training done with no rider.
ACTION
How the horse is moving his legs, especially troting.
HAND
Horse measurement. 1hand = 4 inches
BALK/BALKING
When the horse stops and will not move forward on command.
HEADSTALL
Just the piece that goes on the head, no bit, no reins on it.
BAREFOOT
A horse not wearing shoes. The hoof in the 3rd thumbnail is barefoot.
LUNGE
Exercise where horse circles trainer on a lunge line.
BILLET OR GIRTH STRAP
The thick strap that holds the saddle on the horse.
LEAD
Which front leg of the horse lands LAST.
BIT
The bit is the metal piece inserted to the horses mouth.
NECK REIN
By placing the rein on the horses neck to turn him.
BOT FLY
A fly that lays white bot eggs on the horses hair (cause of worms)
NEAR SIDE
Left side of the horse. Normal side to mount.
BRIDLE
The entire piece of equipment place on the head of the horse.
POSTING
Rising out of your seat at a trot then set back down rhythmically.
WALK, TROT,CANTER, LOPE, GALLOP
Various gaits (or speed) at which a horse propels himself.
SURCINGLE
Thick padded training cinch with clips.
COLIC
Commonly used for an equine stomach upset that can be deadly.
TACK
Refers to grooming & riding equipment.
CONFORMATION
This is the look of the horse. The muscling, stance, weight, head position, etc.
COLT(male), FILLY(female), FOAL(both), YEARLING(12-24months)
Refers to the age of a horse.
These terms should get you started and feeling comfortable in the equine community.

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