Horseback Riding Terms For Beginners

Horseback riding is an enjoyable pastime for many people. It is a way to enjoy nature and appreciate the majesty and beauty of horses. For people who are new to horseback riding it is not only important to learn how to ride, but to also learn the related terminology. Learning the language will help novice riders understand what they are learning and will broaden their knowledge and enjoyment of horseback riding. While it is not necessary for casual and new riders to know every word associated with the pastime, the basics are important and useful.

  • Above the Bit

    Refers to the position of the horse's head, when it is held high above the rider's hands. This is an incorrect head position and is typically caused by excess pressure of the bit.
  • Aged

    A term used to identify horses that are fifteen years old or greater.
  • Aids

    Natural or artificial methods by which a rider communicates with his or horse. Includes one's voice, hands, legs, spurs and whip.
  • Artificial Gaits

    Gaits that have been taught. These are not natural movements and include, but are not limited to the slow gait and running walk.
  • Bit

    The portion of the bridle that is placed in the mouth of the horse. The bit allows the rider to use the reins to control and guide the movements of the horse.
  • Blinkers

    Shields that are attached to the bridle for the purpose of preventing distraction by hindering the horse's ability to see to the sides or look behind.
  • Bridle

    Apparatus that is placed on the head of the horse for the purpose of controlling it. Attached to the bridle are the reins and the bit.
  • Broke-in

    A trained horse that can be safely ridden.
  • Cadence

    The rhythm that is associated with the stride of a horse.
  • Cannons

    Refers to the horse's lower legs, from the knee to the ankle.
  • Canter

    The gait of a horse that falls between a gallop and a trot and includes three hoof beats.
  • Colt

    The term used to describe an uncastrated male horse that is no older than four years old.
  • Dismount

    When a rider gets off of the horse.
  • Disunited

    When a horse breaks from the intended gait and performs it incorrectly.
  • Dressage

    Refers to the training of a horse to develop both its ability and physique.
  • Equestrian

    An individual who is involved in the showing or competitive riding of horses.
  • Equine

    A term that refers to a horse.
  • Filly

    The term used to identify female horses who are four years old and younger.
  • Foal

    A newborn, male or female horse that has not been weaned, typically under one years old.
  • Forefoot

    A term used for the front foot of a horse.
  • Gait

    The movement and speed of a horse. Gaits may be natural or artificial. Natural gaits include walking, trotting, cantering, and galloping.
  • Gallop

    A fast gait that has four beats. During a gallop all four hooves are off the ground at one period.
  • Gelding

    The term used for a castrated horse.
  • Get

    The term used to refer to a stallion's offspring.
  • Hand

    A method of measuring the height of a horse, with one hand equaling four-inches.
  • Harness

    Equipment that is used to attach a plow or carriage to a horse.
  • Hindquarters

    A horses buttocks, upper rear legs, dock of tail, hips, and croup.
  • Hoof

    The hard, horny part of a horse's foot.
  • Horse Shoe

    A metal "shoe" that is attached to the hooves of a horse using nails. The purpose is to protect the hooves from injuries and unnecessary cracks.
  • Impulsion

    The movement of a horse driven by the hindquarters and back legs.
  • In Foal

    A pregnant mare, or female horse.
  • Jodhpur

    Riding pants that are fuller at the hips and taper down at the calves.
  • Jump

    An obstacle during competition that requires the horse and rider to jump over it.
  • Lame

    A horse that limps or is otherwise hindered in its movements due to pain or injury.
  • Maiden

    An unbred female horse.
  • Mane

    The length of hair that grows from the neck of a horse.
  • Manege

    An oblong or rectangular training area for horses.
  • Mare

    A term used to identify an adult female horse that is four years old or older.
  • Mount

    The act of getting on a horse.
  • Near Fore

    The front left leg of a horse.
  • Near Side

    A horse's left hand side.
  • Off fore

    The front right leg of a horse.
  • Offside

    A horse's right side.
  • Pony

    A small horse that is full-grown.
  • Purebred

    A horse that is bred from horses of the same breed.
  • Put Down

    A term used when a critically injured or ill horse is euthanized.
  • Rein In

    Pulling on the reins to bring a horse to a stop.
  • Reins

    A strip that is attached to the bit to allow the rider to directly regulate the horses movements through the horse's mouth.
  • Remount

    The act of getting back on a horse after falling or dismounting.
  • Saddle

    A leather seat for riding that is fastened to the back of a horse.
  • Saddle up

    To fasten a saddle on a horse.
  • Side-saddle

    A horse riding position in which both legs are on one side of a horse.
  • Sound

    A term used to describe a healthy horse.
  • Stallion

    An adult, uncastrated male horse that is four years old or older.
  • Skittish

    A nervous or jittery horse.
  • Tack

    Accessories and gear used for riding, such as the saddle, bits, bridal, etc.
  • Unsound

    A lame or unhealthy horse.
  • Walk

    A natural gait that is also the slowest gait.
  • Weanling

    A foal that is not yet a year old, but is no longer nursing.
  • Yearling

    A horse that is one-year-old, and no older than two.
  • Published:
  • Updated: 4/25/2022: 10:25:27 AM ET
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