If you’re not a horse person, a trip to the barn or arena can feel like entering a foreign country. All the different terms used in horse conversations can be confusing, especially if you don’t understand their meaning. To help, we’ve compiled this list of basic horse terms that you should know.
A horse is a large perissodactyl mammal in the family Equidae that’s primarily used for draught work and riding. It is the largest land mammal that can be ridden. It has a long neck, strong back and a sloping shoulders. The neck has two pressure points on the poll that allow the rider to request the horse to put its head down. The poll is also the center of the horse’s balance.
There are many breeds of horses, including Arabians, quarter horses, polo ponies and thoroughbreds. A mixed breed is a horse that has parents of different breeds.
A bridle is the piece of tack that goes on a horse’s head and helps to control it. It consists of a head stall, bit and reins. A bridle can also have a cheek piece, which is a strap that fits around the lower part of the horse’s face and is used to help control it when it’s being ridden.
An arena is a circular ring where horses are exercised. It is used for horse shows and other events that are timed, such as barrel racing. A bronco is a horse that works in the rodeo, such as bucking off cowboys. A snaffle is a type of English bit. A pelham is a one-piece English bit that’s part snaffle and part curb.
A pony is a miniature horse that’s no taller than 14.2 hands when fully grown. A mare is an adult female horse three years or older, while a stallion is any adult male three years or older who has not been castrated. A foal is a newborn horse.
Champing at the bit is a phrase that describes behavior seen in horses when they’re frustrated by restraint or delay. The horse may chew or gnash its teeth in an attempt to express its frustration.
Beating a dead horse means to keep pushing a matter that’s not likely to succeed. The term has become a common expression in the United States, but it originated in the 19th century in England.
A paddock is a small pasture or enclosure that’s larger than a pen. A paint horse is a horse registered with the American Paint Horse Association that has a distinctive body color and markings. It’s important to understand the terminology of a particular discipline before you participate in that activity. For example, in barrel racing, a tie down refers to the equipment that’s attached to a horse’s girth, from the girth to the noseband, so that it has something to lean on when moving at high rates of speed and changing direction quickly. This allows the horse to remain balanced and prevents injury.