Speaking Horse: Terms and Phrases

One time I was listening to my new horsey friends talk about horses. They were speaking horse, using terms and phrases I had no idea what they meant. As I listened and read and became part of the horse world these words became familiar.

I still don’t know what some words mean or I forget their meaning. So I decided to put together a page here with words and phrases I come across. It is a reference to look at whenever needed.

As I come across more words I will add them. If you’d like me to add phrases let me know and I will put them in.

I’ve added an image below of the horse anatomy. This is from an unknown 19th-century artist and found at Wikimedia Commons.

575px-Dessin_cheval_grand (1)



Airs above the ground: This is a dressage move made famous by the Lipizzan stallions at the school in Vienna.

A bit of trivia about the Lipizzans is they were portrayed in a Disney movie called Miracle of the White Stallions. A good movie.

Appaloosa: The Appaloosa has a beautiful spotted pattern coat. The Nez Perce Indians favored this horse.


Bolt: The horse moves fast into a gallop, out of control. He’ll do this when frightened. It’s his instinct to run from danger.

Bucking: The horse’s head is down, he hunches his back, and his hind feet are kicking up and out in the air.


Canter: This is slower than a gallop. It’s an easy three-beat gait.

Chomping at the bit: The horse is ready to go and he’s biting the bit ready for the signal to move out.

Cold-blooded: These are the mild-tempered equine. Some ponies and draft horses are considered cold-blooded.

Collection: This is a term for when the horse is using his hindquarters. A horse can be in a collection in any gait. Being in collection helps the horse move and perform better.

Colt: A male baby horse under a year old.

Crupper: Simply stated, a crupper is a piece of leather fashioned into a loop. It goes under the tail and is attached to the saddle. This keeps the saddle from slipping forward.

A crupper is also part of a harness keeping the equipment in place while the horse pulls a wagon, etc.


Dam: The mother horse.


Equine: According to the Oxford dictionary as an adjective, the word is related to horses and others in the horse family. As a noun, it is another word for horse.


Farrier: This is a professional hoof care person. One who trims the horse’s hooves and puts shoes on the horse if desired.

Filly: Female baby horse under a year old.

Foal: A baby horse of either sex, just borne.


Gaits: A term describing the various movements of a horse.

Gaskin: The part of the horse’s back leg above the hock.

Gelding: A neutered male horse.

Get down rope: This rope is put around the horses’ neck and used to lead him when out riding when you might have to dismount for one reason or another.

Green broke: A horse not fully trained. May have had some saddle and riding training, but needs a lot more work.

Groundwork: Training the horse from the ground before mounting. Getting them to back, go forward, and side to side, etc.


Hock: This is the bony part of the back leg that looks like a knee.


Longing: Using a long rope to do groundwork. Put the horse in circles, round and round and teaching to stop, go, etc. before mounting. Is used for older horses as well to make sure they are going to obey while riding.


Mare: the Female adult horse.


Offside: Right-hand side of the horse.


Paddock: An enclosed space for the horse where he can be fed and where he stays if not on pasture.

Paint Horse: This is a breed that brings together the stock horse with at least three different color patterns; Overo, Tobiano, and Tovero. The horse has white hair combined with brown, tan, black, and gray.

Pinto Horse: This horse is a color breed. They are dark in color with patches of white.


Quarter Horse: This is a breed of horse known for its ability to outrun other horses in a quarter mile race.


Stallion: A male horse.

Stud: A male horse used for breeding.


Tack: Horse equipment such as saddle, bridle, halter, etc.


Warmblood: Warmblooded horses came about as a result of a war. When the soldiers came home to Europe they brought back captured Arabian horses and bred them with their war horses. These offspring were quicker but milder in manner. Some of the most popular breeds to come from this combination are the Quarter Horse, Palomino, and Tennessee Walkers.