Equine Anatomy

All riders should become familiar with their horse”s anatomy. This is not only helpful in talking with other equestrians, but very important when describing an injury or problem to your veterinarian.

Graphic description of the horse''s anatomy.

Equestrian Terms

These basic terms will help you feel professional and competent:

  • aged: a horse who is at least nine years old
  • bale: a measurement of hay/alfalfa; each bale is composed of 10 “flakes”
  • barn sour: a horse who doesn”t like leaving the barn or stable
  • bay: a chestnut-colored horse with black legs and tail
  • bit: the metal piece of a bridle that goes into a horse”s mouth; types include curb bit, snaffle bit, gag bit and Pelham bit
  • blaze: a broad white marking a horse”s face
  • break: to train or gentle a horse
  • bridle: leather headgear that includes the headstall, bit and reins; helps give the rider control
  • broodmare: a mare used for breeding
  • canter: a smooth three-beat gait slower than a gallop (also “lope”)
  • chestnut: a red or brown horse
  • colt: a male horse under four years old
  • conformation: the body structure of a horse
  • dam: the mother of a horse
  • derby: a staked event for three-year-old horses
  • equestrian: someone who rides horses; having to do with horses
  • equine: a horse
  • ferrier: a blacksmith; the person who shoes the horses
  • feather: the longer hairs on a horse”s legs
  • filly: a female horse under four years old
  • foal: a baby horse
  • furlong: 1/8 of a mile
  • gaits: patterns of movement: walk, trot, canter, gallop
  • gallop: the fastest three-beat gait
  • gelding: a castrated male horse
  • green: a young, inexperienced horse who has just started training
  • groom: to clean or brush a horse; or one who is hired to groom a horse
  • gymkhana: a rodeo where mounted games such as barrel racing are played
  • halter: rope/canvas headgear with a lead attached
  • hand: the term used when measuring the height of a horse; one hand equals four inches, abbreviated “hh” for hands high
  • heart girth: the circumference of a horse measured from between the front legs and over the withers
  • jockey: the person who rides a horse in a race
  • juvenile: a two-year old thoroughbred who has just become eligible to race
  • lunging: training a horse through a large circling walk, trot or canter around the trainer
  • maiden: a horse with no wins
  • mare: a female horse at least 4 years old
  • martingale: a strap on the harness between the nosepiece and the girth that prevents a horse from tossing his/her head (also “tie down”)
  • mule: offspring of female horse and male donkey; mules are sterile
  • mustang: a feral (wild) horse found on the western north American plains
  • nearside: the left side of a horse; the mounting side
  • novice: a horse that has had his/her first win
  • offside: the right side of a horse
  • paddock: a fenced enclosure
  • pony: a small breed or horse under 14.2 hh
  • reins: long straps connected to the bit or bridle used by the rider to control the horse
  • rollers: the sound a horse makes when he blows out air when spooked
  • silks: a jockey”s jacket and hat in the colors of the horse”s stable
  • sire: the father of a horse
  • sound: healthy
  • stallion: a male horse at least four years old
  • stirrups: the metal loops attached to a saddle into which a rider”s feet go
  • stud: a stallion used for breeding
  • tack: horse riding and training equipment
  • tree: the main structure of a saddle
  • trot: a two-beat gait (also “jog”)
  • turnout: set to pasture, or let loose in an arena or corral
  • weanling: a horse under one year old who has been weaned from his/her mother
  • yearling: a horse born the previous year; or one who is approaching or is one year old.