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Horse Terminology 101: Anatomy Breeds Riding and Care

Horses are majestic animals that have been a part of human life for centuries. Whether used for transportation, farming, or racing, these animals have played a vital role in many cultures and societies.

However, for those new to horses, there can be a lot of confusion around the terminology used to describe these animals. In this article, we will go over common anatomy and health terms, and also explore different horse breeds and types.

Horse Anatomy and Health Terms

Colt vs. Filly vs.


When referring to a young horse, the terms colt, filly, and foal are often used interchangeably. However, there are some subtle differences between the three.

A colt is a male horse under the age of four, while a filly is a female horse under the age of four. A foal is simply a horse that is still nursing from its mother, regardless of gender.

Gelding vs. Mare vs.


The terms gelding, mare, and stallion refer to a horse’s sex and reproductive status. A gelding is a castrated male horse and is often preferred for their even temperament and lack of hormonal behavior.

A mare is a female horse, and a stallion is an uncastrated adult male. Stallions can be aggressive and are not recommended for inexperienced riders.


When referring to the height of a horse, the measurement is usually given in hands. One hand is equivalent to four inches, so a horse that is 15 hands tall would be 60 inches or five feet tall at the withers, or the highest point on the horse’s back.

Bay, Chestnut, Roan

There are many different coat colors and patterns in horses, but some of the most common are bay, chestnut, and roan. A bay horse has a brown body with black mane, tail, and legs.

A chestnut horse has a reddish-brown coat with a matching mane and tail. A roan horse has a mixture of white and colored hairs in their coat, giving them a speckled appearance.


If a horse is lame, it means that they are experiencing some sort of abnormality in their gait or movement. This can be caused by a wide range of factors, from injury or illness to poor hoof care.

It’s important to recognize the signs of lameness in horses so that any underlying issues can be addressed promptly.


Colic is a common condition in horses and refers to abdominal pain. The term colic can cover a wide range of symptoms and causes, from mild gas pain to life-threatening blockages or twists in the intestines.

It’s important to monitor horses for signs of colic, such as restlessness, sweating, and lack of appetite, and seek veterinary care immediately if necessary.

Horse Breeds and Types

Warmblood vs. Coldblood vs.


Horse breeds can be classified into three categories: warmblood, coldblood, and hotblood. Warmblood horses, such as Hanoverians and Dutch Warmbloods, were originally bred for use in European militaries and are known for their athleticism and good temperament.

Coldblood horses, such as Shires and Clydesdales, were bred for working and farming and tend to be large, heavy animals. Hotblood horses, such as Thoroughbreds and Arabians, are known for their energy and speed and were typically bred for racing or riding.

Grade vs. Registered

When looking at horses, you may come across the terms grade and registered.

A registered horse has a pedigree that can be traced back through generations, usually with a specific breed association, such as the American Quarter Horse Association. A grade horse, on the other hand, has an unknown or mixed pedigree, and may not have the same documented history or lineage.

While registered horses can often command higher prices, grade horses can still make excellent companions for riding or working.


Understanding the terminology used in the horse world can be overwhelming, but knowing the basics can help you better communicate with other horse enthusiasts and care for your own animals. By learning about horse anatomy and health terms, as well as different breeds and types, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a knowledgeable and responsible horse owner or rider.

Horse Riding and Training Terms

English vs. Western Riding

There are two primary styles of horseback riding: English and Western.

English riding is often associated with jumping and dressage events and focuses on close contact with the horse’s mouth to control speed and movement. Riders typically ride with a lighter seat and hands, using their legs to guide the horse.

Western riding is more commonly associated with trail riding and rodeo events and focuses on a secure seat and a slower, more relaxed pace. Riders use Western saddles and reins, which are longer and heavier, and often hold the reins in one hand.

Green vs. Bombproof

When considering purchasing or working with a horse, two terms that may come up are green and bombproof.

A green horse is one that is relatively new to training and may not have much experience under saddle. These horses often require a more experienced rider or trainer to help them learn the basics and develop their skills.

A bombproof horse, on the other hand, is one that is well-trained and used to a variety of stimuli, such as loud noises or unexpected movements. These horses tend to be more predictable and safer for inexperienced riders.

Collection vs. Extension

In horse training, two terms that come up frequently are collection and extension.

Collection refers to the horse’s ability to bring their hindquarters underneath themselves, shift their weight onto their hind legs, and round up their back. This is often necessary for more advanced dressage movements and can help improve the horse’s balance and overall athleticism.

Extension, on the other hand, refers to the horse’s ability to lengthen their stride, covering more ground with each step. This can be useful for events like jumping or barrel racing, where speed is key.

Horse Tack Terms

Bit vs. Bridle

A horse’s bridle is made up of several different components, one of which is the bit.

The bit is a metal mouthpiece that sits inside the horse’s mouth and is attached to the rest of the bridle. There are many different types of bits available, each with a slightly different design and intended use.

For example, a snaffle bit is a mild, direct-contact bit often used in basic riding and training, while a curb bit is a more severe bit that adds leverage and is often used in more advanced riding. Saddle vs.


The saddle is the seat that the rider sits on while riding the horse. There are many different types of saddles available, each designed for a specific riding style or purpose.

For example, a Western saddle is larger and heavier, with a deep seat and high cantle, while an English saddle is shorter and lighter, with a more forward seat and flatter panels. The girth, also known as a cinch, is the strap that secures the saddle to the horse’s belly, keeping it in place during riding.

Breeches vs. Jodhpurs

When riding, it’s important to wear pants that allow for comfortable movement and grip.

Breeches and jodhpurs are two common types of riding pants. Breeches are tight-fitting pants that end just below the knee, with a reinforced knee patch for added grip.

They are often made of breathable, stretchy material and are commonly used in English riding. Jodhpurs are similar to breeches but extend all the way to the ankle.

They often have a flared leg and are commonly used in Western riding.


Horse riding and training can be a complex and rewarding endeavor. By understanding the terminology used in horseback riding and training, as well as the different types of tack, riders can become more knowledgeable and confident in their riding abilities.

From understanding the difference between English and Western riding to knowing the best types of pants to wear, there’s a lot to learn. Whether you’re a seasoned horseback rider or just starting out, familiarizing yourself with these terms can help you become a more well-rounded and informed horse enthusiast.

Horse Care Terms

Farrier vs. Blacksmith

One of the most important aspects of caring for horses is proper hoof care.

This is where the difference between a farrier and a blacksmith comes in. A farrier is a professional who specializes in the care and maintenance of horse hooves.

This can include trimming, shoeing, and addressing any hoof-related issues or abnormalities. A blacksmith, on the other hand, is a metalworker who may also work with horses but focuses primarily on forging and shaping metal, including horseshoes and other equipment.

While a farrier may also be able to forge horseshoes, their main focus is the health and maintenance of the horse’s hooves. Blanket vs.


In colder climates or seasons, it’s important to protect horses from the weather to help them stay warm and comfortable. Two types of coverings that are commonly used are blankets and rugs.

A horse blanket is typically a thicker, more insulated covering that is designed to be used during colder weather. They may be made of materials such as wool or synthetic fabrics and can be used to help regulate the horse’s body temperature.

A horse rug is a lighter covering, often made of fleece or cotton, that may be used to help keep horses clean or comfortable when it’s not cold enough to warrant a full blanket.

Hoof Care

In addition to farriers, there are several other professionals who play a role in the care and maintenance of horse hooves. A hoof trimmer is a professional who specializes in trimming horse hooves, without necessarily making or fitting shoes.

This can be useful for horses that don’t require shoes or that may be prone to certain hoof-related issues. A veterinarian, of course, can also be involved in hoof care, particularly if there are any underlying health issues to address.


Another important aspect of horse care is grooming, which involves cleaning and caring for the horse’s coat, mane, and tail.

Grooming is not only important for the horse’s hygiene and appearance but also for their overall health and well-being.

Regular grooming can help to prevent skin issues, such as rain rot or scratches, and can also help the horse’s coat to grow and shine.

Grooming also allows for a chance to inspect the horse’s body for any signs of injury or abnormalities.


Proper feeding is essential for the health and well-being of horses. Depending on their age, breed, and activity level, horses may require different types and amounts of feed.

Common types of feed include hay, grain, and supplements, and it’s important to ensure that horses are getting a balanced diet that meets all of their nutritional needs.


Caring for horses involves a wide range of tasks and responsibilities, from proper hoof care to feeding and grooming. By understanding the terminology used in horse care, horse owners and caregivers can become better equipped to provide the best possible care for their animals.

Whether working with a farrier to maintain hoof health or choosing the right type of covering to protect against the weather, every aspect of horse care plays an important role in keeping horses safe, healthy, and happy. In this article, we covered different aspects of horse care, including the difference between farriers and blacksmiths, types of coverings, grooming, hoof care, and feeding.

Proper care and maintenance of horses are essential for their health, well-being, and happiness. By understanding the terminology used in horse care, horse owners and caregivers can become more knowledgeable and better equipped to provide the best possible care for their animals.

Remember to regularly groom, feed, and maintain good hoof care to ensure horses remain healthy and happy.



What is the difference between a farrier and a blacksmith?

A farrier specializes in hoof care for horses while a blacksmith focuses on metalworking and forging horseshoes.

2. What are some different types of coverings for horses?

Common types include blankets and rugs, which are used to protect horses from various weather conditions.


Why is grooming important for horses?

Grooming is important for hygiene, preventing skin issues, and checking the horse’s body for any signs of abnormalities.


What should horses be fed?

Depending on their age, breed, and activity level, horses may require different types and amounts of feed, including hay, grain, and supplements.

5. What is the importance of proper hoof care?

Proper hoof care is essential for the health and well-being of horses and can prevent them from developing conditions that can cause discomfort or lameness.

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