Glossary of Basic Horse Terms

Bridle: headgear (usually including a bit and reins) fitted around a horse’s head that is used by the rider to control and guide the horse

Colt: a male horse under 4 years of age

Dam: a horse’s mother

Filly: a female horse under 4 years of age

Foal: a baby horse of either sex

Gaits: the different speeds at which a horse moves. The most common gaits are a walk, a trot/jog, a canter/lope and a gallop.

Gelding: a castrated male horse

Girth (or cinch): the strap or set of straps going around a horse’s belly that attaches a saddle to his back

Green: a horse with little training or experience, often a young novice

Halter: headgear fitted around a horse’s head to help catch and lead him

Hand: a measurement of 4 inches (roughly a hand’s width) by which a horse’s height is gauged at the withers, or shoulder

Mare: a female horse 4 years of age or older

Pony: an equine that measures under 14.2 hands at the shoulder, or withers

Reins: the straps that attach to the horse’s bridle (usually via the bit), by which the rider steers and stops the horse

Saddle: a seat for the rider of a horse, usually constructed with stirrups for the rider’s feet

Shank: a length or rope or leather that is attached to a halter or bridle to help lead a horse

Sire: a horse’s father

Sound: healthy and moving without any signs of lameness

Stall: a room within a stable or barn, usually about 12’ x 12’, in which a horse may be kept

Stallion: an uncastrated male horse (also referred to as a “stud”)

Tack: equipment used for horseback riding, usually consisting of a saddle, bridle and accessories

Weanling: a young horse that is no longer nursing from its dam; most horses are weaned at around 4 or 5 months of age and are called weanlings until they reach 1 year of age.

Yearling: a horse that is approximately 1 year old

(For more terminology, see our infographics on the Parts of the Horse, the Anatomy of the Hoof, the Colors of the Horse and Horse Markings, as well as our section on Grooming and Grooming Tools.)