What in the World Does That Mean?: How to Decipher Equestrian Language

What in the World Does That Mean?: How to Decipher Equestrian Language

Even as a rider, you have to admit, we say some weird stuff. Do any other sports basically have their own language that isn’t featured on Rosetta Stone? Are any other sports as strange as ours? If so, please let us know we aren’t alone!

We’ve compiled a list of the weirdest phrases, idioms and terms in the horse world and taken the liberty of translating them to regular-people terms. From hearing people talk in the barn to reading these absurd sayings in ads, there’s a lot to learn. 

So, if you’re new to the sport, make yourself some flash cards and start studying like it’s the night before your college midterms.

You may be thinking- do horses usually have warm backs then? Did someone just ice the horse’s back? 
POS: adjective
Displaying signs of a sore or painful back until muscles warm up with exercise, especially when being saddled or girthed. 
Used in a sentence: He hasn’t been ridden in a while and seemed to avoid the saddle, he is cold-backed”. 
You may be thinking- why are people testing horses near bombs? We should probably get animal control involved. 
POS: adjective
Very calm and not reactive to outside stimulus that may make other horses take off in fright. 
Used in a sentence: This ‘ol guy is totally bombproof and is used for beginner riders.
You may be thinking- do horses even lie? 
POS: adjective
A horse that shows their feelings, but is generally obedient while being ridden. This doesn’t always mean the horse is “bombproof” (see above)
Used in a sentence: This mare can be a little difficult to ride, but she is honest and won’t surprise you. 
You may be thinking- I don’t think horses are scary looking. Well… *gazes over to the mare field*
POS: adjective
A horse that is easily startled. The culprits can be new environments, fast-moving people or other horses, sudden noises or even different jumps set up in the arena.
Used in a sentence: He is usually pretty spooky in the indoor arena because the birds fly around in the rafters. 
“On the bit”
You may be thinking- It must be difficult for horses to stand on a thin piece of metal.
POS: adverb
Describes a correct position of the horse’s head/neck while actively engaging their hind end. 
Used in a sentence: *A trainer speaking to their student* “Get her more on the bit, she looks like a giraffe!”

“Clean legs”

You may be thinking- Only after they’re groomed, right?

POS: noun

A horse’s legs that do not have conformation faults, swelling or issues from past injuries.

Used in a sentence: This horse has really clean legs, surprising for an off the track thoroughbred!


You may be thinking- like the birds and the bees? 

POS: adjective

A horse that has been trained for and performs correctly in a certain discipline. 

Used in a sentence: It can be so fun riding a made horse after training inexperienced horses. 


You may be thinking- Are they riding robotic horses? 

POS: adjective

This is almost synonymous with “made”. Push-button horses respond correctly every time to correct cues. 

Used in a sentence: Show ponies are often push-button, so they are easy and fun for children to learn the ropes of riding on.

“School master”

You may be thinking- What school do horses go to- private or public?

POS: noun

This is similar to “push-button” and “made”. Describes a horse that has received quality training and will consistently perform when given correct cues. Oftentimes these are older horses that know their jobs and have a lot of experience.

“Quiet leg”

You may be thinking- Is there such a thing as a loud leg?

POS: noun

A rider that has a correct, still and strong leg position in the saddle. 

Used in a sentence: All of the riders in the equitation classes have quiet legs. 

“Husband horse”

You may be thinking- Who is marrying horses? The police should probably be involved. 

POS: noun

A horse that is not easily spooked and is safe enough to bring your non-equestrian boyfriend or husband out on a trail ride. Not necessarily a school master, but is not spooky.

Used in a sentence: The old gelding in the barn is the husband horse- anyone can hop on and poke around. 


You may be thinking- Like on my shiny lifted truck?

POS: noun

White markings on either the legs or face that enhance the movement and initial appearance of the horse. 

Used in a sentence: The horse with 4 socks and a blaze has lots of chrome to get you noticed by the judge at the show. 


You may be thinking-  How careful can horses even be? They don’t even have thumbs!

POS: adjective

Careful horses are nimble and sure-footed. Usually referring to jumper horses, they pay attention to not touching the rails and leaving them up. 

Used in a sentence: My friend’s jumper is much more careful going over a fence than mine, so she leaves many more rails up at the show.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.