10 Terms Only Horse Lovers Know

Horse Sand Roll
  1. Amble—A general term for a range of four beat intermediate speed horse gaits. These gaits are approximately the speed of a trot or pace but far smoother to ride. Various terms for lateral ambling gaits, based on style, speed or rhythm of gait and breed of horse.
    These include the slow gait, single foot, running walk, stepping pace, paso llano, rack, tölt, and paso largo. Ambling refers to lateral gaits but may be applied to all four beat intermediate speed gaits. These include the diagonal four-beat gait referred to be terms such as fox trot, pasitrote, and trocha.
  2. Balking—When a horse refuses to move. Multiple causes, including disobedience, fright, and pain or injury.
  3. Bolting—When a horse suddenly runs away, with or without a rider. When a horse eats its feed too rapidly.
  4. Bucking—A behavior where the horse lowers its head and rapidly kicks its hind feet into the air. At liberty, seen as an expression of excess energy or high spirit, under saddle is generally considered a disobedience, except in sports such as the rodeo sports of Saddle bronc and bareback riding, where the horse is deliberately encouraged to attempt to dislodge its rider.
  5. Canter—A three-beat horse gait, with both front and rear legs on one side landing further forward than those on the other side – see lead below. In Western riding, the canter is known as a lope. The order in which the feet hit the ground varies depending on which legs are leading, but the gait begins with the outside hind, followed by the simultaneous landing of the outside front and inside hind, finished by the inside front.
    There is a moment during a canter when all four hooves of the horse are off the ground, known as the moment of suspension. A similar gait is the gallop (see below) which is performed at a higher speed, when the second beat is broken into two footfalls, making it a four-beat gait.
  6. Counter Canter—A form of the canter where the equine is deliberately asked to canter on a curve with the outside leg leading, which is opposite of usual. Also known as galop faux, false canter, or counter lead. It is used to help build muscle and suppleness in a horse.
  7. Dressage—A classical form of equine training, involving the gradual training of the horse in stages. An Olympic level equine sport based on classical principles of horsemanship, involving taking tests designed to gauge the training level of horses in classical dressage. Lower levels of dressage competition are organized by national equestrian organizations, but the higher levels, including the Olympics, are governed by the Federation Equestre Internationale.
  8. Hand—A measurement of the height of a horse. Originally taken from the size of a grown man’s hand but now standardized to 4 inches. The measurement is usually taken from the ground to the withers. If expressed with a period and number after it, the number represents additional inches, so 15.3 hands (“fifteen-three”) would be 15 times four inches, plus three inches – that is, 63 inches (160 cm).
  9. Rearing—When a horse rises up on its hind legs. If performed while being handled by humans, is usually considered a severe, dangerous disobedience. Occasionally, horses are trained to rear on command for uses such as film or circus work. Rearing may occur while an animal is loose, being ridden, or while being handled by a human from the ground.
  10. Sand Roll—A stall or yard covered with deep sand, which is used by horses to roll in after exercise.

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