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Horse Jargon

There's a lot of chatter on a yard and not all of it will make any sense, so here's a light-hearted beginner's guide to some of the more common terms you might hear.

MumsHaynet Horse Jargon

Behind the Vertical

This is when a horse carries its head and neck deeper towards the chest. As this could be the result of harsh equipment or riding, ask your trainer for advice.


Describes a horse that reacts with stiffness or resistance when you first get on, especially after a period of rest. As this could be an indication of sore muscles or pain, it needs to be taken seriously.


The communication between the rider's hands and the horse's mouth through the reins.


A lack of straightness in the horse. As this can lead to greater weight put on one leg or shoulder, it's something best fixed to ensure your horse's soundness.


Two ropes or chains used to secure a horse for grooming or tacking up. Not to be confused with two irate forms of neckwear.


When a horse's legs are out of sequence in a canter.


When a horse lengthens its stride. Also a useful word for the bank manager when it comes to the overdraft you will need to have a horse.


Training and exercises performed on flat ground, such as an arena.


A horse with excess energy is often called ‘fresh’, among other choice words.


A horse showing signs of discomfort or sensitivity when the girth is tightened. A hot topic with mares.


The colour-code description of an inexperienced horse..


Training exercises and activities performed with a horse while on the ground. Though not after a jump. That’s a fall.


A subtle – and often elusive – rein and leg aid used to rebalance and gather a horse's energy.

Heavy on the Forehand

Describes a horse carrying weight at the front because it lacks engagement of the hindquarters. This is a point way beyond contact that inches towards scaffolding as you attempt to keep your horse's head up.


A dipped back on a horse. This can be for a number of reasons and ought to be looked at by a vet or trainer, as harsh riding can also be a factor.


Used to describe a horse that is super energetic and highly reactive, rather than a horse that is the Brad Pitt of equines.


The forward energy and drive generated by a horse's hindquarters. This is your 'horse power'.

Inside Leg to Outside Rein

The mantra of all trainers. This is where the rider uses their inside leg to ask the horse to move into the outside rein for balance and control.


The leading leg when a horse is moving in a particular direction. For example, when cantering right, the front right leads, which sounds simple ... until you retrain an ex-racehorse.


A lateral movement in which a horse travels both forward and sideways at the same time. This will be the moment that your trainer finally acknowledges your talent for moving diagonally.


Exercising your horse on a lunge line in a circular pattern (not to be confused with gym exercises to strengthen your glutes).

Mucking Out

There’s a proverb in the UK, “where there’s muck there’s brass.” This doesn’t apply here. Mucking out is the act of removing soiled bedding and waste from your horse’s stable, with no financial reward.

On the Aids

When a horse is responsive to the rider's leg, seat, and rein aids.

On the Bit

When a horse accepts and seeks contact with the rider's hands by softly engaging and flexing at the poll. This is jackpot territory.


When a horse is more supple in one direction compared to the other. In this situation, two's company so work on suppling exercises.


When the hind hooves land beyond the imprint of the front hooves.


When a horse's hind foot strikes the heel of the front foot, and the reason why God created overreach boots.


Training or exercising a horse, typically in an arena. Also, a common verb to describe going around in circles.


Describes a horse that clears jumps with ease. This is a good thing, for jumping horses.

Soft Hands

The holy grail of good riding – to have gentle and sensitive contact with the horse's mouth through the reins.


When your flight animal reacts suddenly, and fearfully, to a perceived threat or unfamiliar object... like a tree.

Stable Vices

Behaviour that horses may develop in confinement, such as cribbing, weaving or windsucking. There’s nothing funny about this one.


The change between different gaits or within the same gait.

Turning Out

Taking a horse from a stable to the paddock, or a lovely big field, which could make ‘turning in’ challenging. Take an apple.


When the horse moves with the front end elevated and the hindquarters engaged. Note: when there's too much elevation at the front, this is better known as a rear.

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