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  • Foal -- Horse of either sex, up to six months of age
  • Weanling -- Horse of either sex, between six months and one year
  • Yearling -- Horse of either sex, between one and two years of age
  • Filly -- Female up to four years of age
  • Colt -- Male up to four years of age

  • Mare -- Mature female horse, four years or older
  • Stallion -- Mature male horse, four years or older
  • Gelding -- Castrated male horse
  • Sire -- Father of a foal
  • Dam -- Mother of a foal

  • Pony --Horse measuring under 14.2 hands in height
  • Purebred -- A horse whose recent ancestors are of the same breed; not to be confused with Thoroughbred, which is a breed
  • Papers -- Written record of family ancestors


  • Bar -- Area of gums between the front teeth and the molars which has no teeth and takes the bit. Also, continuation of the wall of the foot that turns inward at the heel.

  • Cannon -- Bone located between the knee and the fetlock, and the hock and the fetlock.

  • Check ligaments -- System of ligaments that, when locked in position, allow the horse to sleep standing up.

  • Chestnut -- Horny growth inside and above each knee, and inside and below each hock. Probably the vestiges of toes of the prehistoric horse.

  • Coffin Bone -- Sits between the second phalanx and the horny sole.

  • Coronary Band -- Where the hoof joins the leg; where the hoof wall is produced; source of growth and nutrition for the hoof wall and bars. Incorrectly referred to as coronet.

  • Croup -- Topline of horse from the top of the tail to the highest point of the hindquarters.

  • Dish-faced -- Concave profile of the face, typical in Arabians.

  • Ergot -- Located in a tuft of hair behind the fetlock joint, it may be the vestige of a toe.

  • Feather -- Long hair on lower legs, usually found in heavier horse and pony breeds. Most famous are the Clydesdales.

  • Fetlock -- Joint formed by the cannon, pastern and sesamoid bones.

  • Frog -- Triangular area located towards the back of the underside of the hoof. It is part of the weight-bearing structure of the hoof, designed to absorb concussion.

  • Gaskin -- Part of the hind leg between the hock and the stifle.

  • Hand -- Unit of measurement of the height of a horse, taken from the bottom of the front hoof to top of withers. Four inches = one hand.

  • Hock -- Joint in the hind leg joining the cannon bone and the gaskin; the equivalent to the human ankle.

  • Hoof -- The horny casing of the foot.

  • Laminae -- Membrane lining the hoof, some of which contain the blood vessels that feed the hoof, that attaches the hoof to the bones.

  • Navicular -- Boat-shaped bone behind the coffin bone.

  • Pastern -- Part of the leg between the coronet and the fetlock.

  • Sesamoid bones -- Small bones attached to the cannon and pastern by ligaments. Located behind the fetlock joint.

  • Splint bones -- One on either side of the cannon bone; vestiges of toes.

  • Stifle -- The equivalent of the human knee, it is the joint between the femur and tibia, and has a knee cap (patella) attached to the front.

  • Withers -- The top of the shoulders, between the neck and the back. The highest point of the withers is used in measuring the horse's height. See "hand".


  • Blemish - A fault in conformation that does not affect performance or way of going.

  • Crossfiring -- An interference in the gait of the horse in which the hind foot strikes the opposite forefoot.

  • Forging -- An interference in the gait of the horse in which the hind foot strikes the underside of the forefoot on the same side.

  • Gaits -- Sequence of the movement of the horse's legs. There are three natural gaits -- walk, trot, canter -- and a variety of specialized gaits particular to certain breeds -- fox-trot, pace, rack, running walk, etc. Western riders use the terms "jog" for trot and "lope" for canter.

    The walk is a slow, 4-beat gait in which the feet move diagonally -- front left, rear right, front right, rear left.

    The trot is a 2-beat gait in which the head is held steady and the diagonal feet move together. Faster than a walk.

    The canter is a 3-beat gait in which the horse will lead with one front leg and drive with the opposing rear leg. The sequence of footfalls for a "left lead" is: right rear, left rear and right front together, left front, then a period of suspension when all legs are off the ground. The "running" gait of a horse. A gallop is an uncollected, very fast canter and may be 3- or 4-beat.

    When backing, a horse uses a two-beat gait in which the diagonal pairs of legs move together; a reverse trot.

  • Overreaching -- An interference in the gait of the horse in which the hind foot steps on the heel of the forefoot on the same side.

  • Unsoundness -- A fault in conformation that does affect performance or way of going.

  • Way of Going -- Movement, and the placement of feet during movement.


  • Anthelmintics -- A fancy word for dewormers.

  • Cribbing -- A stable vice, like an addiction, in which a horse will arch his neck, grab hold of a surface with his teeth, suck in air and swallow it. While this can cause the muscles on the underside of the neck to bulge and often wears down the teeth, there are no other adverse effects. Cribbing can usually be controlled by placing a tight strap around the top of the neck.

This article was kindly provided by Michelle Staples, Staples Stables

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