Glossary of Horse Terms

Here are some common horse terms or words we’ve come across that we weren’t familiar with when we started. I hope these definitions and pictures help:

(NOTE: STILL WORKING ON THIS PAGE! In the meantime, there are some great dictionaries at The Ultimate Horse Site, Horses_and_Horse_Information, Horse_and_Carriage, Equisearch and others.

Chestnut: Horny growth on the inside of the front leg above the knee and below the hock; also a reddish-brown color

Coggins Test: The “Coggins Test” is a blood test that tests for exposure to the virus causing Equine Infectious Anemia, a very serious, sometimes fatal disease that is carried by blood-sucking insects such as mosquitoes and flies. Symptoms include fever, depression and weight loss. Most states require any horse being transported to have a current Coggins test report (“current” varies from state to state – some are 6 months, some 12 – check with your state’s agricultural department or your vet).

Colic: General term describing abdominal pain in the horse. Ranges in severity from mild to life-threatening. Signs of colic include sweating profusely; pawing the ground; biting the abdomen, standing with legs outstretched; repeatedly lying down and getting up or rolling. If you suspect your horse has colic, call your veterinarian right away.

Colt: Uncastrated male horse under the age of four

Cribbing: A bad habit developed by a bored horse, where the horse repeatedly grasps an object (usually wood) with its teeth and sucks in and swallows air. Undesirable because of damage caused to wood, especially in stalls, and because of danger to horse – tooth damage, splinters in mouth, even colic (from swallowed wood)

Dam: Mother of a horse

Ergot: Small, horny area in a tuft of hair behind the fetlock joint on rear leg; similar to chestnut

Farrier: Expert in the art of shoeing horses and caring for hooves

Filly: Female horse under the age of four

Floating: The procedure for filing down a horse’s teeth. A horse’s upper jaw is larger than his lower jaw, so the teeth do not rub together as he chews, allowing sharp points and ridges to form over time. A horse normally chews from side to side, so if the teeth have grown too long, he starts to chew up-and-down (less efficient) and drop food. This can lead to weight loss, digestive problems or colic. A horse’s teeth should be floated once or twice a year. Consult your veterinarian for the proper schedule for your horse.

Foal: Baby horse or pony not yet weaned

Frog: A fleshy, triangular structure on the underside of the hoof

Gelding: Castrated male horse

Laminitis: Inflammation of the laminae (the inside lining of the hoof)

Mare: Female horse age over the age of 3-4

Proud Flesh: The technical name for this is “exuberant granulation tissue” – it’s when the generation of scar tissue in a wound is overabundant, causing excessive scarring.

Sheath: The outer casing of a horse’s penis

Sire: Father of a horse

Stallion: Uncastrated male horse age four or over; if used in breeding, also referred to as “stud”

Thrush: Fungal or bacterial infection of the frog, characterized by foul-smelling black discharge from the cleft of the frog. Our posts about thrush

Twitch: A device, usually a chain at the end of a wooden handle, applied to the top lip that is used to temporarily restrain a horse