EQUINE FACTOR

A crash course in horse jargon

Posted June 03, 2011, at 4:11 p.m.

As summer camp season approaches, bringing packs of first-time horseback riders to the farm, I start fielding questions and correcting misconceptions of the students and their families.

For anyone with a small child begging, with eyes big as saucers, to be allowed to please, please, please go to horse camp, I thought I might offer some horse lingo definitions. For everyone else, feel free to follow along and then impress your friends at parties with your equestrian knowledge.

There are obscure and elite words such as “martingale” and “pelham,” “bosal” and “slobber straps.”  OK, so the last one isn’t exactly elite.  What I will offer are words that you may hear Former Begging Child spout at dinnertime conversations after horse camp, or words that you would be able to use at a party (unlike slobber straps).

There are two basic categories of riding styles, English and Western. Within those two groups are subgroups, but knowing  whether a sport is English or Western gives you automatic entrance into the horsey club.

Western events are the ones with cowboy saddles. The riders hold the reins in one hand. English riders have smaller, daintier saddles and hold the reins in both hands. All of the finer points of riding are essentially the same within the two styles, although the English riders will most often post at the trot. Posting is the act of standing and sitting in the rhythm of the horse’s trot. It is not bouncing. It is in lieu of bouncing.

Both English and Western horses walk; after that it diverges. Western horses jog and lope while English horses trot and canter. The gaits are physiologically the same, but vary in tempo. Western gaits are slower, English gaits show more action.

Occasionally, especially at summer camp, a rider will be saddled — clever use of horsey pun there — with a mount that was not informed of its assigned discipline and a Western rider will be trying in vain to keep a seat on an overly animated horse, while an English rider may be kicking until her legs are black and blue to get her horse to shift out of mosey.

As for the horses themselves, the little ones are ponies and the bigger ones are horses. Ponies are not babies. There can be baby ponies, but a pony is just a short horse. A baby pony or horse is called a foal. Colts are male horses up to 5 years old and fillies are the female equivalent. Adult horses are mares (female), geldings (altered males) or stallions (intact males).

I could go into colors, but that gets tricky with variations and dilutions and coat patterns.  Most of the horses the average person runs into are some shade of brown. The two main coat colors in the brown category are bay and chestnut. Bay horses have black manes and tails, chestnuts have manes and tails that match their coat color or are of a similar shade. Secretariat was a chestnut. Seabiscuit was a bay. Black Beauty was, well, black. That was an easy one.

Now you are equipped to impress your begging children and acquaintances at posh parties with your horse lingo knowledge.  If I can be of any further assistance, you can find me in the barn next to the bay gelding.

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