Master Equine Terminology with this Comprehensive Dictionary: Colors, Markings, and Gaits Explained

When you first get interested in horses there is a lot of Equine Terminology that can confuse you.

We have got you covered with this comprehensive equine terms dictionary. Here in this Equine Terminology guide, we are going to share some of the most commonly used equine terms, colours, markings and horse gaits styles. So make sure you read till the end.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents (Horspedia)

Glossary of Equestrian Terms | 41 Most Frequently Used Words in Equine World

In this article, you will find a complete glossary of all equine terms and words that can help you get around the modern equine terminologies.

ACTION: Descriptive of the movement of the legs at all paces. 

BARREL: The ribcage area of the body, roughly from girth to hip. 

BOTH LEGS COMING OUT OF ONE HOLE: Front legs which are set too close together at the top. 

COLD BLOOD: Heavy, bovine sort of horse suitable for farm work by strength and calm temperament. Very probably descended from Northern Forest type (see WARMBLOOD). 

COLT: An entire male horse under four years old. 

CONFORMATION: Word describing the build of a horse as a whole.

COW-HOCKED: When the hocks, viewed from behind, angle in towards each other, as in a cow. 

CRIB BITING: Vice developed through boredom. Horse grasps manger, top of stable door or fencing in its teeth and swallows air.

DEEP THROUGH THE GIRTH: Good depth from just behind the withers to just behind the elbow, allowing plenty of heart and lung room. 

ENTIRE: Synonymous with STALLION – an uncastrated male horse capable of being used at stud.

EWE NECK: Describes a concave line of the neck from ears to withers. A fault of confirmation.

FEATHER: Long hair on legs, springing from back of the fetlock and sometimes continuing up the back of the leg almost to the knee. 

FILLY: Female horse under four years old.

FLAT-SIDED: Descriptive of a flat ribcage that is not rounded or WELL SPRUNG. Tends to restrict the expansion of the lungs. 

FOAL: Horse under 1-year-old, as COLT FOAL, FILLY FOAL. 

FOREHAND: The front part of a horse, comprising head, neck, shoulders and forelegs.

GELDING: Castrated male horse

GOOSE RUMPED: Rump inclines sharply downwards from the point of hip to tail. A fault of conformation.

HAND: Term of measurement for a horse. 1 hand 4in. The height is taken from the highest point of the withers to the ground. A horse is described as being so many hands high, which is usually abbreviated in print as hh.

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HINNY: Offspring of a horse or pony stallion and a female donkey

HOCKS WELL LET DOWN: Hocks set low on long gaskins, resulting in short cannon bones—a most desirable point of conformation.

LIGHT-FRAMED: Having a slender bone structure, which gives an unsubstantial appearance.

MARE: Female horse aged four or more years.

MULE: Offspring of a donkey stallion and a horse or pony mare.

PIGGY EYE: Abnormally small eye. A fault of conformation.

PIN- or PIGEON-TOED: The feet point in towards each other. A fault of conformation. 

PLENTY OF BONE: Usually chiefly (though not necessarily) applied to the legs, descriptive of the good density of bone—a desirable quality.

PONY: Equine standing not more than 14.2hh (158in tall) at the withers, regardless of type. From 14.21hh (158 in) up, it is called a horse.

ROACH-BACKED: Prominent convex protrusion of the spine in the area of the loins, caused by malformation of the spinal column.

SICKLE HOCKS: Hocks which, when seen from the side, are bent too strongly at the joint, making the line from hock to ground angled forwards instead of vertical. A structural weakness. 

SPLAYED FEET: The hooves point outwards away from each other—a fault of conformation.

STALLION: An entire male horse aged four or more years. 

TIED-IN BELOW THE KNEE: Where the bone immediately below the knee is narrower than the bone halfway down the cannon bone. A serious weakness.

UPRIGHT PASTERN: The angle of the pastern between the fetlock joint and the hoof inclines too closely to the vertical. A bad fault, as it causes the pasterns to jar easily on roads or other hard ground.

UPRIGHT SHOULDER: Where the angle from the point of the shoulder to the withers inclines more to the vertical than is desirable. A fault that inhibits the free movement of the front legs, usually resulting in a short, scrappy action.

WARMBLOOD: Fine-boned type of horse, usually suitable for riding, as opposed to the more solid and more even-tempered COLD BLOOD. In some countries, they are distinguished as horses containing a strain of Arab blood. However, the fine overlap between “warmblood” and “cold blood” is still largely a matter of personal opinion.

WEAVING: Vice developed through boredom, often in imitation of another horse. Horse rocks from side to side. This prevents it from resting properly and so limits the work it can do. 

WELL-RIBBED-UP: Describes a horse with a good heart and lung room under the ribcage. The front ribs are set relatively flat, with the back or floating ribs “sprung” or rounded, providing plenty of room inside. 

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WELL SET/WELL SET ON: Commendatory terms describing a favourable angle of meeting between one part of the body and another, for example, neck well set on the shoulder. 

WELL-SPRUNG RIBS: Term of commendation describing floating ribs which are hooped outwards, giving ample interior room. (See WELL RIBBED-UP.)

WELL-TOPPED: Denotes good conformation above the legs.

Equine Terms Dictionary | Glossary of All Possible Equine Colours and Markings

Terms that are used to describe the Equine Colours and Markings are not necessarily familiar to everyone. So here we describe some coat colour and marking terminologies along with a brief description of each one of them. We will end this article with a description of 4 equine gait styles.

What are the most common Equine Colour Variations?

In terms of colour, the word points include mane, tail and most of the legs. 

Most common horse colors - part 1
Most common horse colours – part 1

ALBINO: Total lack of pigmentation, resulting in a pure white coat on pink skin throughout. Eyes pale blue, though dark-eyed albinos have been developed in the United States.

albino horse colour
Albino horse colour

APPALOOSA: Spotted areas on white ground, or white spots on a dark ground, either partly or all over the horse. Basic coat colour usually roan.

BAY: Brown head and body with black points. Variations according to the density of body colour are: 

  • Dark bay – dark brown with black points. 
  • Light bay – light brown with black points.
  • Bright bay-bright reddish-brown with black points.

BAY-BROWN: Color conforming partly, but not exactly, to bay and brown. For example, mane may contain both brown and black hair.

BLACK: Solid black all over (except where white markings occur on legs or face). 

BROWN: All over dark brown, usually nearly black, with brown points of the same density of colour. 

CALICO: See Pinto.

CHESTNUT: Muted orange body, varying in intensity from reddish to gold, with the same colour points. Chestnuts can be dark, light or bright according to the depth of colour. 

Light Chestnut Horse Colour
Light Chestnut Horse Colour

A true chestnut referred to simply as ‘chestnut’, is chestnut all over. A variation is a chestnut with blond mane and tail, distinct from palomino because of the deeper coat colour. 

CREAM: Cream body and points caused by lack of pigmentation. Skin is pink, eyes light-coloured (wall) or bluish.

DUN: Mouse-colored coat as opposed to brown, sometimes all over but usually with black points (called dun with black points). Duns range from blue dun, in which a greyish hue prevails, through mouse to golden or yellow dun.

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GRAY: A mixture of white and black hairs throughout the coat. Gray horses have black skins except where white markings occur, such as a blaze or stocking, under which the skin is pink. They are born near-black or dark (iron) grey and become whiter with age. 

  • A horse with a mainly white coat on black skin is called a light gray (as opposed to a pure white albino). 
  • Fleabitten gray occurs when dark hairs are present in tufts. 
  • Dappled gray, usually more evident in summer or clipped coats, shows dark circles on lighter ground.

LIVER CHESTNUT: Subdued chestnut, closer to dun or brown than a true chestnut.

ODD-COLORED: Conforming to no fixed colour.

PAINT: See Pinto.

PALOMINO: Creamy-golden body with flaxen mane and tail. 

PIEBALD: Body marked in large, irregular patches of white and black.

PINTO: North American word embracing piebald and skewbald, synonymous with paint and calico.

SKEWBALD: Body marked in large, irregular patches of white and any other colour except black. SORREL: American name for chestnut.

 Most common horse colors - part 2
Most common horse colours – part 2

What are the Most Common Equine Markings?

BLAZE: A broad white mark down the face.

Blaze Horse Head Marking
Blaze Horse Head Marking

SNIP: A white mark between the nostrils.

Snip - Horse head marking
Snip – Horsehead marking

STAR: A white mark on the forehead. 

Star marking on a head of a horse
Star marking on a head of a horse

STRIPE: A thin white mark running down the face

Stripe Horse marking on a Head
Stripe Horse marking on a Head

WHITE FACE: A blaze wide enough to cover forehead and eyes, extending over the nose and most or all of the muzzle. 

White Face Horse marking on Horse Head
White Face Horse marking on Horse Head

SOCK: White leg extending upwards from the hoof over the fetlock joint.

STOCKING: White leg extending upwards from the hoof to the knee or hock. 

Sock and Stocking Leg Markings of a Horse
Sock and Stocking Leg Markings of a Horse

WHITE CORONET, WHITE PASTERN, ETC.: A small amount of white covering only the part named. 

DORSAL STRIPE/DONKEY STRIPE: Black or dark brown line running along the spine.

Dorsal stripe on a horse also known as Donkey stripe
The dorsal stripe on a horse also known as the Donkey stripe

4 Natural Gaits of the Horse

The horse’s gait varies according to the speed at which it moves. Below you can find the table with some of the most common gait types in the equine world.

Gait Type:Gait Beat:Description:
Walk4-BeatSlowest, each foot comes down separately
Trot2-BeatThe opposing fore and hind feet hit the ground simultaneously
Canter3-BeatTo a casual eye may seem a slowed-down version of the gallop, is, in fact, a 3-beat gait.
Gallop4-BeatThe horse is fully extended, each foot can be heard to strike the ground separately.
Table describing various types of equine gaits

Walk Horse Gait Type | 4-Beat

Horse Gait Type - Walk - 4 Beat
Horse Gait Type – Walk – 4 Beat

Trot Horse Gait Type | 2-Beat

Trot Horse Gait Type | 2-Beat
Trot Horse Gait Type | 2-Beat

Canter Horse Gait | 3-Beat

Canter Horse Gait | 3-Beat
Canter Horse Gait | 3-Beat

Gallop Horse Gait Type | 4-Beat

Gallop Horse Gait Type | 4-Beat
Gallop Horse Gait Type | 4-Beat