Horse Riding Terminology

horse-readingIf you’re new to the horse world, you might feel as if you have to learn a whole new language just to understand what’s going on in your lessons.

Horse people sometimes have a tendency to forget that not everyone understands horse-riding terminology.
Fortunately, this brief guide to horse riding terms will put you one step closer to learning the language of horseback riders. If you don’t understand what something means, never hesitate to ask.

Common Horse Riding Terminology:

If you’re starting riding lessons, this is terminology that you can expect to hear.

  • Gaits: “Gaits” is the term used to describe how the horse is moving. For example, it would be the human equivalent to saying that you’re walking or running. Of course, a horse’s gaits are often discussed in relation the number of beats, or footfalls, that the horse takes.
  • Balanced: The first time you hear someone say, “Your horse isn’t balanced,” you’ll probably be completely confused, after all, your horse is standing, right? When you hear “balance” in the horse world, it has more to do with the horse’s way of going. Sometimes, horses have a tendency to put more weight on their forehand or have developed a habit of leaning to the left or right, which makes them unbalanced in their movements.
  • Aids: “Aids” is the name given to the cues that you give your horse with your body to communicate with him.


  • Tack: Tack is the equipment that the horse wears when you’re riding. Common examples of tack are saddles and bridles, but there are hundreds of pieces of tack in the horse world.
  • Half-Halt: A half-halt is an aid that has numerous meanings; it can be used to stop, prepare, or to re-balance.
  • Lateral work: Lateral work is the term used to describe movements in which the horse moves sideways with certain parts of its body.
  • Circle: Just as the word implies, a circle is indeed a circle. When riding, there are different sizes of circles measured in meters: 8m, 10m, 15m, and 20m.
  • On the bit: This term is used when the horse is working properly from his hind end. While the emphasis is put on the hind end, the horse will appear to be bending his neck.
  • Above the bit: The opposite of on the bit, above the bit means that the horse’s nose is sticking out and that he is not working properly from behind.
  • Working, medium, and extended gaits: Being very talented animals, horses can essentially change “gears” within their gaits. Working, medium, and extended are terms not used to describe the speed but rather length of a horse’s strides.
  • Seat: When you hear “seat” it refers to the part of your body that is sitting in the saddle.
  • Lower leg: A common term to hear during a lesson, your “lower leg” is the part of your leg that starts below your knee and extends to your ankle.
  • Rushing: When someone says that a horse is “rushing” they mean that the horse is not engaged from behind and is moving too quickly.
  • Transition: A “transition” is the term used when you change gaits, for example, going from the walk to the trot is an upward transition.


Filed in: The Basics

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