Definitions: Riding Terms

Glossary of some frequently used phrases:

Most horsemen are glad to share their experience and their advice. However, to the novice horse owner, learning what people are talking about without knowing most of these terms will be confusing. Added to the confusion are the differences between Western Riding and English Riding terms. Here are a few terms I had to learn. What terms perplexed you in the beginning? Add them in the comments section below. We will add to our list.

Turn on the Forehand: Dressage term when a horse moves his rear in a circle around his front. Western jargon the same as disengaging his rear or pivoting his rear..

Turn on the Haunches: Dressage term when a horse moves his shoulders around his rear. Western jargon the same as “spinning”.

Sidepass: Moving sideways with no bend in the body

Counter-bend Leg Yield: Moving sideways with the horse’s head bent away from the direction of movement and body curved into the direction of movement.

Lope vs Canter: A lope is a “gallop” to a novice. Actually it is a three beat stride that carries the horse forward at a fast but controlled pace, more slowly than a “gallop” or running. The Lope is the term for this pace in Western Riding and the Canter in English riding.

Tracking: The hind hoof print should replace the front hoof print at any gait. If a horse is relaxed and balanced, he is carrying himself with a rhythmic, self-carried movement. He is said to be tracking well.

Western Cinch (used on a western saddle) is similar to the Eastern Girth (used with an English saddle) Both secure a saddle to a horse under the ribs. However when used as a verb (to cinch a horse) it is used in both disciplines. “Cinching the horse” is the act of adjusting and securing the cinch or girth.

Soften: When a horse moves his body or any part of his body quickly and easily without need for jerking or shoving

On the reins: When the rider picks up the reins of the horse

Close rein contact: When a rider holds the reins in such a way as to maintain contact with the horse’s mouth through the bit

Throw the reins away: When a rider releases all tension in the reins – takes all contact with the horse’s mouth away

Inside Rein: The rein that “pulls” a horse’s head into the the direction of the desired turn in direct reining. In neck reining, it reinforces the bend requested by the inside leg by locking her head and neck into the bend: It keeps her bend in a circle while the outside rein is laid across her neck requesting the turn.

Supporting Rein: Provides a counter to the directional (inside) rein keeping the horse’s head from coming too far around. In most cases, the rider should see no more of the horse’s face than the outline of her eye. If her nose is coming around more than that, the supporting rein is not doing its job.

Handle the horse: When a rider uses bit contact to cue the horse to make maneuvers

Bring the horse to me: Collect a horse’s head. Arch the neck and drop the nose toward the chest. To drive the rear of the horse up into his face and raise his back up. Puts more propulsion on the rear and lightens the front of the horse. See Collection

Lateral move: Moving a horse or any part of a horse laterally (left or right)

Rate: to reduce speed or stop a horse as in “rate back”

Close leg contact: When the rider’s legs are in contact with the horse. Saddles or saddle pads with a lot of leather or bulk under the rider’s legs prevent close leg contact and make legs cues more difficult for the horse to distinguish.

Collected: When a horse brings his face to the vertical plane (90° to the ground), raising his back and putting more of his weight on his hindquarters. It allows a horse to move more easily and athletically – to change direction quickly, perform more complicated maneuvers or to jump higher obstacles. Cutting horses, dressage horses, and jumping horses must remain collected. All horses benefit from staying collected.

Framed: Similar to Collected.

Transition: Moving from one gait to another in a smooth and controlled manner.

Drive Line: There are essentially two drive lines described in Western Riding: The nearly vertical line where the neck meets the shoulder is the line behind which the horse is pushed to move forward and in front of which the horse’s forward momentum is slowed or stopped. The 2nd is a line parallel with the ground just above the tip of the shoulder. When the horse’s head is above this line, he is out of balance and his center of gravity is moved high and back, making his front end very light. This is frequently seen in horses who rear over backward.

Under no circumstances should information presented here be construed as veterinary in nature. Always consult your veterinarian if problems persist. Additionally, horse training and equestrian activities in general can be dangerous. While we try to present relevant and valuable content, under no circumstances does or its members or contributors take any responsibility for the well-being of any horse or person using a method outlined here.

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