70 Words and Phrases to Identify a Horse

By Mark Nichol

An extensive vocabulary surrounds the various subjects pertaining to horses. Below is a list of contemporary and historical words and phrases referring to horses distinguished by characteristics such as color or type of use (but not by breed—hundreds of distinct breeds exist). Some entries also include other meanings for the terms.

1. bay: a reddish-brown horse
2. black: a black horse
3. bronco: a wild horse of North America’s western region
4. buckskin: a yellowish horse with a dark mane and tail; also, the skin of a deer and the leather produced from it, or, previously, to a person dressed in such leather
5. carriage horse: a horse selected, based on appearance and graceful gait, to draw a carriage
6. cart horse: a horse used to draw heavy loads
7. charger: a horse ridden in battle, tournaments, or parades; also, a large platter
8. chestnut: a grayish-brown or reddish-brown horse; also, a type of tree, the wood of the tree, or the nuts produced by the tree (and to the horse chestnut, a separate species), as well as a callus on a horse’s leg or a tired joke, expression, or song
9. chunk: a strong, stocky horse smaller than a draft horse; also, a large or thick amount or part of something
10. cob: a stocky, short-legged horse; also, an ear of corn or the core of it, a male swan, a clay-and-straw mixture for building structures, or a type of Spanish coin
11. cold blood: any one of various breeds of horses bred for calmness and strength
12. colt: a young male horse; also, a young, inexperienced person or a member of a youth sports team
13. courser: an energetic, fast horse
14. cow horse: a saddle horse trained for herding cattle
15. cow pony: see “cow horse”
16. cutting horse: a saddle horse trained to separate animals from a herd
17. destrier: see charger
18. dobbin: a slow horse, or a horse used on a farm
19. draft horse: see “cart horse” (also spelled, in British English, “draught horse”)
20. dun: a grayish-yellow horse with a dark mane and tail; also, that color, or drab and dull
21. feral horse: a free-roaming horse of domesticated ancestry, often loosely referred to as a “wild horse”
22. field hunter: see hunter
23. filly: a young female horse; also, a girl or a young woman
24. foal: a horse less than a year old; the phrase “in foal” means “pregnant”
25. galloper: a fast horse
26. gelding: a castrated horse
27. grade horse: a horse of unknown breed or mixed breed
28. hack: a horse available for hire, a worn-out horse, or an easygoing saddle horse (and see hackney); also, a ride on a horse, a vehicle that can be hired for transportation or its driver, a person (especially a writer) who works primarily for financial gain, an inexperienced or inept athlete, or a computer expert or someone who accesses a computer or a computer system to steal information or cause damage (or an instance of such an act)
29. hackney: a horse for riding or driving (and, capitalized, a breed of small, high-stepping horse); also, a vehicle that can be hired for transportation
30. hot blood: any one of various breeds of horses bred for agility and speed
31. hunter: a strong horse used in fox hunting and stag hunting; also, a person who hunts wild animals or a dog trained to help in hunting, or a person who searches for something (as a treasure hunter), or a type of pocket watch
32. Iberian horse: any one of various breeds of horse once bred in Spain and Portugal
33. jade: a worn-out or temperamental horse; also, a flirtatious or disreputable girl or woman
34. jennet: previously, a small horse from Spain; also, a donkey or a stallion-donkey hybrid (also called a jenny)
35. mare: a mature female horse (or other similar animal); also, a supernatural being that was said to cause nightmares
36. mount: a saddle horse (and an instance of riding a horse, especially in a race); also, a frame or a support, or a mound or a mountain
37. mustang: a small, strong wild horse of North America’s western region; also, a commissioned officer in the military who began service as an enlisted person
38. nag: an old, worn-out horse; also, someone who annoys with repeated complaints or comments
39. Oriental horse: any one of various breeds of horse bred in the Middle East
40. pack horse: a horse used for carrying supplies
41. paint: a horse with patches of white and another color (sometimes distinguished from pinto to describe a pinto with quarter horse or Thoroughbred ancestry); also, a liquid layer applied to an object or structure, or slang for makeup or, in basketball (as “the paint”), the free throw lane
42. palfrey: a saddle horse other than one ridden in battle, or a small, easygoing horse to be ridden by a lady
43. palomino: a light cream or golden horse
44. piebald: a horse (or any other animal) spotted with white and another color, especially black; also, a spotted pattern like this
45. pinto: see paint
46. plug: see nag; also, something used to connect devices or to stop a hole or something resembling one, a piece of compressed tobacco, or a favorable mention that provides good publicity
47. polo pony: a horse used in the sport of polo
48. pony: a small, stocky horse (or in plural form, as slang, racehorses); also, a small glass for beer or liqueur, or a word-for-word translation of a text in a foreign language, especially when used to cheat on an examination
49. quarter horse: a small, strong horse good at running fast for short distances
50. racehorse: a horse bred and trained for competitive racing
51. riding pony: one of several types of horse used in competitive horseback riding
52. road horse: a horse used for pulling a carriage on a road
53. roan: a horse whose hide has white hairs mixed with a darker color; also, such a mixture, especially with a base of red
54. rouncey: an all-purpose horse ridden during the Middle Ages, as distinct from a warhorse (also spelled rouncy or rounsey)
55. saddle horse: a horse used for riding
56. show hunter: a hunter (see hunter) used in competitive horseback riding rather than for hunting
57. show pony: a type of riding pony (see “riding pony”)
58. skate: see nag; also, a shoe or an attachment for a shoe equipped with wheels (for rolling on a hard surface) or a blade (for sliding on ice), or a period of skating, or a flat fish with large fins, or slang for man
59. skewbald: a horse with patches of white and any other color than black
60. sorrel: a brownish-orange or light brown horse (or other animal); also, that color, or any one of several plants that produce a sour juice
61. sport horse: a horse used in various horseback-riding competitions (also spelled sporthorse)
62. stallion: an adult male horse (or other animal), especially one used for breeding
63. steed: a horse that is ridden, especially an energetic one
64. stock horse: a horse used in herding cattle
65. thoroughbred: a horse (or other animal) whose parents are from the same breed; technically, in capitalized form, a particular breed often bred for racing
66. trotter: a horse trained to trot in races; also, a pig’s foot used in cooking
67. warhorse: a large horse ridden in battle; also, a person with much experience (especially a politician or a soldier) or a familiar piece of visual or performing art
68. warmblood: any one of various breeds of horses bred to combine the characteristics of cold-blood and hot-blood types of horse
69. workhorse: a horse used for work other than riding, driving, or racing; also, a dependable, hardworking person or machine
70. working hunter: a type of show hunter (see “show hunter”) used in fence-jumping competition

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3 Responses to “70 Words and Phrases to Identify a Horse”

  • Mel

    Your information is mostly good but not quite right. A bay is a reddish brown horse, yes, but it must have black mane, tail, and legs. (See “dun”–a bay is a darker form of a dun.) This differentiates a bay from a chestnut/sorrel. These are interchangeable terms both designating a reddish-brown horse with matching (or lighter-colored) mane and tail. Your definition of a chestnut horse as grayish-brown or reddish-brown is, at least, original. I’ve never heard of a “grayish-brown” chestnut in my life, and I’ve worked with horses since I was 11 years old. (I’m 56.)

    Roans come in two basic varieties–strawberry roans, having white hairs mixed in with a red coat, and blue roans, having white hairs mixed in with a black or gray coat.

    And where did you get that “Paint” differentiates a horse with Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred ancestry? Paint horses come in a variety of breeds including Gypsy Vanners and Shetland Ponies (which nobody would mistake for a Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred).

    If you’re looking for other colors to add, consider the cremello–a much lighter version of the palomino. Or the Appaloosa, developed by the Nez Perce Indians in the early 1800s, which Lewis and Clark claimed were “lofty, elegantly formed, active and durable.”

  • venqax

    I know nothing about horses, but the American Paint Horse Association’s (APHA) breed registry says it (they) were developed from a base of spotted horses with Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred bloodlines. Of course that would not mean that any given one would look anything like a Quarter Horse or a Thoroughbred.

  • Agua Caliente

    Conspicuous by its absence is ridgling. Also, I wonder if “trotter” is meant to include the related “pacer,’ which is a horse trained to pace in races. I agree with Mel that “grayish-brown chestnut” just doesn’t add up.”

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