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Equestrian: Terms to Know

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To stop short of an obstacle.


A metal mouthpiece to which reins are attached.


A harness of leather straps that fits around the horse's head and holds the bit.


A snaffle bit that works with a curb bit in a double bridle.


A gait, which resembles but is slower than a full gallop, when three legs are simultaneously off the ground. Canters include (from shortest strides to longest): collected canter, working canter, medium canter and extended canter. This is tested in dressage.

Chef d'Equipe: A team's head coach.


As fences are set within one or two strides of each other, combinations may require a rider to lengthen or shorten his or her horse's stride in order to reach the optimum take-off spot for each jumping effort.

Curb bit

A single-bar mouthpiece that attaches at each end to the upright bars. These bits give the rider more control over the horse, but they are harsher on the horse's mouth than a snaffle bit.


This includes refusal to jump over an obstacle, running out or circling (a horse crossing back over its own line).


When the horse's legs are out of sequence in a canter.
Double bridle: A traditional English bridle with curb and snaffle bits that provides the rider with a greater degree of control over a single bit.


Penalty points awarded for making a mistake, such as a refusal at an obstacle or exceeding the optimum time.

Flying change

A skipping movement at the canter where the horse hangs his leading front leg on every stride tested in dressage.


When a horse moves sideways, bent in the direction of the movement.


The four movements used by a horse: walk, trot, canter and gallop.


A bitless bridle used as reins that applies pressure to the horse's nose and jaw in order to control the horse.

Half pass

A forward and sideways movement at the trot or canter that's tested in dressage.


When the horse stands attentive and motionless, with all four legs straight and even to each other. This is used is dressage.


If one or more riders are tied for first place after the final scheduled round, there may be an extra round of competition, known as the jump-off.

Knock down

When a horse or rider hits a gate, fence, or any other obstacle, causing it to fall.


A white strip on the edge of the water jump. If the horse touches the lath it is a scored a fault.


Named after obstacles found over the Grand National Steeplechase course in Liverpool, England, a liverpool has an expanse of water beneath an oxer or in front of a vertical.

Optimum time

The target time in the cross-country event. Each second above the time carries a penalty of 0.4 faults.


A spread obstacle that resembles double fencing used on farms to pen oxen and other livestock, and is composed of two (or sometimes three) vertical elements to be jumped in a single effort. Oxers are the most common type of spread fence.


A suspended trot in slow motion, moving forward.


A highly measured, elevated and cadenced trot where the pairs of the horse's feet diagonally opposite each other are alternately raised and returned to the ground. During this dressage move, the horse's head is vertical and the neck is raised and arched.


A smooth and rhythmic circle executed in place on a radius equal to the length of the horse. This is tested in dressage.


When a horse stops at a jump, incurring faults.


When a horse shakes off the rider's control and runs around a fence instead of jumping it.

Snaffle bit

A simple bit that consists of one or two bars linked in the middle. There are rings at each end that attach to the reins.


An obstacle that requires a horse to jump for both height and length.

Square oxer

A spread obstacle, which has the top rail of all elements at the same height.

Step oxer

A spread obstacle that is higher at the far end. Also referred to as a "ramped oxer."


The horse's ability to easily and confidently execute his moves. Submission is also demonstrated by the horse's ability to accept the bridle and take the bit. Putting out the tongue, grinding the teeth or swishing the tail are signs of resistance and will be noticed by the judges.

Swedish oxer

A spread obstacle where the fence rails are set high on one side and low on the other, with the back rail reversed, giving the visual impression of jumping through a "V."


Changes of pace or movement made as a horse and rider pass from one arena marker to another. Transitions should be quick but smooth.

Triple combination

Three fences in close proximity, with just a few steps between them.


A gait in which the horse moves its diagonal legs at the same pace. Types of trots include (from shortest strides to longest strides): working trot, collected trot, medium trot and extended trot. These are tested in dressage.


A vertical, which tests a horse's vertical leap, is made of three or more rails supported on a pair of upright standards at each end.


A marching pace in which the footfalls of the horse's feet follow one another in "four time." Types of walks include (from shortest strides to longest strides): collected walk, medium walk and extended walk. A free walk has a relaxed pace and the horse has complete freedom to lower and stretch his head and neck.

Walk the course

This is the pacing off of strides between obstacles in a jumping course prior to the competition.


A type of jump constructed of wooden blocks, which are traditionally painted to resemble stone.

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