Horse Show Terminology & Lingo

Everyone can use a brush up on show ring lingo. Things are easier when you understand them, so learning a little of the terminology before stepping into the show ring can help you win points.

Other Horse Glossaries

The Basics


A young horse, green hunters are in their first or second year of showing.


Unit of measurement for a horse which is equivalent to 4 inches. Horse and pony measurement is taken in hands from the ground to the withers.


The amount of ground a horse covers in one canter step.


A rider who shows, but is not paid to ride.


A rider, either hunter or jumper that is under 18.


Riders who are paid to ride their mounts.


Come in all shapes and sizes. Difficulty is determined by the construction, the materials and the size.

There are several types of jumps and each one has several components.

Essentially these are vertical board or pole jumps.

These are wide fences sometimes square and sometimes uneven.

Quarter and half rounds
Like their name they are rounded fences, either a quarter or a half dome.

Wooden poles used to create fences.

The upright structure that holds the rails of fences.


Part of the Olympic three, dressage tests the agility, flexibility and grace of a horse.

Cross Country

Part of the Olympic three, cross country tests endurance and speed.

Jumper Terminology

Part of the Olympic three, jumpers are judged solely on athletic ability over fences. The horses can be any breed or color so long as they can get through a course without faults.

A penalty incurred during a jumper class, includes downed rails, fence refusals or going over time limits.

Clear Round
When rideing a course against the clock, a clear round means there were no faults (downed rails or extra time) incurred.

Falling off or going off course is generally grounds for dismissal from the class.

If more than one jumper achieves a clean round, a jump-off is held against the clock to determine the winner.

An advanced division which does not restrict riders by their previous winnings.

Hunter Terminology

Judged on style and ability. The fences used in hunter classes are more organic in form and generally smaller than fences used in jumper classes.

Equitation Classes
Judge the ability of the rider not the horse. Riders will be evaluated on form and skill. Usually classified according to age and skill level.

Universal Show Lingo

Jumping Order
The order of the class is determined by a drawing before the class begins. Riders later in the class have the advantage of watching previous rounds before attempting their own.

The riders turn to jump a course.

The prescribed order of the jumps in a specific class. Courses are posted in advance so the riders can learn them prior to riding their round.

Walking the course
Riders are allowed to walk out the course route on foot to examine the fences and pace out strides between fences.

More than one jump in a row.

If a hunter or jumper deviates from the prescribed course they are off-course.

If a horse (or rider) makes contact with a fence and subsequently a rail falls. This is only a knockdown if it lowers the height of a fence.


When a horse stops before (or avoids entirely) an obstacle.

American Horse Show Association
The National federation in charge of regulating competitions and judges.

Start Practicing For the Ring

Now you are armed and ready to hit the show ring, all you need is hours of practice and a good horse.

26 Comments on “Horse Show Terminology & Lingo

  1. Maisye

    Thanks for the help!!! and Hayley… Yeah, purty much! LOL! no they aren’t all like that, but the stricter ones are usually the ones whose lessons you’ll remember most!!

  2. Cindy Sooy

    A judge told me that my horse “charges”. He was in an English class, w,t,c. What did he mean by that? Was he looking for a rocking chair canter? I thought that was a western requirement.

  3. Paige

    Hi Cindy,
    Was your class over fences? I’ve heard that term used to describe horses that run at fences.

    I’m assuming that what he was looking for was a more collected and controlled canter. Which is far more effective for approaching most fences, and can be asked for in flat classes.

    Hope that helps a little. :)

  4. The Only Western One?

    What about Western Definitions and Just Regular Horse Definitions I was riding before I can Walk and I still don’t know most of the tack, Care, Training, Showing, Type Definitions

  5. The Hunter Jumper

    Just one request- the types of classes one can see at local and rated shows, as well as their differences from other classes and what one is expected to do. (Ex: schooling hunters, baby greens, etc). I’m just starting into the show circuit and want to be prepared for the classes I’ll be in :)

  6. Kelsey

    Great stuff. But, what about western riders? Pisses me off how everyone posts stuff about english. not just here but everywhere. Ugh.

    1. melody

      Yes , I agree, need more info on western riding. Want to enter a western horse show here on our Island Kauai, need more info for that.

  7. Wes

    What does the term AOTH mean in the Horse Show world?
    There are a few other titles that I have run across in Arabian show stats. Where can I find the answers to what these anagrams mean?


  8. Paige

    That’s a good question Wes, I did some research and was unable to come up with an answer. I’ll keep looking and ask around to see if I can come up with a definition.

    *Update, I found it AOTH means Amateur Owner to Handle. Hope that helps! :)

  9. Newtoriding

    Hi I ‘ m newish to riding and I was reading someting that said:” 5year old Canadian -w/t and some canter.” ……… What does w/t mean?Also what does w/t/c mean?

    1. Paige

      Hi New,

      I’m not positive, but I’m assuming that means w/t means walk/trot & w/t/c means walk/trot/canter.

      Hope that helps!

  10. kim bari

    Hi Paige, I ask everyone to give me the actual definitition of the new jump conversions but everyone just says that meter 15 is just under 4′. I realize this but is the terminology derived from 1 meter, 15 centimeters, or not. I believe so, and it is embarasing to ask the judges, and so called professionals. Also, is a 33inch crop legal in a jumper class. What is the longest legal crop size. Thank you Paige. Kim Bari

  11. Horse luver

    Hi Paige! I have been riding english for 6 years now but my trainer says that I am not ready for the show world. Are their any good beginner classes that still have jumps and if so what show.

  12. carolyn

    I’m looking for the meaning of “I cracked my whip and the leader sprung and I said day day to the wagon tongue”. Can you help?

    <3 carolyn


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