Since we have written about horse terminology we’ve had requests for more information about more specific parts of the industry. Here is some of the basic terminology & lingo for the horse racing world.
If racing isn’t your thing, check out some other terminology within the horse world.
Basics | English Show | Dressage A-E | Dressage F-O | Dressage P-W
The way a horse moves.
January 1st is the birth date for all Thoroughbred horses.
A race for horses older than 2 years of age.
When a horse runs to the extent of their ability.
Reduction in required weight handicaps due to conditions like an apprentice jockey, a young horse for the field or a mare racing against males.
An animal who has been entered into a race but not allowed to start unless the field is reduced by scratches.
An animal that ran the race but didn’t place above 4th or qualify for purse money.
Also called bug buy, a rider who has yet to ride a specific number of winners in a specified period of time.
Weight concession for an apprentice rider.
Against The Spread
All weather track
Limited to 2 year old animals.
For standing start events the animal with the largest handicap is the black marker.
The straight away on the far side of the track.
Stable area of the track.
Also called the tape, this is an elastic band used in steeple chasing instead of a starting gate.
The ballot used to determine which starting stall each animal will occupy.
A jockey whip.
Bearing In or Out
Moving off a straight course, can be due to fatigue, injury or rider error.
Signal that sounds when the starting gate opens, also signifies the end of betting.
A finish so close one blanket could cover both finishing horses.
Being caught in between horses or against the rail and blocked from a free course.
A short workout a day or two before a race to prepare the animal.
A misplaced step away from the starting gate, usually caused by footing.
A sudden veer off a straight course.
Leaving the gate to start the race.
When a horse becomes lame or injured.
Horse or rifer winning for the first time.
Restraining an animal for a short distance in a race to conserve or renew their strength.
Working a horse at a moderated speed.
Apprentice rider or allowance.
A small racetrack, generally under a mile long.
The person who calls the running positions of each horse during a race.
An animal who is pulled up by his jockey for a moment because he is cut off or in tight quarters.
A race of traditional importance.
Clerk of Scales
The official who weighs riders before & after each race.
The person who times workouts & races.
An animal who runs best in the latter part of the race.
Usually the turn closest to the clubhouse.
Racing silks worn in the color of the horse’s owner.
A male horse under 5 years.
Class of horses on the field in a race.
Issued by the racing secretary outlining the conditions of the races to be run.
A race which with conditions which limit the race to a certain class of horse.
A jockey who is under contract to a specific stable.
Walking a horse to return them to a normal temperature after a race or workout.
A distance race that is a mile and a half or longer.
An animal qualified to run in distance races.
A track surface which breaks away under an animal’s hoof.
Surface or layer of the track footing.
Two or more horses finishing in an exact tie.
A racing surface that is lacking in resiliency.
In the US – a horse withdrawn prior to scratch time.
In Europe – A horse confirmed to start in a race.
A stakes race for 3 year old animals.
Winning for the first time.
Change in the finishing order by officials due to an infraction of race rules.
A race for fillies and/or mares.
Finishing a large distance behind the winner.
Strong urging by the rider.
Late in breaking from the gate.
An animal that is being held back by the jockey to prevent injury.
An animal who runs & wins without being urged by the rider.
A furlong – 220 yards – 660 feet.
An animal who neither gains or looses position or distance during a race.
An animal that is withdrawn from a race with consent of the stewards – often for medical reasons.
A rider who exercises race horses in the mornings.
An animal who is pushed to run at top speed.
More weight than the conditions of the race require.
An animal who ran well early in the race and falls back during the later stages.
Optimum footing, dry & even.
Money paid to to the rider or cost of entering or starting a horse in a stakes race.
Also called outside rail, the fence is the barrier between the stands and the racing surface.
Horses in a race.
Female horse aged 4 years or under.
The first turn on the track after the starting point.
A level race, one without hurdles.
Track equipment that drags excess water off of the track surface.
Half a mile – 880 yards – 2,640 feet.
A rested animal.
An animal who generally leads the field for as long as they can when they race.
One-eighth of a mile – 220 yards – 660 feet.
Equipment used to start races.
Track that is sloppy or wet on the surface but firm underneath.
A moderately good track surface – between fast & slow.
European equivalent to North American graded races.
Half of a mile – 4 furlongs – 880 yards – 2,640 feet
A race with conditions that a handicapper assigns weights to be carried by each animal on the basis of past performance.
The person who assigns the weights for handicap races based on past performances.
Racing or working with moderate effort – faster than breezing.
Urging a horse using the hands instead of a whip.
A margin between horses in a race.
Head of the Stretch
The start of the straight away leading to the finish line.
Track condition slower than a muddy track.
A race in which the top assigned weight exceeds 140 pounds.
A male or female horse over 5 years of age.
The person who walks them to cool them off after racing or workouts.
An animal that is getting tired but holding their racing position.
A race that is held over obstacles.
In The Money
Finishing 1st, 2nd or 3rd
The area inside the inner rail of the track.
Running under moderate control from the rider, not at best pace.
Weight an animal is assigned to carry.
When officials review the race to check for an infraction of race rules.
The amount of money paid to the rider.
A horse that runs steeplechase or hurdle races.
A two year old horse.
The weights carried by a horse when the rider doesn’t meet the weight requirements for a race.
The horse or pony used to lead the race horses from the paddock to the starting gate.
Leaky Roof Circuit
Minor race tracks.
The length of a horse from nose to tail (approx. 8 feet) which can be a measurement between horse in a race.
Slang for a horse that is sure to win.
Lug In or Lug Out
The bearing in or out, usually from fatigue or injury.
An animal or rider who has not won a race.
A race for maiden horses or riders.
Make A Run
When a horse charges ahead during a race.
Female horse 5 years of age or older.
A race with just two runners.
A rider who does well in rich races.
A horse that performs well in morning workouts but performs poorly in races.
A track with deep footing due to rain or water.
A horse who excels in races on muddy tracks.
One step up from a mudder.
A unit of measurement about the length of a horses neck, also a quarter of a length. Can be used to measure distance between horses in a race.
The smallest measurement a horse can win by.
A traditional stakes event for 3 year old fillies.
A foul claim made by a rider or judge. When made by an official it’s called an inquiry.
A sign displayed to confirm race results. Also a track officer.
A track with a wet surface.
On The Bit
A horse that is eager to run.
On The Board
Finishing among the first four places in a race.
When a horse races wide on the outside of the other horses.
Extra weight carried by an animal when the rider cannot meet the required weight for that race.
The relative speed of the leaders of the field during various stages during the race.
A fast gait used in harness racing in which the legs on the same side of the horse move together.
The area of the track where horses are prepared & kept prior to post time.
The official that oversees the preparation routines in the paddock.
The officials who watch the progress from various spots around the track.
A racing result that is so close that a photo must be used to determine the winner.
A horse that is blocked in by other animals and forced back in the field.
Second place in a race.
The officials who determine the finishing order of the field.
A horse that is boxed in and running with horses next to & in front of them.
Markers set at measured distances around the track which mark the distance from the finish line.
The position a horse holds in the starting gate.
The walk from the paddock to the starting gate.
The designated time for a race to start.
A workout or race run for the purpose of preparing for a future engagement.
An animal who refuses to break from the gate with the field.
A trainer who works with horses from a number of stables.
Prize money which is not contributed by the owners.
A quarter of a mile – 440 yards – 1,320 feet.
A horse that doesn’t have a chance of winning, but entered in a race to tire out the front-runners and soften competition for another entry.
The official who writes the conditions of each race & assigns handicap weights.
A horse who prefers to run next to the inside rail.
When the first starting attempt is nullified by a starting official.
When a horse won’t break from the starting gate or refuses a jump during a jumping race.
A horse that wins through urging without the whip.
An ill-tempered horse.
Running or winning easily.
A race that is a mile or longer.
A horse who does well running distance races.
A permanent suspension from the track due to an infraction of the rules.
Scale of Weights
Fixed weights to be carried by horses who race based on age, distance, sex & time of year.
Getting a horse accustomed to starting from a gate and other racing practices.
A horse that is taken out of a race.
A claiming race.
Fillies & mares are allowed to carry 3-5 pounds less when racing males, based on their age & the time of year.
A horse who needs more work or races to reach winning form.
When a horse & rider are unable to improve their position in a race because they are pocketed.
The racing silks worn by jockeys to designate the horses owner.
Track footing that is wet on the surface but firm underneath.
Track footing that is between good & heavy.
Mild restraint of a hors by it’s rider.
A 3 year old horse.
An animal who places 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a stakes race.
A race in which the owner must pay a fee to run their horse.
An animal who is eligible to compete in stakes races.
An allowance or handicap race that is restricted to animals who have started for less than a specific claiming price.
A robust horse who can race over long distances.
A horse that is taken in by it’s rider, often because they are in close quarters.
When a horse moves up in class to run against better runners.
The officials responsible for enforcing race rules.
A jumping race that requires horse & rider to jump large obstacles.
A jockey’s whip
Calks on racing shoes to provide better traction on muddy or soft tracks.
The straight portion of the racetrack that leads to the finish.
A registry and breeding record of Thoroughbreds maintained by the Jockey Club.
A fee that is paid by the horse owners to nominate or maintain eligibility for a stakes race.
A two wheeled cart which carries a river and is used for harness racing.
A temporary punishment with a specified period of time given for an infraction of race rules.
A horse that is abruptly pulled up by their rider because they are in close quarters.
The group of numbers tattooed inside the upper lip of registered Thoroughbreds.
A horse that is ready to race.
A jumper or steeplechase race horse that is jumped over timber fences.
The highest weight assigned or carried in a race.
A track surface that favors a particular running style.
The fastest recorded times over various distances for that specific track.
A race workout
A horse’s race.
In the US – The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes & Belmont Stakes
In England – The 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby & St. Leger.
In harness racing a trotter moves with a diagonal gait.
A grass racing surface.
A trainer who has signed a contract to for a specific amount of time & compensation.
A horse that is being whipped or strongly urged.
A horse that is strongly restrained during a workout or a race.
A horse that has not raced or been tested for speed.
Slowly pulling a horse out of intensive training.
The person who attends to the riders.
A race in which only one horse is not scratched. They are required by the rules to gallop the required distance.
A horse that breaks out in nervous sweat prior to a race start.
When a horse & rider thread their way through the field during a race.
A fixed scale of weights which must be carried by horses according to age, sex, distance and time of year.
Heavy, difficult breathing after a race or workout.
To exercise a horse.
A horse that is less than one year old.