Racing Jargon Demystified

There are many terms bandied about the stable that probably sound like a different language to people who are new to the industry. Here we attempt to fill you in on some words you may come across in racing circles and in your weekly reports about your horse.

Agistment – keeping and spelling horses, often when on a break.

Backward – A horse that is not fully mature or is a slow maturer.

Bandages – Used to protect a horse’s legs.

Barriers – Also known as starting gates. The metal gates in which horses are assembled in to start a race.

Bit – A metal bar that is placed in the horse’s mouth to assist in controlling it. It is attached to the ‘bridle’.

Bleeder – A horse that is recognized as bleeding through its nostrils due to blood vessels in the lungs
rupturing during physical exertion.

Blinkers – A hood placed over a horse’s head which has shields to cover its peripheral vision to prevent it from being distracted and thus keeping it focused on racing.

Breast Plate – A strap attached to the girth (strap used to fasten the saddle) to help prevent the saddle from slipping.

Bridle – A bridle is a head collar that the bit reins are attached to.

Breakdown – When a horse sustains an injury on the track.

Broodmare - A female horse that is used for breeding.

By – A reference to the father (sire) of a horse. If a horse is by ‘Zabeel’, it can be inferred that the horse’s sire is ‘Zabeel’.

Cast – When a horse lies down too close to a wall or fence and is unable to stand due to not having sufficient space, it is said to be ‘cast’.

Class of Race – The different classes of races provide winning opportunities for all grades of horse, at differing stages of their careers.

Clerk of the Course – A rider who assists jockeys in getting their horses to the barriers before the race and escorts the winner back to the parade ring after the race.

Clean Legs – Legs that are free of deformities, swelling or conformational faults.

Colic – A broad term given to a medical condition where a horse has a stomach ailment.

Colours – The coloured top and cap combination worn by jockeys in a race.

Colt – A male horse, three years and under that has not been gelded.

Conformation – A horse’s anatomical make up.

Connections – A term used to refer collectively to a horse’s trainer, jockey and owner.

Dam – A horse’s mother.

Draft – A group of horses offered by a vendor at a sale.

Favourite – A horse with the lowest odds, on whom the majority of punters have invested their money on to win.

Fetlock – The equine equivalent of an ankle.

Filly – A female horse aged three years or under.

Foal – A baby horse still suckling on its’ mother.

Gelding – A male horse that has been castrated.

Going / Track Conditions – A term used to describe the condition of the track. The grading system ranges from heavy through to good and are dependent on how wet or dry the track is.

Halter – A bitless bridle used to lead horses.

Hand – The unit of measurement used to determine the height of a horse. A hand equates to 10cm and is measured from the ground up to the wither.

Handicap – A weighting system that determines a level field of play for horses to compete against each other in a race. Horses deemed ‘better’ than other horses will be required to carry more weight.

Hands and Heels – A phrase used to describe how a jockey rides a horse without using the whip.

Hanging – A term used to describe a horse that is carrying its’ head to one side while galloping and therefore running erratically.

Home Turn – The final corner in a race.

Hoop – A colloquial term for a jockey.

Horse – Also known as an entire, the term is a synonym for stallion, which is an entire (has not been castrated) horse over four years of age.

Judge – The official charged with determining the finishing order and margins in a race.

Lot Number – A number used to designate a horse’s placement in a sale.

Length – A measurement used to determine the margin between horses in a race, which equates to 2.5m.

Mare – A female horse four years or older.

Median – The middle price of a sale (e.g. the figure that represents that 50% of the catalogue sold for more than and 50% of the catalogue sold for less than).

Near Side – The word used to describe the left side of the horse, the side that the jockeys mount from traditionally.

Off Side – The right hand side of the horse.

Pedigree – A horse’s family tree.

Penetrometer – A device used to measure the moisture levels of a racetrack surface. The higher the reading, the wetter the track.

Pinhooking – The practice of buying young horses with the specific intention of reselling them for a profit.

Plate – A light weight shoe worn by a horse when racing.

Pulling – When a horse grips on the bit strongly and pulls on the reins, usually whilst travelling too fast too early in a race.

Rating – A classification given to a horse by the handicapper to indicate its’ ability to ensure fairness in handicapping and its level of competitiveness.

Reins – Leather straps attached to the bit that are held by the jockey and used to steer the horse.

Reserve – The minimum price set by the vendor for which a horse will be sold at auction.

Rig – A horse that has undescended testes, or a horse that hasn’t been properly castrated.

Roarer – A horse that makes a sound while breathing when working as a result of abnormalities of the larynx.

Saddle – A seat in which a jockey sits in while riding the horse.

Saddlecloth – The cloth placed on a horse’s back under the saddle used to highlight the number of the horse during the race.

Service – The mating of a mare by a stallion.

Shadow Roll – A padded sheepskin noseband used to encourage the horse to lower its head carriage, used on horses notorious for having high head carriages.

Sire – The father of the horse.

Spell – A period of time in which a horse has a holiday from racing and training.

Stewards – A group of people responsible for ensuring that all industry participants adhere to the rules.

Strapper – A person employed by the trainer to look after a horse.

Stud – A property used for breeding horses.

Studmaster – The person managing a stud.

Tongue Tie – A tie used to prevent a horse from getting its tongue over the bit.

Tying Up – A physical condition similar to cramps in humans which is generally brought on by exercise.

Weanling – A young horse that has been separated from its mother but has not had its first birthday.

Wind Sucker – A vice developed by horses in which they grab onto a surface such as a fence post or stable door and gulp in air.

Work – A common term used to describe a horse’s training.

Yearling - A horse that is 1 year old.

Thanks to the team at New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing for kicking this list off. If you have any terms that we haven’t listed that you might like added, email them to and we will endeavor to get a definition and add it to the list.