To the outsider, horsey lingo can sound like a completely foreign language. Let’s face it, phrases like ‘a leg in each corner’ or ‘good doer’ don’t really make any sense to the average person, although fellow equestrians will immediately know what you’re talking about.

Here are just a few of the terms that may prove particularly baffling to non-horsey types (or ‘normals’ as we describe them here), plus a useful explanation of what we really mean and how we recommend the normal to react.

Horse person says: ‘He’s really spooky.’

Normal thinks: That horse looks nothing like any of the characters in Insidious. Maybe that scary puppet in War Horse, to be fair.
What we mean: This horse is easily scared and when scared he will try to run away from the terrifying object. You have been warned so keep out of the way or you risk being mown down!

Horse person says: ‘He’s behind the bit.’

Normal thinks: ‘Well, d’uh! He can’t be in front of the bit, as the bit is in his mouth. Which is at the front of him. So he has to be behind the bit.’
What we mean: the horse is tucking his head in towards his chest giving the rider very little weight in the rein. The horse is also not moving forward in a positive manner. This is not a desirable situation so do not congratulate us.

Horse person says: ‘He’s a good doer.’

Normal thinks: ‘Really? He hasn’t even got opposable thumbs. He’d be useless at putting up a set of shelves.’
What we mean: This horse tends to put on weight easily after eating very little. If he was a human he’d be signed up to weight watchers.

Horse person says: ‘That one’s an OTTB.’

Normal thinks: ‘Over The Top Bassline? Oh The Terrible Biscuit? Is this txt spk? What even is it?’
What we mean: OTTB stands for off the track thoroughbred – a former racehorse that has been retrained for a new career. These horses can also be described as RoRs. Yes we do love an acronym.

Horse person says: ‘I need some new chaps.’

Normal thinks: ‘Wow! That’s certainly upfront and modern. What was wrong with the old chap? He always seemed like a fairly decent sort of guy.’
What we mean: Chaps are a piece of clothing used by riders to protect their legs. If you are in a relationship with the horse person who is saying this, then hand over your credit card.

Horse person says: ‘That’s a clean-legged horse.’

Normal thinks: ‘So cleanliness is a desirable quality in a horse, is it? How come the last one you owned was covered from top to toe in mud, then?’
What we mean: The horse’s legs are without defects or obvious injuries. This is desirable. Horses being covered in mud is a perfectly normal state of affairs that we accept without question. This leads rather nicely on to…

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Horse person says: ‘Chuck over the curry comb.’

Normal thinks: ‘What? There’s not so much as a poppadom in sight.’
What we actually mean: The curry comb is an item used when grooming a horse. If this expression is directed to you, pick up the nearest brush-like item from the nearby box or bag and pass it to the horse person. If you’ve grabbed the wrong item, they’ll be sure to let you know.

Horse person says: ‘Let me show you his flying changes.’

Normal thinks: ‘He’s not Pegasus. He can’t actually fly. Why is [insert rider’s name here] looking so pleased with herself?’
What we mean: Flying changes are an advanced dressage movement. Even if you think it looks like the horse is skipping from side to side like a child in the playground, the correct response is to look impressed and congratulate the rider.

Horse person says: ‘His frogs are soft.’

Normal thinks: ‘She’s lost it now. Totally bonkers.’
What we mean: Frogs form part of the underside of the horse’s foot and soft frogs are not a good thing. You should look suitably concerned if your horse person says this to you.

Horse person says: ‘That’s a chifney.’

Normal thinks: ‘Bless you!’
What we mean: A chifney is a special type of bit used when leading difficult horses. If your horse person needs one of these to handle their equine, it might be worth passing them their riding hat before checking their life insurance policy.

  • Sue Evans

    I once used the office phone to enquire about a horse for sale. The look on a colleague’s face when I asked the vendor if it boxed easily was priceless!