Terms to Know

Here are some terms to help you keep up when it comes to horses, cattle, ranching and this unique lifestyle.

Horse & Horsemanship Terms to Know

Horse: the general term for anything that is in the species Equine.

Foal: a baby horse, under a year old.

Colt: general term for a horse over a year old, but not yet 2.

Stud Colt: a term for a male horse, over a year old that has testicles.

Stallion/stud: a male horse that has testicles.

Gelding: a male horse, usually over a year old, that has no testicles. “Gelding” is also a verb for the act of turning a stud colt into a gelding. You geld a colt, turning him into a gelding.

Filly: term for a female foal, under 2 years old.

Mare: term for a female horse, over 2 years old.

Green horse: a horse new to training.

Finished horse: a horse that has progressed through training and is ready for work. Experienced horseman may ride horses for working before they are finished as part of training, but finished horses are the only type of horse experienced riders should ride.

Futurity: an aged event for a horse; usually for horses that are 2, 3, 4 or 5 years of age.

Derby: an aged event for a horse; usually for horses that were futurity horses the year prior.

Barrel Race: an event in which only barrel racing is the only event.

Bit: a piece of equipment placed in the horse’s mouth to allows the rider to communicate with the horse. It is attached to reins, which the rider holds, and held onto the horse’s head by a bridle.

Bridle: the straps that keep a bit in place in a horse’s mouth.

Reins: the leads that attach to the bit, that allow a rider to communicate with their horse through touch and pressure.

Snaffle bit horse (stage 1 of bridle training): a colt or green horse that is being started in the snaffle bit. This is the most formative chapter of a horse’s training. A snaffle bit allows a horse to build the understanding of what different signals from a rider means.

Hackamore Horse (stage 2 of bridle training): a horse that has advanced past the snaffle bit, into the bosal hackamore (not a mechanical hackamore). This stage will further advance and refine your horse. A bosal hackamore is a loop that rests on the horse’s face, instead of relying on a bit to understand what the rider wants. This teaches the horse to respond to neck reining, or the way the reins touch its neck as the rider asks it to do things with the reins.

Two Rein Horse (stage 3 of bridle training): a horse that has advanced through the hackamore. In the two rein, you don’t teach the horse much more – you continue to refine what he does know. These horses will wear a thin hackamore, but also a special type of bit called a “spade bit.” The hackamore + the bridle and reins connected to the spade bit are where the name “two rein horse” comes from.

Bridle Horse (the “finishing” stage of bridle training): a finished horse that handles a spade bit without the hackamore. He will neck rein thanks to his hackamore training and tip his face/nose into the direction of the turn, but will be highly responsive and in tune with the ride because of the advanced bit and bridle combination. Riders should only need to use one hand to communicate with a good bridle horse.


Ranching Terms to Know

Cow: the general term for anything that is in the species Bovine. For most purposes of this blog and in conversations about agriculture, cow usually refers to a mature female bovine.

Calf: a baby cow.

Heifer: a female cow that has not yet had a calf.

First-Calf Heifer: a heifer that will have her first calf in the spring; usually a 2-year-old.

Steer: a mature male bovine that has had his been castrated.

Castration: the act of removing testicles from male cattle (and other animals). This reduces risk of aggression in the animals, eliminates the chance of accidental breeding and lowers risk of certain health complications. The verb form is “castrate”.

Bull: if you people don’t know what a bull is, then you should get out more! This is a mature male bovine that has not been castrated. These are the daddies of all of our babies.

Pair: a cow/calf unit.

Open/Dry Cow: a cow that is not pregnant when she should be.

Gather: bringing in cows or pairs for work.

Branding: when the calves are branded by use of a hot iron. Branding helps ranchers identify their stock from that of their neighbors. Calves are also castrated at this time.

Pouring/Poured/Pour: a term that refers to the act of de-worming cattle by use of a drug such as Ivomec to rid them of internal parasites by pouring the chemical down their backs.

Tank/Dam: a (usually) man-made watering hole. Some people might call them ponds. They are called dams here, and tanks in Texas. Just a difference in regions, I guess.

Preg checking: either by ultrasound machine or by using an arm (yes – a human one) to see if the cow is going to calve in the following spring.

Calving: the act of a cow having a calf; can also refer to the season in which cows give birth or the act of assisting and/or checking on first-calf-heifers when they have their calf.

Brangus: an Angus/Brahman cross. Black Angus are the most popular beef cattle breed in the U.S. and Brahman cattle are a unique breed from India. This Brangus cross is a hardy, healthy and productive mix. First generation Brangus (with one parent Angus and one parent Brahman) are called “F1 crosses.” Brangus F1 heifers are highly sought-after for ranch breeding because of their hardiness, versatility, quality offspring and mothering.

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