Buying a horse is a complicated process! Just navigating the ads can be tough. Have you ever read a horse ad and thought, “Is this English?!” I recently spent hours browsing horse ads and writing down horse jargon as I came across it. Here is my translation of common horse advertising lingo. Enjoy.
Equine Advertising Terminology
Ready to take in any direction: The horse is trained but is lacking experience. He may only have a small amount of training, or is trained but hasn’t been to many new places such as shows, trails, playdays, etc.
Willing: The horse has a generally good attitude about working and doesn’t pitch a fit when you ask something of him.
Smooth: This refers to the horse’s gait (not his lady skills), it should mean that he is comfortable to ride.
Mareish: Female horses that are cranky and moody and exhibit obvious signs of heat every 21 days (hold their tails high to show the world their lady parts while peeing a lot and “winking”).
Needs a job/needs someone with time to spend with him/needs consistency: This is not a horse for weekend riders. Generally when horses are described this way, they are energetic and their training will digress when they’re left to sit for more than a few days. If you’re looking for a horse with stamina that can hold up to a rigorous training/working schedule then look for this phrase.
Sensitive/responsive: Sensitive horses are those that respond quickly to cues. They are fun for intermediate and experienced riders but can be frustrating or dangerous for beginners because they will respond to cues that you don’t even realize you are giving. Be careful though, sensitive can also be code for spooky.
In your pocket/ friendly/loves attention: This is fairly self-explanatory but I added because I see it a lot. It can mean what it says, or it can be code for rude and spoiled.
Natural horsemanship techniques used: This can mean so many different things. Expect to see rope halters and macates. It can also be accompanied by barefoot horses. It’s generally a good thing though as natural horsemanship advocates expect more manners from their horses. The horse has not been forced into things with mechanical devices, his training is based on trust and connection.
Easy Keeper: An easy keeper doesn’t require as much feed as the average horse to stay at a healthy weight. This of course is a wonderful thing, but watch out for overly fat horses and laminitis. Feel the crest of the neck and make sure it isn’t hard. Look for ripples or lines in the hoof as this can indicate a previous laminitic episode. If you suspect a horse of laminitis then you will definitely want full hoof x-rays when you have your vet check done.
Broke: Maybe “fixed” would be a better term. Broke is a good thing, it means that his training is advanced. A horse that is truly broke should be easy to ride for riders of many levels.
Sweet/nice disposition/good attitude: Honestly, most of the horses I see advertised are described as sweet. Take this with a grain of salt. A wise old cowboy once told me to watch out for mares named “Sweety”, “Sugar”, “Cookie”, etc. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve had plenty of “Sweeties” pin their ears and try to bite me.
Green broke/started/coming along nicely: All of these terms mean that the horse is not trained and is not for beginners! As people have varying degrees of honesty, the terms have varying meanings. This horse could have had a saddle on him once or he could have 90 days of training with a professional. Unless you’re experienced, keep looking.
Needs experienced rider/needs confident rider/not for beginners/not for children: AKA there is a problem there somewhere. He may be greenbroke, ill-mannered, or half wild. Something is wrong. Find the problem BEFORE you buy him. I strongly recommend that all novice horse buyers take a knowledgeable horseman with them. A trainer will be able to find the problem easily.
A lot of horse/energetic/powerful/forward: This horse is fast and strong and he likes to go go go. These horses generally fall into the “needs a job” category as well. They make great performance horses but not so hot trail and pleasure horses. I know it sounds fun, but trust me, it will get old. You’ll be making hundreds of little circles to keep your horse from running off while everyone else’s horse is nicely walking down the trail.
Broodmare: A mare that is only used for breeding. Some of them have been trained at one time but haven’t been ridden for a while and others may have no training at all. Heck, she may not even be halterbroke. Make sure you get a thorough history on her and if you want to ride her, plan to send her to the trainer for a while for a tune-up.
Companion/pasture pet: This horse is very old, has health problems, or is wild and crazy. (Personal rant: I hate these ads. This is where high maintenance horses end up in inexperienced homes. A lot of horses suffer at the hands of these ads.)
Done it all/been there done that: These horses have been exposed to a lot of different environments and they take it all in stride like old pros. Be sure to ask what “all” is and where “there” is though. You might be surprised by the answer.
Not spooky: Spooking is when a horse runs, spins, kicks or bucks when he encounters something he considers a threat. Horses have different levels of bravery. Some you can shoot a gun from their back, some can calmly march in a parade behind the band or fire engines, and others, well, I saw one spook at his own poop once.
Calm/gentle/easy going/laid back: Here is your trail/pleasure horse. These terms may or may not be accompanied by laziness. Don’t assume that the horse needs an act of God to get him to move because he’s described with these terms. On the flip side, don’t assume that he’s well trained. “He’s very laid back until I get on. Then he runs and bucks and snorts”.
Athletic: A performance prospect. It can also mean lots of energy.
Ready to start: Not even green broke. This horse has not been ridden. The phrase usually indicates that groundwork has been done.
Husband horse: This is a term created by women who are horse crazy and occasionally drag their husbands along on trail rides. A husband horse is one who can go for weeks without being ridden and still be polite and well-behaved when you finally do ride him. He is good for beginners. I’m still waiting to see an ad for a “wife horse”. I know plenty of men who ride a lot better than their wives.
Sound: Soundness refers to the horse’s health, and more specifically, to his musculoskeletal system. If a horse is sound he doesn’t limp and requires no special care. It’s certainly not a guarantee that the horse is in perfect health, but it’s a good thing to see in an ad. Red flags should go up if it’s not there. Your veterinarian will verify the horse’s soundness during the vet check.
Prospect: This is an opinion that the horse will be well-suited to a specific discipline.
You will also commonly see a whole list of attributes listed somewhere in the ad such as: no bite, kick ,rear, buck; bathes, ties, loads, clips, stands for farrier, easy to catch, gets along well with other horses, stands for mounting, saddles well, easy to bridle, etc. Pay attention to what’s NOT there. If someone goes to the trouble to list off all of these things but fails to mention that they tie, it could be an oversight or it could be that the horse pulls back.
Feeling intimidated? Good! Buying a horse is not for the faint-hearted. If you’re inexperienced, get help. Even if you have years of experience, it’s always a good idea to take a second set of eyes along. When I was young, my grandmother taught me a valuable lesson about buying horses. “Always sleep on it”, she would say, “and then go take a second look”. It’s amazing how different a horse can look the second time around.
No hour of life that is spent in the saddle is wasted. You’re ready now, go buy a horse!