By Susan F. Craft
Author, An Equestrian Writer’s Guide
For writers interested in or doing research about horses for their novels, the following are excerpts from the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation’s An Equestrian Writer’s Guide. This is copyrighted material and should not be reproduced without the permission of the Long Riders’ Guild. (Visit the website at www.lrgaf.org for more information.)
Mare – female horse
Gelding – castrated male horse
Stallion – male horse; also called an “entire”; in the US he may be called a “stud horse”; but never called a stud by the English, which is what they call a farm or stable that keeps horses. Stallions have more natural aggression especially around other horses; usually ridden by experts.
Foal – baby horse from birth to January 1 of the next year (horses mature between ages five and seven)
Filly – girl baby horse
Colt – boy baby horse
Yearling – in the year after the birth year (too young to ride; most saddle horses aren't worked hard until at least four years old; breaking and training may start earlier)
Pony – small, usually less than 14.2 hands high. Smart and sturdy, they are often used by ladies in pony carts or carriages, or for packing goods.
Horses are measured from the ground to the top of the withers (the ridge between the shoulder bones) in hands. One hand is four inches.
The average horse is 15 to 16 hands. Very tall horses may be 17 hands, and only unusual horses reach 18 hands.
Ponies are usually less than 14 hands, two inches
Two areas of the body—the main body and the points, which are the ear tips, mane, tail, and the fetlock or the lower part of the legs—are considered when determining the color of a horse. (This gets a little complicated because color designations differ between UK and the US.)
Appaloosa – white hair and dark patches that may be leopard, flecked, snowflake or in a blanket. These originated in northwestern US and were formerly much used by Native Americans.
Bay – red-brown body, black points—may be dark bay, mahogany bay, red bay (cherry bay), blood bay, light bay, sandy bay—but every bay horse always has black points
Black – black body, black points—may be smoky black, jet black, coal black, raven black (true black is rare)
Brown – brown body, brown points; may be a seal bay (dark brown with black legs, tail, and mane) or a standard brown
Chestnut/Sorrel – reddish body, self-colored (non-black) points. When in UK refer to Thoroughbreds or Arabians as chestnuts—a liver chestnut, dark red chestnut, dark chestnut, etc. In the West, “sorrel” designates light reds; medium or dark reds may be called “chestnut.” Some Western horsemen use “sorrel” for all red horses no matter the shade. Light sorrel draft horses with white manes and tails are known as “blond.”
Dun – yellowish body, black points; may have primitive marks, which include a black dorsal stripe and/or zebra stripes on the legs; a red dun is a name often used for a reddish yellow horse with red points and primitive marks; a grullo is slate-blue with black points; and a claybank is a pale dun color without black points. Duns are called buckskins in the US, and even piebald or skewbald.
Gray – may be born black or bay, but each year shows more white—iron grey, steel grey, dappled grey, etc. A “rose grey” is born chestnut or bay.
Paint/Pinto – white patches patterned as either Overo (white patches have ragged edges and rarely extend over the top-line) or Tobiano (white patches have sharp edges and cross the top-line and usually with white legs)
Palomino golden coat, white mane and tail; palomino with a cream-colored coat rather than gold, is called an Isabella—a term often used in Europe for all palominos
Piebald – dark-skinned, born dark and turning whiter each year; large irregular solid patches of black and white
Roan – can be blue or strawberry; mixed colored and white hairs, staying the same every year after one year old. A blue roan has black and white hairs; red roans and strawberry roans have red and white hairs. A thoroughbred born chestnut may be called a “red roan” even when truly gray—getting progressively whiter each year
Skewbald – large irregular solid patches of any other color and white
White – pure white with pink skin; in western US white and off-white horses with blue eyes are called cremello or if it has slightly red or blue points, it’s called a perlino (true white is rare)
Note: Susan Craft is a new contributor to Colonial Quills. Welcome, Susan!!