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allowance race

A race for which the racing secretary drafts certain conditions to determine weights to be carried based on the horse's age, sex and/or past performance.

Average Earnings Index (AEI)

A breeding statistic that compares racing earnings of a stallion or mare's foals to those of all other foals racing at that time. An AEI of 1.00 is considered average, 2.00 is twice the average, 0.50 half the average, etc.

baby race

A race for two-year-olds.


Straight portion of the far side of the racing surface between the turns.

bad doer

A horse with a poor appetite, a condition that may be due to nervousness or other causes.

bar shoe

A horseshoe closed at the back to help support the frog and heel of the hoof. It is often worn by horses with quarter cracks or bruised feet.


A horse color that varies from a yellow-tan to a bright auburn. The mane, tail and lower portion of the legs are always black, except where white markings are present.

bearing in (or out)

Deviating from a straight course. May be due to weariness, infirmity, inexperience or the rider overusing the whip or reins to make a horse alter its course.


A stainless steel, rubber or aluminum bar, attached to the bridle, which fits in the horse's mouth and is one of the means by which a jockey exerts guidance and control. The most common racing bit is the D-bit, named because the rings extending from the bar are shaped like the letter "D." Most racing bits are "snaffled," (snaffle bit) which means the metal bar is made up of two pieces, connected in the middle, which leaves it free to swivel. Other bits may be used to correct specific problems, such as bearing in or out.


A generic term describing a large, white vertical marking on a horse's face.


A cup-shaped device to limit a horse's vision to prevent him from swerving from objects or other horses on either side of it. Blinker cups come in a variety of sizes and shapes to allow as little or as much vision as the trainer feels is necessary.

bloodstock agent

A person who advises and/or represents a buyer or seller of Thoroughbreds at a public auction or a private sale. A bloodstock agent usually works on commission, often five percent of the purchase price, and can also prepare a horse for sale.


A way to verify a horse's parentage. Blood-typing is usually completed within the first year of a horse's life and is necessary before registration papers will be issued by The Jockey Club.


A short, timed workout, usually a day or two before a race, designed to sharpen a horse's speed. Usually three-eighths or one-half of a mile in distance.


A bad step away from the starting gate, usually caused by the track surface breaking away from under a horse's hooves, causing it to duck its head or nearly go to his knees.


Sudden veering from a straight course, usually to the outside rail.


A poor race run directly following a career-best or near-best performance.

break (a horse)

1) To train a young horse to wear a bridle and saddle, carry a rider and respond to a rider's commands. Almost always done when the horse is a yearling. 2) To leave from the starting gate.

break maiden

Horse or rider winning the first race of its career. Also known as "earning a diploma."


A piece of equipment, usually made of leather or nylon, which fits on a horse's head and is where other equipment, such as a bit and the reins, are attached.


A filly or mare that has been bred and is used to produce foals.

bug boy

An apprentice rider.

bulbs (of the heel)

The two areas on either side of the back of the foot, similar to the heel of the hand.


A small racetrack, usually less than one mile.


A sac containing synovial fluid (a natural lubricant). The purpose is to pad or cushion and thus facilitate motion between soft tissue and bone. Most commonly occurring where tendons pass over bones.


A projection on the heels of a horseshoe, similar to a cleat, on the rear shoes of a horse to prevent slipping, especially on a wet track. Also known as a "sticker." Sometimes incorrectly spelled "caulk."

cannon bone

The third metacarpal (front leg) or metatarsal (rear leg), also referred to as the shin bone. The largest bone between the knee and ankle joints.


A joint in the horse's front leg, more commonly referred to as the knee.


1) A horse color which may vary from a red-yellow to golden-yellow. The mane, tail and legs are usually variations of coat color, except where white markings are present. 2) Horny, irregular growths found on the inside of the legs. On the forelegs, they are just above the knees. On the hind legs, they are just below the hocks. No two horses have been found to have the same chestnuts and so they may be used for identification. Also called "night eyes."

claiming race

A race in which each horse entered is eligible to be purchased at a set price. Claims must be made before the race and only by licensed owners or their agents who have a horse registered to race at that meeting or who have received a claim certificate from the stewards.


When a horse lifts its front legs abnormally high as it gallops, causing it to run inefficiently.


A horse that runs best in the latter part of the race, coming from off the pace.

coffer bone

The third phalanx (P3). The major bone that is within the confines of the hoof. Also called the "pedal [PEE-dal] bone."


An ungelded (entire) male horse four-years-old or younger.

cooling out

Restoring a horse to normal temperature, usually by walking, after it has become overheated during exercise. All horses that are exercised are cooled out.


Along the horse's topline, the area between the back and the tail. A straight, level croup provides maximum outreach of the Thoroughbred's hindquarters as it gallops, producing a longer stride.


The female parent of a foal.

dark bay or brown

A horse color that ranges from brown with areas of tan on the shoulders, head and flanks, to a dark brown, with tan areas seen only in the flanks and/or muzzle. The mane, tail and lower portions of the legs are always black unless white markings are present.

dead heat

Two or more horses finishing a race in a tie.

deep flexor tendon

Present in all four legs, but injuries most commonly affect the front legs. Located on the back (posterior) of the front leg between the knee and the foot and between the hock and the foot on the rear leg. The function is to flex the digit (pastern) and knee (carpus) and to extend the elbow on the front leg and extend the hock on the rear leg. Functions in tandem with the superficial flexor tendon.


A stakes event for three-year-olds.

digital cushion

The area beneath the coffin bone in the back of the foot that separates it from the frog. The digital cushion serves as a shock absorber for the foot.


The topmost joint in the foreleg, formed by the humerus, ulna and radius. The elbow joint's action is that of a hinge, providing flexion and extension for the forelegs.


A triangular-shaped cartilage that lies at the base of the airway just in front of the arytenoid cartilages which cover the airway during swallowing. It is normally located above (dorsal) the soft palate.

extensor tendon

Extends the knee (carpus) joint, ankle joint, pastern and foot and flexes the elbow. The muscles begin above the knee and attach to the coffin and pastern bones.


Horseshoer, blacksmith. Also called a "plater."

fetlock (joint)

Joint located between the cannon bone and the long pastern bone, also referred to as the "ankle."


The horses in a race.


Female horse four-years-old or younger.

flak jacket

Similar to a jackets worn by quarterbacks, the jockey's flak jacket protects the ribs, kidneys and back.


Area between the horse's ribs and hip. Lacking heavy musculature and the site of important internal organs, the flank is a very sensitive region on the horse's body and cannot be touched by a jockey's whip during a race.


1) A horse of either sex in its first year of life. 2) As a verb, to give birth. Also known as "dropped." 3) Can also denote the offspring of either a male or female parent.


Area of the foreleg located between the elbow joint and the knee (carpus), which is made up of the radius bone and the ulna.


Lock of mane hair that falls forward from the poll (top of the head) to just above the horse's eyes.

fractional time

Intermediate times recorded in a race, as at the quarter, half, three-quarters, etc. The "quarter time," for example, refers to the time after the first quarter-mile, not the first 25 percent of the race.


A horse whose running style is to attempt to get on or near the lead at the start of the race and to continue there as long as possible.


One-eighth of a mile, 220 yards, 660 feet.


The characteristic footfall pattern of a horse in motion. Thoroughbreds have four natural gaits-walk, trot, canter and gallop. Thoroughbreds compete at a gallop.


Area of the hindleg between the stifle and hock joints, consisting of the tibia and fibula.


A male horse of any age that has been neutered by having both testicles removed ("gelded").


A horse color where the majority of the coat is a mixture of black and white hairs. The mane, tail and legs may be either black or gray unless white markings are present. Starting with foals of 1993, the color classifications gray and roan were combined as "roan or gray." See roan.


A person who cares for a horse in a stable. Known as a "lad" or "girl" in Britain.


Like a bridle, but lacking a bit. Used in handling horses around the stable and when they are not being ridden.


Four inches. A horse's height is measured in hands and inches from the top of the shoulder (withers) to the ground, e.g., 15.2 hands is 15 hands, 2 inches. Thoroughbreds typically range from 15 to 17 hands.


A large joint just above the shin bone in the rear legs. Corresponds to the level of the knee of the front leg.


A horse bred by its owner.


The foot of the horse. Consists of several parts that play an integral role in supporting the weight of the horse.

in foal

Pregnant mare.


Area encompassed by the inner rail of the racetrack.

in the money

A horse that finishes first, second or third.


Long hairs growing on the crest of the horse's neck, which are usually kept clipped to about six inches in length for neatness, or decoratively braided.


Female horse five-years-old or older.

morning glory

Horse that performs well in morning workouts but fails to reproduce that form in races.

muddy (track)

A condition of a racetrack which is wet but has no standing water.


Horse that races well on muddy tracks. Also known as a "mudlark."

navicular bone

A small, flat bone within the confines of the hoof that helps-along with the short pastern bone and the coffin bone-to make up the coffin joint.

near side

Left side of a horse. Side on which a horse is mounted.


Area where horses are saddled and paraded before being taken onto the track.

parrot mouth

A horse with an extreme overbite.

photo finish

A result so close it is necessary to use the finish-line camera to determine the order of finish.


A person who buys a racehorse with the specific intention of re-selling it at a profit.

point(s) of call

A horse's position at various locations on the racetrack where its running position is noted on a chart. The locations vary with the distance of the race.


1) Starting point for a race. 2) An abbreviated version of post position. For example, "He drew post four." 3) As a verb, to record a win. For example, "He's posted 10 wins in 14 starts."

pull up

To stop or slow a horse during or after a race or workout.


The total monetary amount distributed after a race to the owners of the entrants who have finished in the (usually) top four or five positions. Some racing jurisdictions may pay purse money through other places.


A speed horse running as an entry with another, usually come-from-behind horse. The rabbit is expected to set a fast pace to help the chances of its stablemate.

rail runner

Horse that prefers to run next to the inside rail.


Long straps, usually made of leather, that are connected to the bit and used by the jockey to control the horse.


A horse color where the majority of the coat of the horse is a mixture of red and white hairs or brown and white hairs. The mane, tail and legs may be black, chestnut or roan unless white markings are present. Starting with foals of 1993, the color classifications gray and roan were combined as "roan or gray." See gray.

saddle cloth

A cotton cloth which goes under the saddle to absorb sweat.


Process of familiarizing a horse with the starting gate and teaching it racing practices. A horse may also be schooled in the paddock.

shadow roll

A (usually sheepskin) roll that is secured over the bridge of a horse's nose to keep it from seeing shadows on the track and shying away from or jumping them.


Rope or strap attached to a halter or bridle by which a horse is led.


Jacket and cap worn by riders to designate owner of the horse, or at some smaller tracks, to designate post positions (e.g., yellow for post position one, blue for two, etc.).


1) The male parent. 2) To beget foals.


Three-year-old horses. Called sophomores because age three is the second year of racing eligibility.

spit box

A generic term describing a barn where horses are brought for post-race testing. Tests may include saliva, urine and/or blood.

spit the bit

A term referring to a tired horse that begins to run less aggressively, backing off on the "pull" a rider normally feels on the reins from an eager horse. Also used as a generic term for an exhausted horse.


A race for which the owner usually must pay a fee to run a horse. The fees can be for nominating, maintaining eligibility, entering and starting, to which the track adds more money to make up the total purse. Some stakes races are by invitation and require no payment or fee.


A male horse used for breeding.

stall walker

Horse that moves about its stall constantly and frets rather than rests.


A race in which horses are required to jump over a series of obstacles on the course. Also known as a "chase."


The large joint above the hock which is made up by the femur, the patella and the tibia.


Metal "D"-shaped rings into which a jockey places his/her feet. They can be raised or lowered depending on the jockey's preference. Also known as "irons."

(home) stretch

Final straight portion of the racetrack to the finish.


Manner of going. Also, distance covered between successive imprints of the same hoof.


Male horse used for breeding.

stud book

Registry and genealogical record of Thoroughbreds, maintained by the Jockey Club of the country in question. Use lower case when describing a generic stud book, all words, including "The," are capitalized when describing "The American Stud Book."


A foal in its first year of life, while it is still nursing.

superficial flexor tendon

Present in all four legs, but injuries most commonly affect the front legs. Located on the back (posterior) of the front leg between the knee and the foot and between the hock and the foot on the rear leg. The function is to flex the digit (pastern) and knee (carpus) and to extend the elbow on the front leg and extend the hock on the rear leg. Functions in tandem with the deep flexor tendon.

superior check ligament

Fibrous band of tissue that originates above the knee and attaches to the superficial flexor tendon. Primary function is support of this tendon. Accessory ligament of the superficial flexor tendon.

suspensory ligament

Originates at the back of the knee (front leg) and the back of the top part of the cannon bone (hind leg), attaching to the sesamoid bones. The lower portion of the ligament attaches the lower part of the sesamoid bones to the pastern bones. Its function is to support the fetlock. The lower ligaments that attaches the sesamoid bone to the pastern bones are the distal sesamoidean ligaments.

synovial sheath

The inner lining of a tendon sheath that produces synovial fluid. Allows ease of motion for the tendons as they cross joints.


A Thoroughbred is a horse whose parentage traces back to any of the three "founding sires" the Darley Arabian, Byerly Turk and Godolphin Barb, and who has satisfied the rules and requirements of The Jockey Club and is registered in "The American Stud Book" or in a foreign stud book recognized by The Jockey Club and the International Stud Book Committee. Any other horse, no matter what its parentage, is not considered a Thoroughbred for racing and/or breeding purposes.

tongue tie

Strip of cloth-type material used to stabilize a horse's tongue to prevent it from "choking down" in a race or workout or to keep the tongue from sliding up over the bit, rendering the horse uncontrollable. Also known as a "tongue strap."


A restraining device usually consisting of a stick with a loop of rope or chain at one end, which is placed around a horse's upper lip and twisted, releasing endorphins that relax a horse and curb its fractiousness while it is being handled.


A person employed by a racing association to clean and care for a jockey's tack and other riding equipment.

washed out

A horse that becomes so nervous that it sweats profusely. Also known as "washy" or "lathered (up)."


A horse color, extremely rare, in which all the hairs are white. The horse's eyes are brown, not pink, as would be the case for an albino.

white line

When looking at the sole of the foot, the thin area between the insensitive outer hoof wall (insensitive laminae) and the inner sensitive laminae.


The finish line of a race.


Area above the shoulder, where the neck meets the back.


A horse in its second calendar year of life, beginning Jan. 1 of the year following its birth.

Sources: definitions courtesy of Equibase.