Defining horse jargon: Horse sale terms

Eliminate confusing horse jargon by defining commonly used horse sale terms.

Horse for sale

In this article series from Michigan State University Extension, we will explore a variety of often confusing, horse-related terms. In previous articles, we have covered beginner riding terms and advanced riding terms. In this article, we’ll delve into the complex world of selling horses, where the limit to slang, shorthand and clever sayings seems endless. In addition, the wide variety of disciplines, breeds and budgets only seems to add to the complexity of these sale ads. Often found online, or more specifically on social media, for-sale ads may contain one, or several, of the following terms.

Beginner friendly

If a horse is described as beginner friendly, it should mean that it has a quiet, calm nature and would be expected to be safe even around those that are beginner horse owners. A beginner-friendly horse may be older, or young but docile in nature, forgiving and not easily spooked, have a considerable amount of training and won’t likely need as much direction from a rider.

This is the type of horse that a new horse owner can learn on without having the added difficulty of a horse that is unsure of how it should behave or what certain cues from the rider mean. This type of horse is more likely to be forgiving of a rider who makes mistakes, is less balanced or who is timid while riding.

Experienced rider needed

Unlike the previously described horse, when a sale ad specifically says that the horse requires an experienced rider, it means this horse is unlikely to be a good fit for a new horse owner or novice rider. While this term seems somewhat straight-forward, I often see confusion associated with it. Questions that I see sellers get asked include, “Is this horse kid safe?” Well, that’s an extremely difficult question to answer because the seller is unlikely to know the riding abilities of the child in question. As with adults, abilities and confidence of riders can vary greatly and the age of the rider is only one factor to consider.

In short, unless you (or the person you are horse shopping for) is an experienced rider with the ability to handle an insecure, uneducated and less-trained horse, then you should likely not entertain purchasing a horse that requires a skilled or experienced rider.

Project horse

A horse that is described as a project horse likely has very little formal training. This type of horse could be a blank slate for a buyer looking for something at a lower price point, or it could potentially have some training issues that need to be fixed or improved upon. Some confident, experienced riders may seek out these horses as an opportunity to buy low, train and then sell for a profit.

For a rider that enjoys the training process, this type of horse may be a great option. However, be aware that sellers use this term to describe everything from an untrained but willing horse to a horse with prior negative training experiences and has negative behaviors associated. A potential buyer should certainly ask for more details to determine what type of project the horse may be.

Green horse

Green is a very commonly used term to describe a horse with little to no formal training. While there is certainly still a range in just how green a horse is, this type of horse is not ideal for a beginner rider. A beginner rider can also be called a green rider. An old saying is “Green on green makes black and blue,” which is saying that when a green horse is paired with a green rider, it can result in bruises related to injuries (black and blue). While this isn’t always the case, it is certainly more ideal for a beginner rider to learn on a more experienced horse.

“In your pocket” horse

This is referring to a horse’s personality. This type of horse may also be described as friendly, cuddly or people friendly as it likes to be “in your pocket.”


This is an acronym for “up to date.” It’s often used in reference to a horse’s vaccination and veterinary-care status.

Easy versus hard keeper

This is referring to how easy or difficult it is for the horse to maintain weight. A horse described as an easy keeper is likely to not require an abnormal amount of feed/calories in order to maintain an ideal body condition score. A hard keeper is more likely to be harder to keep weight on, and therefore potentially be more expensive to feed.

Lame versus sound

These two terms are extremely important to understand. The American Association of Equine Practitioners defines lame as any alteration of the horse's gait. Lameness can be manifested in such ways as a change in attitude or performance, and most often these abnormalities are caused by pain somewhere in the horse’s body. On the contrary, a horse that is sound exhibits no alteration of their gaits. This horse is most likely comfortable and not experiencing pain. A sound horse is more likely able to perform athletic tasks, be ridden and participate in competitions.

Keep in mind that lameness can also be referred to as unsound. A horse’s breeding soundness refers to their current ability to reproduce and can be used when referring to a mare or a stallion.

Maintenance required

This sale ad would mean that a horse requires maintenance (likely medicinal, supplemental, corrective farrier work or specialized veterinary care) in order to maintain its soundness. There is a wide spectrum of the types of maintenance needed and the investments required, so don’t be too afraid of this term at first glance. This is likely just one way a seller is attempting to be honest and transparent, ensuring that the horse they are selling is maintained appropriately. Understanding completely the amount of maintenance required will help buyers make a more informed decision when purchasing a horse.

Has “quirks”

Much like the previous term, this is simply a seller attempting to be transparent. To be honest, every horse has its quirks. Ideally, these quirks will be minimal or at least predictable so that an owner can best accommodate the horse and rider’s needs. Quirks often range from something as simple as the horse shows better indoors (versus outdoors), the horse is a cribber, the horse is scared of clippers or even the horse has allergies; really, the possibilities are endless. Again, making an informed decision is ideal and buyers should gather as much information as possible.

Ground manners

Ground manners refers to how the horse behaves when not being ridden. Good ground manners are as essential to safety as the behavior of a horse while it’s being ridden.

“10” jog

When a seller describes a horse with a “10 jog” or a “10 lope,” they are saying the horse has an excellent jog or lope, or a perfect score of 10 on a 1-10 scale. This commonly used term is just another way to market a horse as being talented and desirable.

While this list certainly isn’t all-encompassing, it provides an excellent start for those confused by the clever terms often used when marketing horses. Another excellent resource new horse owners may want to consider is the free, online course Purchasing and Owning a Horse 101 from My Horse University.

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