Horse Age / Gender Terms
Horse Age / Gender Terms
The terms that describe the gender of a horse tell much more than just whether the horse is male or female. They may also let you know the age, fertility, or general use of the animal.
Newborn – A foal of either sex that is less than a few days old. Foal – A baby horse, pony, or donkey of either sex that is under one year old. Suckling – A foal that is still nursing its mother.
Weanling – A foal that is no longer drinking mare’s milk. Foals are typically weaned at 4–8 months of age, although in the wild a foal may nurse for a year.
Yearling – A juvenile horse or pony of either sex that is at least one year old but not yet two years old. The exception is some race horse registries consider a foal to be a yearling on the first January 1st following their birth, even if they were born on December 31st.
Puberty occurs in most horses during their yearling year, but it is considered undesirable to work or breed them before the third or fourth year, and most aren’t bred until they are five or six because they are still growing until age 4. The exception is some race horses are started when they are long yearlings.
Long Yearling – A yearling that is nearly two years old.
Juvenile – Two-year-old horse.
Filly – A female horse or pony under 4 years old.
Mare – A female horse or pony who is 4 years old or older. Horses are not fully mature until the age of eight, but the bones are strong enough by age 4 to start riding and working them. Also denotes any female horse that has given birth, regardless of her age.
Spayed Mare – The name for a surgically neutered female horse. However, mares usually aren’t sterilized.
Dam – A female horse that is a mother.
Broodmare – A female horse that is used strictly for breeding.
Barren Mare – A mare that did not become pregnant during the breeding season.
Distaff – In racing, refers to female horses. Named for the distaff, a spindle used in weaving and traditionally associated with women. In pedigree charts, distaff also refers to the entire dam’s side of the pedigree.
Maiden mare – A mare that has never been bred. Maiden can also mean a show horse who has never won a first place award.
Open mare – A mare that is not pregnant. Produce – The offspring (children) of a mare.
Colt – A male horse or pony under 4 years old that has not been castrated.
Gelding – A male horse or pony of any age that has been sterilized by castration. Removal of the testes usually makes it a calmer, more docile animal due to reduced testosterone.
Rig, Ridgling or Proud Cut – A male horse or pony who has either one or both testes undescended and retained, (a cryptorchid), or a male horse that has been improperly castrated (deliberately or accidentally). Rigs can display stallion tendencies, especially around mares.
Stallion – A male horse or pony over 4 years old whose reproductive organs are intact. Stallions are also referred to as being “Entire.”
Horse – When reference is made to sex, a ‘horse’ is an ungelded male five-years-old or older.
Stud – A male horse of any age used for breeding.
Stud book – This is a listing of breeding horses that is maintained by a registering organization.
Sire – A male horse who is a father.
Damsire – The sire of the dam of a horse, analogous to the maternal grandfather in humans. Also known as the broodmare sire or maternal grandsire.
Get – The offspring (children) of a stallion. Some horse shows have “Get of Sire” classes where full or half siblings of a certain stallion compete against other get.
Cob – A small horse, but not a pony.
Aged – A male or female horse which is ten years old or more. Some people say a horse is aged as early as 8 years or as late as 12. Basically, it means a mature middle aged horse that is not quite elderly yet, but is starting into the last third of its lifespan. In horse racing and in some horse shows, an aged horse is one over 4 years.
A horse isn’t considered elderly until it is about 15-20. Most working and riding horses are retired somewhere around 20 years old.
The average life span for a horse is 25 to 33. Many horses go well beyond this average. Ponies tend to live longer with many ponies reaching the age of 40 or over. The oldest horse ever recorded was 52 years old.
Larger horses like draft breeds are not as long lived as smaller breeds such as Arabians. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.
Aging – A method of estimating a horse’s age by the placement and wear on its teeth.
Smooth Mouthed – A male or female horse which is over 12 years old. This term refers to older horses who have worn the indentations or “cups” from their incisors, , which usually lose their ridged edges by age 12, so the horse becomes “smooth mouthed.”
Pony – A horse that is under 14.2 hands high. A pony isn’t a genetic dwarf or a miniature version of a horse that has been bred specifically to enhance its smallness above all other traits, it is just an animal that is shorter than the average horse.
Miniature Horse – A horse that has been purposely selected and bred over time to specifically enhance its small stature to an extreme, for the novelty of it, rather than for a specific useful purpose.
Ass – A male or female donkey.
Donkey – A male or female donkey.
Jack – A male donkey whose reproductive organs are intact.
Jenny or Jennie or Jeanette– A female donkey.
Hinny or Hinnie– A crossbreed animal who is the result of a breeding between a horse stud and a female donkey. They are usually sterile, and less common than mules, since there can be more complications in birth for the smaller donkey to carry the offspring of the larger horse than the other way around.
Mule – The offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Most mules are sterile.
Zonkey – A cross between a zebra stud and a donkey. See More terms for Zebra Crosses in the article below.
Hybrid animals are often referred to by a portmanteau formed by combining the names of the two parent species: traditionally the father’s species forms the first part of the name, hence: male Zebra + female horse -> Zorse and male horse + female zebra -> Hebra.