What’s a Gelding, Colt, Mare, Filly & Stallion Horse?

baby horse

Below are a detailed guide and elucidation to equine terms (terms synonymous to horses) that people most often confuse. If you are into rodeos and have a thing for cowboy hats, it’s high time you get yourself known to these highly used terms that are used to describe different types of horses. However, before we get to the horse glossary, let us understand what castrating a horse means. 


What is Castrating a horse?

Equine castration, or simply castration, is a surgical process to remove one or both the testicles from a male horse. Castrating a horse is usually done with the intent to keep in check the aggression young male horses and stallions often possess, which makes it harder to control them. 

Since testicles are the producers of testosterone, a hormone responsible for contributing to aggression and wildness in male horses, castrating a horse allows to calm the horses down and make them more docile. 

Castrating is also known as gelding, cutting, and emasculating. 

If you are wondering how you can tame a wild and aggressive horse over time, read this: Can Wild Horses Be Tamed?


What Is A Gelding Horse?

The castrated male horses are called gelding horses. Castration is also done to mules and donkeys, and they are therefore referred to as gelding mules and gelding donkeys.

Horses are generally castrated in order to make them calmer, easier to handle, and more tractable. “To geld” or “Gelding” these words refer to the process of castration itself. The removal of hormonally driven behavior associated with a stallion and the process of castration is effectively helpful in making the male horses gentler, quieter, and more suitable as an everyday working animal.

Initially, it was the Scythians who first started gelding their horses. The gelding horses were mainly used by them in the wars because of their quiet and calm temperament. These horses lacked the urges of mating, were easier to keep in groups, and they didn’t fight among themselves.

The gelding also helps to remove the lower-quality animals from the gene pool and allows the breeding of only the finest animals. However, this is done keeping in mind that the resulting breed has enough genetic diversity to avoid genetic diseases in the finest of bloodlines. 


What Is A Colt Horse?

Derived from the Proto-Germanic term ‘kultaz,’ a colt is a male baby horse that is usually under the age of four. A colt is a male horse that has not yet been gelded or castrated. The term is the exact opposite of the term ‘filly,’ which is used to describe a young female horse under the age of three. 

Sometimes, even though a horse has been castrated but is under the age of four, it is still referred to as a ‘colt.’ 


What Is A Foal Horse?

A foal is a baby horse that is used for both the male and the female horse under the age of one, regardless of the breed they belong to. A foal is a ‘generalized’ term that is used to refer to both male and female baby horses, much like we use ‘kid’ for both boys and girls under a specific age group. 

Although foal is a common term, equestrians and people alike prefer the term ‘foal’ for a female baby horse and ‘colt’ for a male baby horse. 

What is the difference between colt and foal?

People often confuse the two terms ‘foal’ and ‘colt’ together. However, the foal is the term that is used to refer to both male and female baby horses, whereas ‘colt’ is specifically used to refer to male baby horses.


What Is A Yearling Horse?

Both male and female young horses are called yearling, and their age is usually between one or two years. The bones and muscles of these horses are weaker than a fully grown horse since they are not fully matured. These yearling horses are later called a mare or a stallion as soon as they reach three years of age. 

Since these horses are too young to be ridden or driven, their training is usually basic and gentle on the grounds. Yearling horses are under their growing age, they are full of energy, and they are also quite unpredictable. Although they are not fully matured, they require knowledgeable handling because they are stronger and heavier than a human. Yearlings are often trained to get around human handling. Meanwhile, yearlings are also trained to go through the processes of clipping, grooming, blanketing, and loading into the horse trailer.


What Is A Mare Horse?

A female horse older than three years of age is called a mare. Mares are famous and people’s favorite because they are easier to handle and ride as compared to the male horses.

However, in thoroughbred racing, the term mare is usually opted for a female horse that is above the age of four. 

Mares can carry their young ones for up to 11 months from conception to birth, and the domesticated mare nurses its foal for six months, and in the wild, they nurse them for a year. Their estrous cycle occurs for 19-22 days from early spring into autumn. The mare returns to the anestrus period when they are not sexually receptive as the days shorten because their reproductive cycle is controlled by the length of days.


What Is A Broodmare?

A broodmare, in all simplicity, is a female horse that is used by the owner to produce offspring. Brood typically means ‘young,’ however, young here refers to ‘offspring.’ Thus, a broodmare is a fine-bred female horse that has the capability to produce high-quality fine foals. A broodmare is never termed so unless she has given birth to at least one baby horse or foal.

What is the difference between a mare and a broodmare?

A mare is a term for all female horses above the age of three. However, a broodmare specifically is a female horse above the age of three that is used for breeding. A mare can be of any age, but a broodmare should be of a certain age in which she can reproduce and produce fine foals. 

A mare may not be one of the finest horses an owner has, but the owners generally consider their finest female horses as broodmares. No mare can be termed broodmare until she has given birth to at least one foal.


What Is A Filly Horse?

A female horse that is younger than the age of three is known as a filly. However, in some countries such as the U.K. or the U.S., the age below which a female horse is considered a filly is five years. The filly is different from foal in the sense that foal is a common term used for both male and female baby horses, while filly is specifically used for female baby horses, usually under the age of three.

A filly is the complete opposite of a colt, which is the term used for male baby horses. Fillies are less aggressive and usually more docile and calmer than the adult horses, stallions, or colts. Thus, they are the more preferred choice for beginners. 


What Is A Stallion Horse?

A male horse that has not been castrated is called a stallion. It is mainly used for breeding purposes and can be worth a fortune. They generally have a muscular build and are also aggressive as they are fully grown. Their aggressive nature makes it hard to train, ride and tame them. They show their aggression mostly towards other stallions and sometimes towards human beings.

Their temperament may vary, and it is basically based on genetics and training. They require proper training and management by professional trainers and knowledgeable handlers. With proper training, they become equine athletes for horse racing, international competitions, and even good for horse shows.


What Is A Pony Horse?

Remember those cute little dwarf-ish horses usually ridden by kids and beginner equestrians? Those are the ponies. Ponies are horses that grow to a height of 147 centimeters or 14.2 hands and are typically shorter than an average horse. Ponies are usually stockier and more muscular than a normal horse, characterized by thicker manes, tail, and coat. 

A pony isn’t exactly a small horse, and it can also be defined as a horse with a specific conformation and temperament. They have shorter legs, heads, wide foreheads, and a heavy bone structure. While a lot of people often confuse ponies with foals or young horses, ponies, even when they are fully grown, are always shorter than adult horses.

What is the difference between a horse and a pony?

Although ponies and horses both belong to the species Equus caballus, ponies are shorter (less than 14.2 hands) than horses. They grow rapidly and become fully-grown adults quicker than horses, which take about 6-7 years to get to their full size. 

Aforementioned, ponies are more stocky and muscular, with a thicker mane and tail and tougher hooves when compared to horses. With a heavier bone structure and shorter legs, ponies, unlike the horses, carry heavier loads with much more strength than an average-sized horse. 

Although they are short, they are not as docile as the horses. This is why people prefer foals over ponies when they are learning the ropes at horse-riding. Ponies are more intelligent than horses and more stoic to avoid work which makes horses more useful than the ponies. 


What Is A Jenny?

There are two different and completely contrasting definitions for the word ‘jenny’ or ‘jennet.’ A Jenny or Jennet is a female donkey, regardless of age. However, in other definitions, a Jenny or Jennet is a Spanish horse that has a smooth gait with a muscular and stocky build and excellent behavior and disposition. Jenny or Jennet was ideally a horse with an ambling-gait for light-riding.


What Is A Jack?

A Jack is a term used for a male donkey. Jacks are usually more sturdy than Jenny while also being more aggressive. Jacks are domesticated donkeys that are also referred to as ‘cuddy’ in Australia. 

Shorter than horses, and slightly less stocky too, Jack is often used for carrying weights, instead of riding, unlike the horses. 


What Is A Hinny?

A hinny is the contrary or reciprocal breed to the mule. While on the one hand, a mule is the result of a horse mare and a donkey jack, a hinny is the offspring of a male horse or stallion, and a  Jenny or a female donkey. Unlike mules, hinnies are not very common and can not reproduce further of their own kind, meaning they are sterile. 

Although hinnies have a similar built to that of donkeys and mules, people prefer to work with donkeys or mules since they are easier to work with and more useful than hinnies. Hinnies represent myriad variations in build and stature due to the fact that donkeys come in many sizes, from 24 inches to 60 inches. Thus, a hinny usually grows to the size of the American mammoth donkeys that get as tall as 152 cm or 60 inches. An average hinny has shorter ears, stocky and strong legs, and a mane that is thicker compared to the mules. 


What Is A Zonkey?

A zonkey is the offspring produced when a male zebra and a female donkey are crossbred. People often confuse a zonkey and a zedonk to be the same animals, but a zedonk is produced if it is sired from a male zebra and a female donkey. This is the complete opposite of how zonkeys are sired. Like a number of hybrid animals such as mules, hinnies, and ligers, zonkeys are sterile and can not reproduce their own kind. Although these hybrids are very rare, they are majorly only found in zoos or are bred with the intent of attracting tourists. 

Bred by mating two species that share the genetic group, a zonkey tends to have the size of both the animals but shares numerous characteristics with the donkey in terms of appearance. Although a zonkey looks much like a donkey, it surely does inherit the unique and eye-catching stripe-patterned body from the father, that is, the zebra. It tends to have coatings that are usually tan, brown, or grey with a black mane and a black tail. They have a large head and ears, which make their appearance inclined towards the donkey more than the zebra. 


Other Equine Terms Related to Horses:

Gaited Horse

You know that one perfect horse that is smooth-to-ride isn’t too fast or too slow and surprisingly always has one foot in contact with the ground (which in fact is the meaning of the term ‘gait’), that horse is called the ‘gaited horse.’ Out of the 350 breeds, very few breeds are naturally ‘gaited,’ which means they can pace, amble and run-walk. Since gaited horses are very rare, only 30 breeds are naturally bred to be ‘gaited.’ Among gaited horses, these are the common breeds:

  • Icelandic Horse
  • Peruvian Paso
  • Paso Fino
  • Rocky Mountain Horses
  • American Saddlebred
  • Tennessee Walking Horse

Grade Horse 

A grade horse is a mixed-breed whose parentage is not identifiable and unknown. A grade horse isn’t exactly a crossbred horse because the one intent of producing crossbred horses is to create a new horse breed for a significant purpose, mostly to deliberately blend in the strength of the two different horse breeds. 

Grade horses are horses of unidentifiable parentage, mostly the result of accidental breedings, and provide a gigantic pool of gene-variation. However, it is a common misconception that grade horses are always born due to accidental breeding; sometimes, they have been plan-bred from a stallion and a mare, either of which has unknown parentage or unidentifiable bloodlines.

Grade horses are usually highly immune to many diseases and lack many of the genetic diseases that a purebred is usually susceptible to. 

Morgan Horse 

This, in other terms, is the horse that chooses you. Morgan horses are the horses that have the tendency to please their humans and are extremely cooperative with an eagerness to be loyal to their masters. Morgan horses can adapt to any situation and can be put to multiple uses, all while being generally easy to keep and breed. Morgan horses are so easy to ride that horse-riders or equestrians of all levels can easily handle them. 

One of the first U.S.-developed horse breeds, Morgan horses are believed to be the crossbreed of Thoroughbred and either Welsh cob or Friesian bloodlines.

Paint horse

Paint horses or American paint horses are breeds of horses that have pinto black and white spots, which are basically white and dark colors of the horse-coating appearing to be dotted. One of the largest breed registry horses in the North of America, Paint horses are flashy and colored while also being highly versatile, full of geniality.

Paint horses, just like Morgan horses, can be handled with ease by all levels of equestrians and are quite easy to get comfortable around. Paint horses are bred by the parentage of the bloodlines of Quarter horse and Thoroughbred. 


One of North America’s oldest horse breeds, Quarter horses are popular for multiple positive attributes as a breed such as versatility, agility, gentle temperament, great loyalty to their masters, and speed. Most commonly occurring in sorrel or brownish red, quarter horses have a strong and muscular built that can be best described as ‘sturdy.’ 

Quarter horses are stocky, deep-chested with short heads that are wide in texture, with a calm temperament, and they usually tend to be cooperative with both their masters and the equestrians. These multi-purpose horses (not plugs) are easy to train and are used both as horse races and family or ranch horses. 

Warmblood horses

Warmblood horses are the term for middle-weight horses that are distinctly different from cold blood horses or the heavy drafts, and hot blood horses or the light saddle horses. These horses are an upgrade of hot blood horses and are extremely versatile with outstanding excellence in jumping and dressing. The breed of warmblood horses can usually be found in field events and play in Australia and closer parts associated. 


Yes, of course not the car! Mustangs, in all simplicity, are the wild, free-roaming horses found in the western U.S. and are the descendants of Colonial Spanish mustangs or horses that were brought to America. When a mustang is domesticated, it is simply known as a feral horse.

Though mustangs originate from the original Spanish colonial horses, the modern mustangs are the result of several other horse breeds that now result in varying phenotypes. Mustangs can have any coat-coloring and can be best described as having sure-footing and impressive endurance. 


A bronco, most often known as a bucking horse, is a horse with a huge propensity to buck – duh! They have several other names resonating with bronco that best describe them, such as broncho and rough stock. Broncos or bronco horses are usually developed with the intent to produce desired temperaments in the offspring, much often for bucking in rodeos. Some of these horses are bred for the sole purpose of rodeos, while some horses are ‘spoiled’ and, over time, develop the tendency and capability to overthrow the rider (obviously, by bucking). 

A bronco can belong to any breed, and the crossbred broncos are usually the result of desired temperaments from two different breeds that the breeders intend to put into the bronco. 

Plug (horse)

Have you seen an assistant doing all the chores around the block to impress the boss? That is somewhat the plug or a plug horse. A plug horse, in simple terms, is a multi-purpose horse that can be used for several tasks other than just riding and carrying weight. People most often use the term plug, for a horse with undistinguished ability, because of the fact that these horses can be ‘plugged into any job where they are required.


Read More

  1. What Is Horse Glue? Is Glue Made From Horses?
  2. 5 Small Horse Breeds
  3. 15 White Horse Breeds


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here