Types of horses explained

Horses Explained: What’s a Colt, Gelding, Mare, Filly & Stallion?

In Horsesby Morten Storgaard

People tend to use a lot of special words when they are talking about horses. We often hear such words as colts, mares, stallions, etc.

But what do they mean?

Here are some simple and clear explanations of each of these terms.

Types of horses explained

What’s A Colt Horse?

A Colt is a young male horse. So the only difference between a colt horse and a foal is that the colt is always a male horse. Which means that a colt horse is also a foal but only 50% of foals are colts.

People will also sometimes refer to a castrated horse under the age of 4 as being a colt.

But the term is being used a little differently when we are talking about horse racing in the U.K. In the UK, a colt can be a Thoroughbred that hasn’t been castrated. On top of that, it has to be between 2 and 4 years old.

So, as you can see, there’s quite a lot of confusion about this specific term.

Among wild horses, the leader of the pack will typically drive the young colt (age 2 or 3) away from the herd. Probably to prevent the young male from breeding with its sisters. They will then join other young males in a similar situation and these groups of young males have often been referred to as “rag” or “rake”.

What’s A Gelding Horse?

A gelding is a male horse that has been castrated. It can also be a donkey or a mule.

“To geld” often refers to the process of castrating the horse.

People typically castrate a horse in order to control its temper and make it less aggressive. If you know you won’t be doing any breeding on the horse you might as well castrate it.

What Is A Yearling Horse

A yearling is a young horse that can be either male or female. It is between the age of one and two and that’s basically all there is to say about a yearling.

They haven’t fully matured yet and they will have weaker bones and muscles than the fully-grown horses.

When the yearling reaches the age of three it will either be described as a mare or a stallion. Unless it has been castrated, in which case the male yearling will be called a gelding, as described above.

What’s A Mare Horse?

A mare is an adult female horse. It will have to be over the age of three, otherwise, it is referred to as a filly (see below).

In Thoroughbred horse racing, however, a mare is referred to as a female horse that is older than four years old. So this can be very confusing. You need to know exactly which type of mare people are talking about as there are a lot of differences here.

Mares are often easier to handle and ride than male horses (stallions). This is because they don’t have the testosterone hormone pumping around in their bodies.

What Is A Broodmare?

A broodmare is a female horse (mare) that is used for breeding.

“Brood” means “Young”, so it basically means “young female horse”. Young is referred to here as “offspring”. So a more correct meaning could be described as “A female horse for producing offspring”. And this is exactly what a broodmare is.

She isn’t given the name “broodmare” until she has given birth to at least one foal. Until then she can be a “prospect broodmare” but not a real broodmare.

The broodmare will typically be a very fine horse since the owner wants to breed on her. She will typically also be ridden but the main purpose will be to give birth to some fine new foals.

She will typically be bred to a fine stallion in order to produce fine foals that can be sold or used by the owner.

What’s A Filly Horse?

The filly horse is a female horse under the age of three. After the age of three, it will be referred to as a mare (see above).

So we use the term to declare that we are talking about a female foal. That’s what distinguishes a foal and a filly.

When we are talking about several female foals we call them fillies, which is the plural form of filly. Fillies are typically calmer and easier to ride than a colt. They have less will and aggression and they are great for teaching kids to ride.

What’s A Stallion Horse?

A stallion is a male horse which has not been castrated. You normally use a stallion for breeding purposes.

A fine stallion horse can be worth a fortune and they are often among the best of the best since the owner has decided to breed on him.

They are often more muscular and a bit more aggressive than other horses because they are fully-grown males that haven’t been castrated. The hormones in the stallion can make it harder to teach and ride.

They are normally not aggressive towards humans but mostly towards other stallions. We should remember here that horses are flock animals and a stallion will naturally try to rule the herd around of horses around it.

What’s A Foal Horse?

A foal is a baby horse. It can be either male or female. When we are talking specifically about a female foal we will often use the term filly and when we are specifically talking about a male foal we will use the term colt.

You can see a description of the terms colt and filly at the top of this article.

How we are done describing the many names for horses and we will move on to explain the terms we use to describe smaller horse-like breeds.

What’s A Pony Horse?

A pony is a small horse which is lower than 14.2 hands (58” or 147 centimeters). It’s as simple as that.

Ponies will typically have a thicker coat and be a bit more muscular than the normal horse. They also have shorter legs which is why they are not as tall as horses.

So, when you know the proportions, it’s primarily its legs that are shorter when you compare them to a fully grown horse. Other than that, a pony looks a lot like a small horse. And the pony will also eat and drink the same stuff as a horse. It can even be ridden by kids and shorter people.

What Is A Jenny?

A Jenny or a Jennet is a female Donkey. They can be any age as the term only describe that we are talking about a female donkey.

The Jenny will often be calmer and a little less sturdy than the Jack (see below).

What Is A Jack?

A Jack is a male Donkey. When you breed a jack and a female horse you get a mule. That’s typically a sterile animal, just like the hinny we will mention below.

A Jack is a domesticated breed that is smaller than horses but they share the same family tree.

The Jack is called a cuddy in Australia.

What Is A Hinny?

A Hinny is a hybrid of a stallion (male horse) and a Jenny (female donkey).

They are not very common and they are typically sterile, which means that they are not able to reproduce themselves. People will often produce donkeys instead of hinnies as they are more useful and easier to work with.

What’s A Zonkey?

A Zonkey is a hybrid of a Donkey and a Zebra. They also have many other funny names and they are not very common. Probably because Zebras like to keep to themselves and so do Donkeys.

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