What Do You Call a Horse Rider?
If you have people in your life who live and breathe horses, or maybe you’re one of those people yourself, you may be wondering how you’re supposed to refer to someone who rides horses. Is there a scientific name for horse people? How do you recognize in conversation if you’re talking about a horse rider?
What is a horse rider called? “Equestrian” is the correct scientific name for someone who rides and works with horses. A simpler term that is more widely used is “horseback rider.” There are other discipline-specific names that refer to a specific sport within horseback riding, like “eventer,” “reiner,” or “jockey.”
The world of horses is filled with all different kinds of vocabulary and terminology the normal person doesn’t know. If plan on getting involved in this world, having an understanding of specific terms can help you have a better grasp on the conversation. In this article, I’ll break down all the names and words used to describe horse riders and when you would use each one.
What is An Equestrian?
Horses fall into a genus of mammals called “Equus.” The Equus genus includes horses, donkeys, and zebras. The full scientific name for the horse species is “Equus caballus.”
Deriving from the scientific name for the horse, Equus, the correct technical term for someone who manages, works with, and rides horses is “equestrian.”
While equestrian is the correct scientific term for a horse rider, this term doesn’t just apply to anyone who rides horses. Equestrian specifically refers to people that involve horses in their everyday life. This could be a professional who trains horses or instructs other riders. It can also refer to people who have made horses part of their lifestyle.
Someone who rides horses occasionally is more often referred to as a horseback rider.
Other General Terms for Horse Riders
There are more commonly and generally used terms for horse riders than equestrian, as most people who aren’t involved with horses won’t know what equestrian means. Here are some terms the general public may use when referring to horse riders:
What is a Cowgirl/Cowboy?
While people in the horse community will rarely refer to a rider as a cowboy or cowgirl, the general public uses these terms to often describe horseback riders that compete in western disciplines. This term is also correlated with horseback riders who work on a farm or a ranch and use their horses to do the work of checking fences and sorting cattle.
To learn more about different western riding disciplines, check out my article Western Horse Competitions: Complete Guide.
What is a Horseback Rider?
Horseback rider is perhaps the most general term used by people both in and out of the horse community to describe people who ride horses.
What is a Horseman?
Riders can be referred to as a horseman if they have experience and skill working with horses. Oftentimes, horsemen are seen as people who have dedicated their lives to training and working with horses.
What is a Wrangler?
The general public may refer to someone who is working with horses on a large ranch as a wrangler. Wranglers also tend to have a wilderness connotation, as this term also describes trail guides who lead trail rides out in remote areas of the American West.
Different Horse Rider Terms Based on Riding Discipline
The horse world is never simple…did you know we have different terms for just about everything?! If you’re new to horses, you may hear one of the below names referenced to describe someone who participates in specific riding sports. To get a complete rundown, keep reading!
What is a Barrel Racer?
A barrel racer is a rider who competes in barrel racing; a competition where horse and rider race through a 3-barrel pattern in a clover formation to see who can get the fastest time. This is the most well-known western discipline.
What is a Bronc Rider?
A bronc rider is a rider who competes in bronc riding. This is where riders will ride bucking horses to see who can stay on the longest. Bronc riders usually have to stay on for 8 seconds to qualify for a win.
What is a Dressage Rider?
A dressage rider competes in dressage, a discipline considered the highest form of horse training that showcases a horse’s willingness, rhythm, balance, and movement. Upper-level dressage will require complicated movements from the horse, like a piaffe, passage, and certain lateral movements.
What are dressage competitions judged? To learn more, visit my article Dressage for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know.
What is an Endurance Rider?
An endurance rider competes on a horse to race over long distances; these races can range anywhere from 50 – 150 miles long. Horse breeds like the Arabian, Mustang, Missouri Foxtrotter, Appaloosas, and Icelandic Horse excel in this discipline.
What is an Eventer?
An eventer competes in eventing, one of the most encompassing yet challenging disciplines. In eventing, horse and rider will compete in 3 different events; dressage to prove a horse’s skill and movement, show jumping to show a horse’s finesse and speed, and cross country to prove the horse’s bravery and endurance. Upper-level events can span three days, known as 3-day eventing.
To learn more about eventing, check out my article What is Eventing? Everything You Need to Know.
What is a Fox Hunter?
A fox hunter is a rider who fox hunts their horse. While fox hunting isn’t a competition, it is an old tradition of riders, horses, and hounds gathering together to track and hunt a fox. These hunts can last for hours, and from personal experience, I can attest that they can be quite challenging!
To learn more about fox hunting, visit my article Fox Hunting for Beginners: Dress Code, Terminology, Gear.
What is a Hunter?
A hunter competes in the hunter/jumper riding discipline. While there are other competitions within this discipline, like equitation and pleasure, this discipline judges on the outward appearance of either horse or rider. The overall goal is to look like the quietest yet most effective or skilled horse or rider.
What is a Jockey?
A jockey is a rider who rides racehorses. Being a jockey is considered one of the most dangerous disciplines a rider could compete in. Jockeys are usually small in stature and light in weight to enable their horse to run as fast as possible. Jockeys rarely own the horses they compete on, but instead, are hired to ride them.
What is a Polo Player?
A polo player is a rider who competes on a team in the game of polo. Each player rides a horse, and the rules are very similar to that of soccer.
What is a Reiner?
A reiner competes in reining, a western discipline designed to showcase a horse’s training. Reiners will often be given a pattern to complete on their horse, each section of the pattern showcasing different training aspects. This sport is most widely known for its sliding stops and spinning horses.
What is a Roper?
A roper competes in roping riding competitions. In this discipline, a horse and rider’s skill and speed are showcased by chasing and roping a cow. These events can be done as a single horse and rider, or on a team. to win, the horse and rider have to rope the cow in the fastest time.
What is a Show Jumper?
A show jumper is a rider who competes in show jumping. In this sport, horse and rider have a jump course they need to complete in the fastest time. These courses often have intimidating jumps and tricky combinations to test a horse’s finesse.
To learn more about show jumping, visit my article Show Jumping for Beginners: All You Need to Know.
What is a Steeplechaser?
A steeplechaser is someone who competes in steeplechasing, a horse race that also includes jumps! These races are usually run on a grass track with rolling terrain and green brush jumps. Just like horse racing, steeplechasing is considered on of the most hazardous sports of horseback riding.
What is a Trainer?
While not referring to any specific riding discipline, a trainer is someone who trains horses. Trainers often start and break young horses or confront problem behaviors in other horses. Trainers can be discipline-specific or just provide general training. Trainers will often work alongside you to teach you how to best communicate with your horse.
What is a Trick Rider?
A trick rider is someone who competes in trick riding. In trick riding, a horse will go around the arena or have obstacles to go over while the rider performs different physical actions and stances off of the horse’s back. Besides competitions, you will often see trick riding at rodeos designed to entertain the audience.
What is a Vaulter?
A vaulter is someone who competes in vaulting. Vaulting is where a large horse goes around in a circle while a single person or a team of people performs eloquent stances and movements from the back of the horse. Vaulting requires riders to have not only riding skill, but also gymnastics or ballet skills as well.
Different Horse Rider Terms Based on Riding Level
Besides riding disciplines, you may also hear riders referred to by their riding level. This information is important to be able to recognize since many horses will be advertised with the level of rider they need listed. If you pair a horse with the wrong level of rider, you may be in a dangerous situation. Here are the different terms for each level of riding:
What is a Novice Rider?
A novice rider is a beginner rider who has a basic understanding of horse movements and how to control a horse.
What is an Intermediate Rider?
An intermediate rider has a good understanding of horse movements and how to control a horse, and they’re starting to learn more advanced queues and aids to communicate with their horse.
What is an Advanced Rider?
An advanced rider has a clear understanding of basic and complex horse movements. They know how to control a horse using all of their aids, and they know how to ask their horse to do advanced movements and challenges. Lastly, advanced riders also have an understanding of how to teach and train a horse to complete these advanced movements and challenges.
As I mentioned before, the horse world has many of its own terminologies that the general public has never heard of! To get a complete list of horse terminology, check out my article Horse Terminology 101 | Words Every Equestrian Should Know.