Glossary of Racing Terms
half-brother, half-sister: Horses out of the same dam, but by different sires. Horses with the same sire and different dams are not considered half-siblings in Thoroughbred racing. (A confusing and unreasonable concept, to be sure.)
halter: Like a bridle, but lacking a bit. Used in handling horses around the stable, and when they are not being ridden.
(to) halter: Slang for claiming a horse.
hand: Four inches. A horse's height is measured in hands and inches from the top of the shoulder (withers) to the ground, e.g., 15.2 hands is 15 hands, 2 inches = 62" tall. Thoroughbreds typically range from 15 to 17 hands.
handicap: 1) A race for which the track handicapper assigns the weights to be carried. 2) To make selections on the basis of past performances (to) handicap.
handily: 1) Working in the morning with maximum effort. Compare with, 2) A horse racing well within itself, with little exertion from the jockey.
handle: The amount of money wagered in the pari-mutuels on a race; a program; during a meeting or for a year.
hand ride: Urging a horse with the hands and not using the whip.
hard (track): A condition of a turf course where there is no resiliency to the surface.
hard-boot: Denotes a well-traveled breeder whose boots are caked with mud and therefore hard. By extension, a breeder or trainer whose methods are characterized as old-fashioned. Generally used in the phrase, "Kentucky hard-boot."
harrow: Implement or unit with pulling teeth, or tines used to rake and loosen the upper surface of a track.
head: A margin (of measurement) between horses. One horse leading another by the length of its head.
head of the stretch: Beginning of the straight run to the finish line.
heat: 1) A race in which more than one running is required to decide the winner. (More common in harness racing.) 2) A breeding term. See estrus.
heaves: Emphysema. See chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
heavy (track): Wettest possible condition of a turf course; not usually found in North America.
heel crack: A crack on the heel of the hoof. Also called a sand crack.
helmet: A lightweight fiberglass cap worn by riders to prevent head injuries. It is required equipment, and not considered to be part of a jockey's riding weight.
hematoma: A blood-filled area resulting from injury.
high weight: Highest weight assigned or carried in a race.
hip: Joint located in the hindquarters, which is formed by the pelvis and the femur.
hock: A large joint just above the shin bone in the rear legs. Corresponds to the level of the knee of the front leg.
homebred: A horse bred by her/his owner.
hood: A (usually) nylon covering which goes over a horse's head to which blinkers or earmuffs are attached.
hoof: The foot of the horse. Consists of several parts that play an integral role in supporting the weight of the horse.
hopped: A horse that has been illegally stimulated is said to be hopped, short for "all hopped up."
horse: When reference is made to gender, a horse is an ungelded male, five-years-old or older.
horsing: Behavior of a mare in heat (in season). See estrus.
hot walker: Person who walks horses to cool them out after workout or races. A horse after a race or workout is called a hot. ("Joe's at the barn, walking hots.")
hung: A horse that does not advance its position in a race when called upon by her/his jockey.
hyaluronic acid: A normal component of joint fluid. Also, a manmade intra-articular medication used to relieve joint inflammation.