Cutting through the Jargon – Horse Racing Definitions

horse racing definitions

Horse racing is a fast-paced sport and it’s a thoroughly exciting experience for riders and spectators alike. It’s even more exciting if you decide to have a little flutter on a particular race and are hopeful of making a little money as well.

For those not overly familiar with the world of horse racing will often come across all sorts of words,phrases and other race-related jargon that perhaps they can’t quite get their heads around.

This is especially true when you may find yourself wandering around the paddocks or listening to an overly exuberant commentator on the television.

So here’s a quick look at some of the most popular terms and jargon to help you understand a little more about them and in what circumstances they are most used.

Horse Racing Definitions

Flat racing is exactly how it sounds. It’s a horse race that doesn’t require the runners and riders to tackle any obstacles along the course such as jumps, fences or water hazards.

These types of races take place between the spring and autumn months and are ideal you the younger runners before they begin their jumping careers.


This is the area of the racecourse which is where all the racers will be walked around by their handlers in an attempt to help warm them up before heading out back to their paddocks.

This is a great location on the course where spectators in particular can catch a glimpse of the horses before they race to see how they’re looking, which can even help influence their betting decisions. Even all the latest horse racing news can’t always give you this first-hand insight.


This is the official weighing of the riders with their weights and saddle which is carried out by the “Clerk of the Scales” before the race.

This is to make sure that the jockeys’ weight matches what it should for the horse to carry. Other checks are also carried out to ensure that the jockey has the right headgear and the correct silks (the riders’ race clothing).


This is the standard measure of length used in horse racing and is the equivalent of 220 yards (660 feet). Eight furlongs is equal to a mile.

Even though it’s not an officially recognized measurement here in the UK but it’s still used in horse racing terms around the world to this day.


When a race is under starters orders it means that all the horses are being called into their starting stalls or to the line before the race commences.

Once the starter has deemed the race ready to run it is ‘under orders’ and all horses are officially judged to have competed even if they don’t get off to an immediate start.,


If a particular race has an extremely close finish where 2 or more horses manage to cross the line in quick succession there may be the need for a photo finish.

Once the horses cross the line an automatic photo is taken and this gives judges the ability to take a closer look to see just which horse cross the line in first position.