How Much Do You Know About Horseback Riding?

By: Torrance Grey

How Much Do You Know About Horseback Riding?
Image: Digital Vision/ DigitalVision/gettyimages

About This Quiz

With the advent of the car, horseback riding shifted from being a mode of transportation to ... well, to several things: a pastime, a competitive sport, or a way to enjoy nature. There are many reasons that people still ride today. Horses are still part of work on ranches, they are used in cattle roping and other forms of livestock management. Search-and-rescue officers use horses to cover difficult, mountainous terrain. Across the west, rodeos are a place for ranch workers to show off their skills and stay in touch with their heritage, and agricultural schools often field rodeo teams. On the east coast and in the UK, sports like dressage and show jumping are more popular. 

As with nearly any activity, horseback riding is a good deal more enjoyable if you know what you're doing. That just takes a bit of time and hands-on practice. But even before you get on a horse for the first time, it helps to know some facts and ground rules. What's the number-one safety rule around barns and stables? Is it okay to give your horse a treat, and what kind? What's the difference between English and Western-style riding, and which should you learn?

How well do you know this sport and hobby? Show off your skills with our quiz, if you can't get out to the country and ride. Are you ready? Saddle up!


Which of these is NOT one of a horse's gaits?
butterfly
The four gaits, from slowest to fastest, are walking, trotting, cantering and galloping. It sounds funny, but asking a horse to move up or down in its gait is not unlike shifting gears in a car!
canter
gallop
trot
walk

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What is "tack"?
food for horses
one of a horse's gaits
a method of jumping fences
riding gear which goes on the horse
"Tack" is a term that covers the bridle and saddle, saddle pad, maybe a halter (though halters aren't used while riding, just around barnyards). Your gear, like a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun out of your eyes, does not count as tack.

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What is a "gait"?
a type/speed of walking or running
We sometimes refer to humans as having a "gait," meaning the way they walk or run. It's important in horseback riding, because when you ride you'll be asking a horse to change gaits, and this will not only affect speed, but comfort.
a type of saddle
a type of bridle
something you close to keep horses in a barnyard or pasture

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Which of these activities would you use English tack for?
barrel racing
calf roping
show jumping
Only the last one, trail riding, is something you're likely to do as a beginner or casual rider. Of the other three, show jumping is done with English tack. Calf roping and barrel racing are rodeo events, done with Western gear.
trail riding

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What are the supports for your feet, which hang from the saddle, called?
quadrangles
railings
rests
stirrups
Once in the saddle, an experienced rider doesn't make much use of the stirrups. But it certainly can be hard to get on a horse without one!

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Is it acceptable to wear a helmet while riding?
sure!
If you're going for a mellow trail ride, yes, people might think you a little nervous for wearing one. But in the more demanding equestrian sports, like jumping, they've become standard equipment.
no, people will laugh at you

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What is a horse's height measured in?
feet and inches, like humans
hands
The common unit of measurement is the "hand," based on the average size of a man's hand. The average horse is 15 to 16 hands at the top of the shoulders, not the head.
klicks
stones

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What is the metal bar in a bridle, which goes in the horse's mouth, called?
the bit
To novice riders, this might look pretty uncomfortable for the horse, but most take to it fairly easily. Sidebar: We hope you weren't fooled by "the curb" as an option. There is such a thing as a "curb bit," for hard-to-control horses.
the curb
the fender
the shaft

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Which of these is larger/heavier?
an English saddle
a Western saddle
The Western saddle provides more comfort for long rides. It was designed in the days when ranch workers and cowboys spent all the day in saddle, whereas the lighter English saddle was designed with shorter rides in mind: hunting, trips to town, or pleasure rides.

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Which gait is generally considered to be the least comfortable?
the canter
the gallop
the trot
It doesn't take long to realize this, once you've started learning to ride. Many riders prefer to trot as a brief transition between the faster gaits and the walk.
the walk

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The game with mallets and balls played on horseback is called _____.
barrel racing
triad
polo
We think this could pretty easily be called "equestrian quidditch." But polo precedes J.K. Rowling's work by a couple of thousand years.
equestrian quidditch

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What is an ungelded male horse called?
a bull
a king
a sire
a stallion
We mention this in the context of horseback riding because a stallion is not a good horse for a beginning rider. A "fixed" stallion, called a "gelding," is a better choice. Or a female horse, called a mare.

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What is the canter called in Western riding?
a gander
a lope
People at a dude ranch will look at you oddly (and perhaps scornfully) if you call a lope a "canter." The canter or lope, a comfortable three-beat run that precedes a gallop, is one of several things for which English and Western riding have different names.
a jibe
a meander

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True or false: Shoeing a horse will make it faster.
true
false
The purpose of shoeing horses is to protect the hoof from wear: the demands of being ridden, especially the added weight of a human, causes a horse's hooves to break down faster. Shoeing would only increase a horse's speed in the sense that hoof damage won't be slowing it down.

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Using one's legs to rise up out of the saddle rhythmically during a trot, making the ride smoother, is called _____.
clogging
gaiting
posting
Posting is a technique used in English riding. You don't have to lift your bottom very far out of the saddle to avoid uncomfortable bouncing. Western riders will tell you it looks silly -- but is it really any sillier than bouncing like a sack of potatoes in the saddle?
shearing

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How much weight can a horse carry?
300 pounds
400 pounds
500 pounds
it depends on the horse's size and strength
The rule of thumb is that a horse should carry no more than 20 percent of its body weight. With many riding breeds being about 1100 to 1300 pounds, this easily accommodates most humans, including the weight of the saddle and saddle pad.

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The American breed with colorfully mottled hindquarters is called the ______.
Appaloosa
Though no horse breed is truly native to the Americas, some have a long history here. Such is the case with the beautiful Appaloosa, bred by the Nez Perce tribe.
Andalusian
Friesian
Morgan

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Which of these do horses like as treats?
apples
carrots
red licorice
all of these
Yup, people actually give their horses red licorice as treats! But apples and carrots are a better choice from the standpoint of dentals health. When at a riding stable or ranch, ask the horse's owner or the manager on site what your mount can have as a a treat.

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Which of these horse breeds often runs wild in North America?
Andalusian
Morgan
Mustang
This breed, often feral in the United States, is another poor choice for the beginning rider. While it's possible for a Mustang to have been born in captivity and trained to carry a rider from its youth, it won't have the smooth gait and innate tractability of a horse descended from generations of domestic horses.
Shire horse

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What is a hackamore?
a bridle without a bit
The word "hackamore" appears to come from the Spanish "jaquima," meaning "bridle." It requires a more experienced handler of horses than a traditional bridle with a bit.
a bridle with only one rein
a saddle without stirrups
a side-saddle

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What might a British rider call stirrups?
boots
footlings
irons
Technically, the "irons" are only the metal part of the stirrups, which also include leather upper straps. But "irons" is fairly interchangeable with "stirrups" in the UK.
silvers

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What is the raised rear part of the saddle called?
the cantle
This is simply the area of the seat that turns upward, giving the rider more protection from being unseated if the horse bolts. Both English and Western saddles have them.
the fender
the bumper
the posterior

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Which of these horses is known for its endurance in distance rides?
the Arabian
The Arabian horse isn't just beautiful (though it is; go to Google Images right away if you've never seen one). It was bred to travel long distances in harsh conditions, and can generally outdistance other breeds (though it'll need a day or two of rest afterward).
the Clydesdale
the Morgan
the Thoroughbred

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Which of these horses is known to be very comfortable to ride?
the Arabian
the Appaloosa
the Mustang
the Tennessee Walking Horse
This horse was bred to specifically have a smooth gait, and therefore a smooth ride. It has what's known as a "running walk," which is a trot nearly as smooth as a walk, or a walk nearly as fast as a trot, depending on how you look at it.

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What are the long leather straps on the bridle, used for "steering," called?
flanges
hales
reins
You were probably familiar with this one, as the phrase "take the reins" is used well outside the world of horseback riding. But it's so often incorrectly written as "reigns" that we couldn't resist including a friendly spelling lesson here.
reigns

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Horseback riding is called a/an _______ sport.
gentleman's
equestrian
You likely knew this one. "Equus" is Latin for horse, after all. But "gentleman's sport" isn't far off. The Latin "equites" meant "gentlemen," because the nobility rode, in ancient Rome, while the plebes just walked.
piscine
combat

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Which of these does an English saddle NOT have?
a cinch
a horn
The horn on a Western saddle was for looping rope around when lassoing and handling livestock. In this way, it served as a kind of third hand. You should quickly learn to ride without hanging onto the saddle horn; it's like driving with one foot hovering over the brake.
stirrups
a pommel

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True or false: Polo is a current Olympic sport.
true
false
Nope, polo came to an end as an Olympic sport after 1936. There are still equestrian events in the summer Olympic games, including pentathlon, in which show jumping is one of the five sports.

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Which of these breeds would you be unlikely to ride?
a Clydesdale
an Arabian
a Percheron
both #1 and #3
Clydesdales and Percherons are both draft horses, meaning they're bred to pull wagons. (Clydesdales are famously seen in Budweiser ads). We're not sure what a draft horse would do if you tried to jump on its back -- but for that matter, we're not even sure how anyone would get up there!

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What is probably Rule No. 1 of safety around stables and barnyards?
don't feed the horse unauthorized foods
don't wear open-toed shoes
don't make loud noises or unexpected movements
don't walk up behind a horse
While none of these are good ideas, the one that can save your life is the last one. Horses kick readily when startled, and unlike their bite, which is blunt and rarely causes real injury, a kick from a horse can kill you. DO NOT WALK UP BEHIND A HORSE. PERIOD.

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About how long have humans been riding horses?
1,000 years
2,500 years
4,000 years
5,500 years
Archaeologists think people starting riding horses around 3500 BCE. The use of horses to pull carts or carriages came a bit later.

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Which of these horses is fastest over a short distance?
the Arabian
the Quarter Horse
The Quarter Horse takes its name from its speed in quarter-mile races. Their strength comes from their big, rounded hindquarters -- these guys are the Kim Kardashians of the horse world.
the Thoroughbred
the Mustang

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Which of these saddles has a "pommel"?
English
Western
both
The pommel is the raised part of the saddle in front, which can help the rider keep forward balance. Don't confuse it with a "horn," which only Western saddles have.

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It is best to approach a horse from the ____.
left side
right side
front
rear
both left and front
Never approach a horse directly from behind; they kick when startled. Why the left? It's what the horse is probably accustomed to. Soldiers of old used to wear their sword or bayonets on their left hip, so they'd mount from that side too, lest a long weapon get in the way during the mounting procedure.
both right and rear

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What is the difference between a horse and a pony?
breed -- only specific breeds are ponies
size -- it's basically a small horse
ummm ....
Ponies are, in essence, small horses. However, there are breeds that are specifically called "ponies," like the Shetland Pony. Making things more confusing, English riders often call a small, tame horse a "pony" regardless of breed. There's not a lot of agreement on this point.

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