Misconceptions about Horses from non-Horsey People


My passion for horses, which could be arguably be called an obsession, has lead me to notice the multiple misconceptions that people who don’t know horses make about horses and horse people.
Maybe you’ve had experiences like these yourself.

Equestrian-Inspired High Fashion

It’s no secret: riding boots are in.

However, actual riding boots – no matter how beautifully made and worn – somehow aren’t the same as the Tory Burch boots. People who truly follow fashion are almost automatically aware of this fact.

People who only vaguely understand fashion fads have honestly asked me before, “Well can’t you wear you breeches and boots out to a nice dinner?”

Riding Fashion
Haute couture, or a one-way ticket out of any upscale restaurant?

The answer is no. My riding boots are crinkled around the ankle and likely have dirt on them. And my breeches have suede knee patches. Not high-end fashion. (I would argue that they’re super comfortable and functional, though.)

I wonder what kind of reaction I would get if I wore full seat breeches with my muddy tall boots to a fancy restaurant.

Ride, Cowboy! Ride!

John Wayne is a legend. And in my opinion, that man knew how to ride a horse. But not every man in a Western film was a true rider. “Hi-yah!” is not a typical horse command.

It always looks so easy in the movies.

Don’t get me wrong. Your voice is one of your natural aids when riding a horse, along with your hand, seat, and legs.

“Hi-yah!” can be effective, but unfortunately, years of Western movies have somehow associated that exclamation with hands held high and legs flapping against a horse. This sort of command is not ideal, but I know from my work as a wrangler in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, there are many urban cowboys who taken riding notes from Hollywood cowboys.

The movies are no substitute for an educated horse person. If you or someone you know has performed this “Hi-yah”-leg flapping-hand raising movement, you have given me a giggle. However, there’s a better way to encourage your horse to move forward: look up, move your hands forward and squeeze with your legs.

Do you love puppies or dogs? Kittens or cats?

I have clearly troubled more than one person when I’ve looked at an adult dog and proclaimed, “What a cute puppy!”

“That’s not a puppy. That’s a dog,” I hear in response.

I’ve met others, mostly other girls, who also refer to these animals with, I admit, the incorrect terminology. Wrong or right, I like calling dogs puppies and cats kittens.

That being said, I don’t think my terminology with dogs and cats is comparable to when people refer to the “pony” they saw in the field. When they say “pony,” they’re referring to a foal. Or baby horse. Or filly. Or colt. But not a pony.

Riding Fashion
Pony, foal, mini horse…donkey? It’s all the same to some non-horse people.

When I’ve tried to explain the different between a pony and a foal to people, they’re baffled. They see it as too complex. “You mean there’s a different word for a girl baby horse and a boy baby horse?”

They’re also baffled when I explain that Miniature Horses are not ponies.

While I could reason when my non-horsey friends all day, it’s a losing battle because they don’t have horse sense. In the end, it makes complete sense to me, and the conversations that come out of the misconceptions are usually pretty funny. And I’ll never turn down the opportunity for a good laugh.

Liked this article? Here are others you’ll love:
Rider Insider: Stuff Non-Equestrians Say
Make Way for the Horse

Allison Griest is a freelance writer based in Texas. Follow her on Twitter: @allisongriest


  1. Good article I have gotten to the point I just shake my head, grin and go on like I didn’t hear whatever stupidity came out of peoples mouth

  2. The “equestrian” fashion boots really gets to me. Especially when they are advertised as “riding” boots – and they have a zipper going up the inside of the calf!

  3. I have yelled ‘hi-yah!’ before… just without the dramatic kicking and hand raising. My horse knows that when were coming around that last barrel and I yell, hes gonna start runnin for the finish:)

  4. I’ve had my neighbor call me at work because my horse was laying down in the pasture. She thought it was sick. She told me that only sick horses lay down like that. I told her that all horses will sleep flat out if they are tired and in a trusted environment. She didn’t know that. Lol

  5. I was playing a game with my non-horsey friend and her(totally) non-horsey friends, when it came to be my turn I picked a category card in which I could make up whatever category I wanted, so I asked if they could give me a breed of horse. The one lady said “oh that’s easy, a stallion”…..I just looked at her in a daze and politely told her a stallion is a gender of a horse, not a breed and she was completely surprised that it wasn’t a breed.

  6. Some of the ones I hear people at school say or ask me personally while I am talking about my horse.
    For example,” my friends mustang the other day was.. blah blah blah” non horse person: “what’s a mustang?” Me: a wild horse breed” nhp: no that’s a stallion” me: “no a stallion is a gender” them,: “so you have a stallion?” Me: “no I have a gelding and a mare” them: ” there’s three genders?!” Me:” no a gelding is a male horse that has been gelded, or neutered in your terms” them: ” I thought all horses were stallions” lol that one cracks me up, and sadly enough I hear it all the time. And of course the classic fly mask one where they think you’re blinding them

  7. My favorite one is when everyone thinks that Stallion means either of these: a wild horse, a pretty horse, a white horse or black horse. Gets me everytime haha.

  8. It really gets me when people call mini horses mini ponies. There is a huge difference in a pony and mini horses. Ponies are little brats.

  9. Yes, I am guilty of calling my horse a pony. It is always a surprise if they actually go out to see h er. They look at me and say “That is not a pony!” Since she is a 16 hand Appaloosa, even the non horsy people know she is not a pony. I then explain that it is more endearing than descriptive.

  10. I can tell you exactly what the response is to someone in “real breeches and boots” is. A friend of mine went straight from a show (which ran very late) to a nice restaurant for a quick dinner The host at the front informed them that the least expensive meal was x number of dollars. They went ahead and ate, ordering a full meal with appetizers etc. It would seem that there is a negative assumption attached to real riding attire.

  11. Here are a few of my western style pet peeves. Those nasty dress western boots are not riding boots. No spurs don’t come with the boots and most don’t ride with spurs they are a tool. Better one was a gal going to a country singer concert stated she just had to have a cowboy hat. Well, true horseman will not wear a hat inside and its rude to the people sitting behind you. Taco crunching a straw hat is not cowboy fashion it just looks nasty.

  12. I used to “check out” potential dates by asking “how’s your seat?” would turn down those who tried to look backwards and would respond, “Is there something stuck on me?”, lol

  13. Sadly i have gotten in small, quiet, arguments with eleven year old girls that insist that my 8 year old miniature horse gelding is a 2 month old baby girl saddle horse with a dwarfism problem. I think it’s funny when people come to horse shows and tell you that they are a true horsemen until you start speaking to them with horse show terms, in which they can’t understand a word you are saying.

  14. Diane…. “A mini horse is a breed… pony is a size. also, mini horses are not considered ponies. pony can be any horse breed under 14.2 hands tall… a draft can be a pony as long as it’s 14.2 or under! mini’s are perfectly proportioned to a standard sized horse… just a small scale version and retain all the characteristics of a horse.. that’s why they’re not considered a pony. ponies typically have different conformation characteristics than horses.”

  15. Spot on. You have expressed everything I agree with.
    Thanks, great article.
    The equestrian fashion right now drives me insane.

  16. My friend and I saw the Budweiser Clydesdales at the fair pulling the Budweiser wagon. Behind them came the ponies (all the same markings as the Clydesdales in miniature) and she said “Oh look! Baby Clydesdales” as she thought they were actual offspring of the large team. * SIGH*

  17. I have gone directly from the barn out to dinner, wearing muddy (read: poo) riding boots and breeches coated in arena dust. I also had sweaty helmet head and my hands could have been cleaner. Dinner was delicious!

  18. I meant Zoe, a palomino is both a breed and a color. But when I was little I often thought a stallion was a breed, I didn’t know any better. Haha.

  19. Palomino is actually just a color, not a breed. People often get confused about that, but several breeds can have the palomino coloring.


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