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What Is A Horse Rider Called? (Proper Terms For Horse Riders)

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Think all horse riders are called Jockeys? Prepare to have your horse-riding stereotypes smashed! Explore the diversity of horseback riders, from cowboys to show jumpers and beyond. Buckle up for an equestrian revelation!

What do you call a person who rides horses?

Aren’t horse riders called jockeys? Asked almost every non-horse person ever!

Well yes some of them are.

But no, not all horseback riders are called jockeys.

You may be surprised to find out that their are a handful of terms for horseback riders.

Just like every hobby and sport has their own set of vocabulary and terms, so does horse riding.

The most general term for a horse rider is an equestrian.

All horse riders can be labeled under the term equestrian. Whether they are a cowboy or cowgirl, a show rider or recreational rider, a show jumper or a dressage rider, a trail rider or a weekly riding lesson student.

But there are more specific terms that may be used for horse riders depending on the style of riding and sometimes the gender of the rider.

In this article I am going to cover an array of terms and nicknames used for different types of equestrians, so you have more clarity on what horse riders can be called.

Definition Of Equestrian

I thought it might be helpful to see several different dictionary definitions of “equestrian.”

Dictionary Definition Of Equestrian
Oxford Languages
Google’s English Dictionary

1. relating to horse riding.
“his amazing equestrian skills”


2. a rider or performer on horseback.
a: of, relating to, or featuring horseback riding equestrian Olympic events
b archaic : riding on horseback : MOUNTED
c: representing a person on horseback

aof, relating to, or composed of knights

bone who rides on horseback
1. of or relating to horseback riding or horseback riders:equestrian skill.
2. mounted on horseback:equestrian knights.
3. representing a person mounted on a horse:an equestrian statue.
4. pertaining to or composed of knights or mounted warriors:an equestrian code of honor.
5. of or relating to the ancient Roman equites.

6. a person who rides horses.
Cambridge Dictionaryadjective
1. connected with the riding of horses:
Ex: They plan to hold the Olympics’ equestrian events in another part of the city.

2. person who rides horsesespecially as a job or very skillfully
 1. of or relating to or featuring horseback riding

2.  a person skilled in riding horses
synonyms:horseback rider, horseman

3. of or relating to or composed of knights

Nick Names & Terms For Horse Riders

Here is a list of questions providing explanations as to the different names and terms for horse riders you may hear in the horse world. Below this section, I have also created a chart for brief descriptions and quick scanning of the terms, if you prefer.


What is an equestrian?

An equestrian is a horse rider, male or female, who has at least basic horse handling and riding skills. You are not an equestrian just because you rode a horse for an hour a few times. Some people believe that being an equestrian is a way of life.

What is a rider?

A rider is a general term for any person who is riding a horse.

What is a horse rider VS. horseback rider?

These are generic terms for someone who rides horses. However, horseback rider is more commonly used in the United States, whereas horse rider is more commonly used globally.

cowboy and cowgirls

What is a cowboy?

A cowboy can refer to a variety of things. A man who rides horses and works cattle on a ranch, a man who rides horses in a western discipline, or a man who competes in rodeo, including bull riding, bronc riding, cutting, and so on.

Watch YouTube video about Modern Cowboys.


What are female cowboys called?

Female cowboys are called cowgirls. The term “cowgirl” was first used for a female counterpart of the cowboy in 1884, for a female ranch owner. Cowgirls are seen in riding disciplines such as barrel racing, reining, western pleasure, and cutting to name a few.


What is a jockey?

A jockey is a person who typically rides thoroughbreds in horse races. They are small in size and can’t be heavier than a certain weight. Before the races, they need to be weighed with the equipment to make sure they are not over the weight limit.

Watch YouTube video from CNN What it takes to be a jockey.

What is an exercise rider?

Exercise riders are horse riders who exercise thoroughbred race horses. They can be a little bit bigger than jockey size and don’t usually compete in races, unless they are also a jockey.

What is a show rider?

A show rider is a horse rider who regularly competes in horse shows. This can be any riding discipline that has riding competitions. They most likely have a regular training schedule and take supplemental lessons. They may, however, ride for fun on occasion, such as going for a hack or riding bareback.

What is a catch rider?

A “catch rider” is someone who competes with horses that they do not own or train. Most of the time, these riders don’t know the horses, and they may be asked to compete with little notice. This could be a great chance for equestrians to ride a lot of different horses and make some extra money at the same time.

Watch video on YouTube of a children’s hunter jumper catch rider.

recreational rider

What is a recreational rider?

A recreational rider is someone who does not compete regularly. They primarily ride as a hobby and for recreation. Some recreational riders, on the other hand, may still participate in a show from time to time for fun or to see what they need to work on in their riding.

hunter jumper rider

What is a jumper, hunter and equitation rider?

These riders’ labels all fall under the hunter/jumper riding discipline, an english discipline. Some of these riders may specialize in one type of riding or combine them.

In the most basic terms, a jumper rider is concerned with timing and completing a clean round.

A hunter or equitation rider can compete in either flat or jumping classes. A hunter rider is primarily concerned with the horse’s performance.

While the equitation rider focuses on the rider’s performance, a good horse can also make the rider look good.

Watch video on YouTube about hunter vs jumper riding and style rules.

event rider or eventer

What is an eventer?

An eventer is a horseback rider who practices and competes in eventing, an english discipline. Eventing is a three-phase event that includes dressage, show jumping, and cross country. Schooling shows can sometimes be divided into two phases rather than three.

Originally known as 3 Day Eventing, eventers competed over three days. This still happens, but there are also lower-level events that take place with all three phases occurring on the same day.

Those of you who event, or know somebody who events, will surely agree with me when I say that the sport defies all logic. It’s like trying to take a convertible around a 4X4 track, or going skydiving using a plastic packet as a parachute.

Polo the Weirdo Pony Box

Watch YouTube video about eventing rules.

dressage rider

What is a dressage rider?

A dressage rider is one who trains and competes in dressage, an English discipline. Dressage is the horse equivalent of ballet. Together, the horse and rider make movements that look easy and flow smoothly from one to the next. This type of riding requires a high level of fitness as well as an excellent connection between horse and rider.

Watch YouTube video about dressage rules.

What is an endurance rider?

An endurance rider competes in an endurance race. Endurance riding is a long distance event in which individual horse and rider teams fight against the clock while going through designated and timed cross-country trails, frequently covering 50–100 miles in a single day.

Watch YouTube video about endurance riding.

saddleseat rider

What is a saddle seat rider?

A saddle seat rider is one who trains and competes in saddle seat, an english discipline.

The Saddleseat style of riding evolved as a result of plantation owners’ demand for a saddle and riding style that was ideal for the horses they were breeding.

They utilized these horses to inspect and evaluate their vast plantations. These owners wanted horses with smooth gaits, quickness, stamina, attractiveness, and style.

Watch YouTube video about Youth Nationals Horse Show for Arabian Saddle Seat Equitation.

What is a side saddle rider?

A side saddle rider is typically a woman who sits sideways in a side saddle. It was dated back to the middle ages as a modest way for woman in skirts to ride. It is still a riding discipline today in the modern era.

Even though it was thought to be a sport for women, some men rode sidesaddle throughout history. Riding sidesaddle was easier for them if they had lost a leg or had other injuries.

Watch YouTube video about riding saddle seat.

What is a vaulter?

A vaulter is a horseback gymnast or dancer. This can be done in a competitive or non-competitive setting.

Vaulters can perform alone, in couples, or in groups. The horse being worked with is usually a draft or a draft cross.

Watch YouTube video about Swiss vaulters freestyle round.

barrel racer

What is a barrel racer?

A barrel rider is one who trains and competes in barrel racing, a western discipline. Barrel racing is a rodeo sport where a horse and rider aim to run a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels in the quickest amount of time.

Often, there is a money prize for the winner of the barrel race.

Watch YouTube video about barrel racing the NFR 2021.


What is a reiner?

A reiner is one who trains and competes in reining. It’s a western discipline during which the horse follows a preset pattern that includes sliding stops, spins, and circles, both slow and fast.

Watch YouTube video about 2012 AQHA Reining World Championship.


What is a rancher?

A rancher is a phrase that may or may not refer to a horse rider. Horses are used for daily duties by some people who own or work on ranches. Others like to use heavy machinery such as tractors, ATVs, and UTVs.


What is a cutter?

A cutter competes in a western-style competition where horse and rider work together to exhibit the horse’s agility and skill to manage cattle in front of a judge or panel of judges.

Watch YouTube video about Houston rodeo cutting horse competition.

calf roper

What is a calf roper?

A calf roper is someone who participates in the calf roping sport. It’s a quick-paced activity in which a calf is freed and the horse and rider chase after, rope it.

The horse comes to a halt and ‘holds’ the cow while the rider quickly dismounts, races to the calf, and binds three of its legs together. The objective is to perform these tasks as quickly as possible.

Watch YouTube video about

What is a team roper?

This sport features a pair of riders pursuing a cow. One rider ropes the cow’s horns and assists in turning the cow so the other rider can rope the hind legs. The purpose is to complete the task as quickly as possible.

Watch YouTube video about calf roping competition 2021.

What is a bareback rider?

A bareback rider most commonly means a person who competes at rodeos riding bucking horses without a saddle. 

However it can also mean a rider who rides horses solely without a saddle.

It can also mean an entertainer or vaulter, like in a circus, who does acrobatic or balance feats bareback while the horse trots or canters.

Watch YouTube video about

bronc rider

What is a bronc rider?

A cowboy or cowgirl who rides in either a bareback or saddle bronc competition. This is a rodeo event where the rider tries to stay on a bucking horse that is trying to get him off. Whoever stays the longest wins the competition.

Watch YouTube video about Xtreme Broncs Match Fundraiser.

What is a pickup rider?

A pickup rider tends to be male though more females are jumping in the ring. These riders help bronc and bareback riders dismount safely after their rides during rodeos.

They ride up beside the bucking horse in groups to loosen the bucking strap and provide the rider with something to cling onto as they slip from the horse to the ground.

Watch YouTube video about a female pickup rider named Jessica Mosher.

What is a broncobuster?

The term broncobuster is used for someone who breaks in a wild horse to saddle. This term was used in a time when horses were seemed as brutes to be dominated and have their spirit broken, mastered and controlled.

I don’t know if all broncobusters’ break horses this way, but there are kinder, gentler methods.

What is a buckaroo?

Although this term is a gender-neutral, it is commonly used as a label for male horse riders in Western disciplines and rodeos.

A buckaroo may also be a nickname of affection for young riders.

What is a wrangler

A wrangler is someone who is involved in the process of taming, controlling, and handling different animals, particularly horses.

Herding cattle and bringing horses in from the pasture have always been part of this practice.

Wranglers often work for cowboys or tourists who want to ride horses on North American ranches.

What is a cowpoke

Cowpoke is another way of saying cowboy. It is a hired hand who looks after cattle and performs other duties on horseback.

The term “cowpoke” first appeared about 1881, and it initially referred to cowboys who nudged cattle onto train carriages with long sticks.

A cowpoke can also be used as a nickname for a lazy cowboy who neglects his duties on a farm or ranch.

What is a caballero?

This is a term for a Spanish or Mexican gentleman, who is skilled in horse riding.

These men were typically nobility who could afford horses over donkeys.


What is a gaucho?

A Gaucho is a skilled horseman who is rumored to be brave and unruly.

They were considered the South American cowboy.

Watch episode on YouTube about Gauchos.

What is a vaquero?

Horse riders who tend cattle are sometimes referred to as Vaqueros (male) or Vaqueras (female). It is derived from vaca, which means “cow,” which is derived from the Latin word vacca.

These terms have Spanish origins and are generally applied when describing the 16th century America’s founding cowboys and horsemen.


What is a knight?

A knight was a heavily armored warrior from the middle ages who fought on horseback. They served a monarch and were known to have a privileged military status.

It was not simply being a noble that made one a knight but that plus a series of steps that would qualify one for knighthood. Knights were also known for having a code of chivalry. Fearless in battle but civilized and cultured.

What is a rejoneador?

The rejoneador rides a well-trained horse and executes the bull with a rejón, a short, wide blade fastened to a shaft.

Because fighting on horseback is a prominent part of Portuguese bullfighting, Rejoneo is frequently referred to as the Portuguese style.

What is a cavalier?

A mounted solider and another name for Knight. A man who is knowledgeable in horseback riding and horse management. Used most often in Latin America.

What is a cavalryman?

A cavalryman was simply a solider on horseback.

What is a dragoon?

Soldiers taught to battle on horseback and on foot. They were given this name because of the dragoon weapon they utilized.

EquestrianGeneral term used to label all people who ride horses as an art, sport, or hobby, no matter the discipline.
RiderGeneral term used for someone that rides a horse.
Horse RiderHorse rider and horse riding is a common term especially in Europe.
Horseback RiderHorseback rider and horseback riding is a common term used in the United States.
CowgirlA female western rider.
CowboyA male western rider.
Jockeya rider who rides in a horse race.
Exercise Ridera rider who exercises race horses.
Show Ridera rider of any discipline who rides and competes in horse shows on a regular basis.
Catch Ridersomeone who competes on a horse they don’t own or normally ride.
Recreational Ridera rider of any discipline who rides solely for enjoyment and not competition.
EventerRider who trains and competes in the discipline of Eventing
JumperRider who trains and competes in the discipline of Show Jumping.
HunterRider who trains and competes in the discipline of Hunter Jumper.
Equitation RiderRider who trains and competes in the discipline of Hunt Seat Equitation.
Dressage RiderRider who trains and competes in the discipline of Dressage.
Barrel RacerRider who trains and competes in the discipline of Barrel Racing.
ReinerRider who trains and competes in the discipline of Reining.
Calf RoperRider who competes in calf roping.
Team RoperA rider who competes on a paired team in calf roping.
Endurance RiderRider who trains and competes in the discipline of Endurance Riding.
Saddle Seat RiderRider who trains and competes in the discipline of Saddle Seat
Side Saddle RiderRider who trains and competes in the discipline of Side Saddle
Bareback RiderRider who trains and rides bareback.
Bronc RiderRider who competes in rodeos riding broncs or bucking broncos.
HuntsmanA member of the foxhunting team who trains the hounds, hunts with the hounds, and maintains control with them in the field. (Foxhunting.)
Master           The MFH is an abbreviation for the Master of Fox Hunt. The person  who is in charge of overseeing the hunt in the field and the kennels. (Foxhunting.)
FieldThe group of people who are riding to the hounds, with the exception of the Master Fox Hunter and staff members. (Foxhunting.)
Field MasterA representative of the Master of Fox Hunt who is responsible for controlling the field when they are absent. (Foxhunting.)
Whipper-InA member of the Huntsmen’s staff who supports them in maintaining control of the hounds. (Foxhunting.)
Hill ToppersHorseback riders or automobile drivers that pursue the hounds from behind the usual field without leaping are classified as “hound chasers.” (Foxhunting.)
KnightA man who served as a mounted soldier in armor for his sovereign or lord.
CavalierA mounted solider and another name for Knight. A man who is knowledgeable in horseback riding and horse management. Used most often in Latin America.
CaballeroSpanish or Mexican gentleman skilled in riding horses.
Gauchoa skilled horseman who is rumored to be brave and unruly. South American cowboy.
Cowpokehired ranch worker in charge of cattle management.
Vaquerois a horse-mounted livestock herder heritage with roots in the Iberian Peninsula that has been inspired and influenced in Mexico from a methodology introduced to Latin America by Spain.
Broncobustera cowboy who breaks in wild or partially tamed horses.
Cavalrymansoldier on horseback
Rejoneadora bullfighter on horseback.
DragoonUS soldiers trained to fight on horse and on foot. They were named after the weapon they used.
Wranglercowboy involved in the process of taming, controlling, and handling horses, as well as other livestock.

Other Equestrian Related Terms

I thought I would include a couple other questions regarding terms for equestrians. So here we go!

What is a horse lover called?

In the dictionary a horse lover would technically be called a Hippophile. The word comes from the Greek words “Hippo” (horse) and “Phile” (beloved, loving, or friend).

When people say “it’s just a horse” they don’t understand.


Horse lovers can also have nick names such as :

  • horse person
  • horse girl
  • horse boy
  • horseman
  • horsewoman

Then there are other terms for horse lovers such as:

  • horse obsessed child
  • horse crazy girl
  • crazy horse lady
  • horse crazy person

What is a barn rat?

A barn rat is a person that spends majority of their time at a horse barn. In other words every chance they are able to be at the barn… they are.

Whether they hang out, volunteer, work or ride at the barn, they find any excuse to be there as much as possible.

You know, the child/teenager who would rather spend all day every day at the barn rather than with other people. They are tough as nails, not afraid to get dirty, fearless and, now it seems, a dwindling breed. Dare I say, on the verge of extinction.



So the umbrella term for all horse riders is equestrian.

But the proper term for each individual equestrian depends on what style of riding, purpose they have and sometimes gender as well.

Leave a comment:

Which of these terms and labels describe you as an equestrian?

Cheers, Kacey

P.S. Here are some more posts on different types of horse riding, your not gonna want to miss!

Horse Rider Meaning

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Disclaimer Notice: Please be aware that horseback riding and related equestrian activities carry inherent risks. The advice and experiences shared on this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional training or advice. Ensure your safety and that of your horse by wearing appropriate gear, practicing safe horse handling, and consulting with certified equestrian professionals. Remember, each horse is unique, and techniques may vary accordingly. Always prioritize safety, respect, and patience in your equestrian endeavors.

Kacey Cleary Administrator
Kacey has been an equestrian since 1998. She was a working student at several eventing and dressage barns. She has owned horses, leased horses, and trained horses. Kacey received an A.S. in Equine Industries from UMass Amherst, where she rode on the dressage team. She was certified with the ARIA and is licensed to teach riding in MA. She has been a barn manager and has run her own horse farm.
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