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American West/Cowboy – Vocabulary and Slang.

Badlands  – barren areas of South Dakota, as well as other inhospitable western locations.

Bake  –  to overheat a horse by riding too fast, long, or hard.

Band wagon  – peddler's wagon.

Bangtail  – wild horse; mustang.

Barefoot  – unshod horse.

Barn sour  – horse that loves his stall; speeds up the pace as he nears the barn on the journey home.

Barrens  – elevated lands or plains upon which grow small trees, but never timber.

Batwings  –  long chaps with broad leather flaps.

Bedroll  – blankets and tarp rolled up and used for sleeping.

Bell or bell mare – a horse with a bell, usually a cowbell hung around the neck of a lead mare so that the herd can be left to graze all night and then located in the morning.

Big augur or big sugar  – ranch owner.

Boil over  – horse that starts bucking.

Bomb-proof – a horse that won’t spook.

Bosal –  – piece of equipment that goes around a horse’s nose with a knot at the back underneath the horse’s chin.

Bottom  – a horse that has deep reserves of stamina.

Bottom-lands  – rich flat land on the banks of rivers.

Brand artist  – rustler who alters brands with a running iron.

Breast collar  – leather straps that connect from the saddle around the horse’s breast to keep the saddle from sliding backward while climbing steeply.

Britchin – a strap or series of straps connected to the saddle by crupper rings; spreads pressure of the load across the animal’s back; especially helpful on steep terrain; used with pack animals and saddles to provide maximum support, stability and strength.

Broke in two   – a horse bucking; also kettled.

Bronc buster  – cowboy who could tame wild horses.

Broom-tail  – a negative term for an ill-behaved or ugly horse, often a horse that looks or acts like a mustang.

Buckaroo  – cowboy, usually from the desert country of Oregon, Nevada, California, or Idaho; also jackaroo.

Bucking rolls – two padded pouches added to the front of the saddle seat to supplement the swells and help a rider stay in the saddle; designed to be used with slick fork saddles which have very little width to their swells; curved shape conforms to the contour of the saddle; attached to the saddle with saddle strings or screws .

Burn the breeze  – ride at full speed.

Busted off – bucked off.

Buzzard bait – a worn-out horse.

Calk  – sharp points of iron on horse or ox shoes to prevent their slipping on ice.

Canner – horse that’s good only for the slaughterhouse; “That's a canner horse for sure. hopefully, he wouldn't give somebody's good dog indigestion.”.

Caveson – muzzle for a horse.

Cavvy – group of saddle horses on a cattle ranch used to work cattle; also called remuda .

Cayuse  – cowboy's steed.

Chaps –  – sturdy coverings for the legs consisting of leggings and a belt; buckled on over trousers with the chaps' integrated belt; have no seat and are not joined at the crotch; made of leather to protect the legs when riding through brushy terrain; also called bat wings.

Chew gravel  – thrown from a horse.

Chinks – similar to chaps, but shorter, hitting the rider below the knee but above the ankle; fastened around the rider’s legs by snaps, buckles, or other fasteners, but the fasteners stop above the back of the knee, allowing the chinks to move more freely from that point downward. .

Chuck-line rider  – unemployed cowboy who rode from ranch to ranch, exchanging a bit of news and gossip for a meal; grub-line rider.

Coffin head – a horse who has a large, ugly head.

Cold-backed –  a horse that often bucks when it is first mounted.

Concho  – embossed round silver pieces, usually of Mexican workmanship, used on a saddle.

Country club horse – a horse that knows nothing about the trail and can’t handle itself in rough country.

Cow sense  – a horse that knows what to do around cows.

Cow horse  – a mount used mainly for working cattle; a good horse for working cattle.

Cribbing –  compulsive behavior when a horse grabs a solid object, such as the stall door or fence rail, with his incisors, arching his neck, pulling against the object, and sucking in air; usually caused by boredom or anxiety and related to confinement.

Crow bait – emaciated, worn-out horse likely soon to become carrion and so attractive to crows .

Crow hop – a movement in which a horse hops or prances a bit on its front feet, usually because it is anxious or thinking of bucking.

Cut for sign – to make a wide loop on foot examining the ground as a way to pick up the trail of lost horses or livestock.

Cutting horse  – a horse used for cutting livestock from a herd.

Dappled – horse with patches or spots of color on it.

Decker – a type of pack saddle with rings on which panniers are hooked.

Diamond hitch – a type of hitch over a packsaddle that forms a characteristic diamond shape.

Double diamond hitch – a more elaborate diamond hitch in which the crossed ropes form smaller diamonds, the most difficult and reliable of the packsaddle hitches.

Dude – man from the city, inexperienced rider or wealthy Easterner who goes to a ranch to experience the cowboy life; also a mail-order cowboy.

Dude horse – a horse that is slow, easy, lazy, and plodding; not a good horse for an experienced rider.

Dusted – thrown from a horse.

Eight seconds – an oft-cited length of time by cowboys, referring to the amount a time a bronc-rider must stay on a horse to qualify.

Ewe neck – defect in a horse or dog in which the neck is thin and has a concave arch; horses even look uncomfortable and don’t take the bit very well .

Fiddle – a horse's head.

Flea-bitten – horse that has completely changed its base coat to either pure white or "flea-bitten" gray; a color consisting of a white hair coat with small speckles or "freckles" of red-colored hair throughout; also connotes an old horse (although horses do not get fleas).

Fork – saddle with the front end looking like an "A," and no swells.

Founder – clinical name for laminitis, or swelling inside the horse's foot; painful inflammation.

Full-rigged – saddle that is completely leather-covered.

Gad – spur.

Goch eared or Gouch eared – a horse whose ears, usually because of frostbite or fighting, are blunt, snipped off or rounded.

Grassed  – to be thrown from a horse.

Green – horse that has not yet been trained or has just begun training; experienced horses are often referred to as “made”.

Green broke – beginning to accept saddle, bridle, and rider or harness and vehicle; early phases of being broke, but is nowhere near ready to ride, pull, etc. and still needs significant training.

Greenhorn – an Easterner innocent of cowboy ways; tenderfoot.

Hackamore – includes three parts: hanger, mecate and bosal – hanger or headstall that goes over the horse’s head, behind the ears; mecate or reins, usually made from horsehair (nicer ones are made from mane hair, some made from tail hair) or nylon; mecate, or reins; bosal, defined above.

Hard-mouthed horse who requires an unusual amount of pressure applied to the bit to respond; often refers to a horse who has been ridden roughly or poorly.

Hay baler – a horse, also called hay burner.

Header – cowboy in a roping team who ropes the head.

Heeler – cowboy in a roping team who ropes the heels (also a favorite breed of cow-dog).

Hobbles – a device that prevents or limits the motion of a horse by tethering one or more legs when no tie device, tree, or other object is available; allows horse to graze and move short and slow distances, but prevents horse from funning off too far.

Honda or hondo  – the sliding loop knot in a lasso or lariat.

Hoss – a horse.

Hot shoeing – (hot fitting, and hot shaping) a process of horseshoeing used by most farriers, requiring blacksmith skills and  a forge, an anvil, hammers, tongs, fore punch and pritchel and hardie. (Of note regarding the heat levels--a white heat or welding heat is too hot; a black heat is too cold. A good working heat is red to orange.).

Hull – a saddle.

Humped up or Humping up  – when a horse tightens the muscles of its back, arching up, usually a prelude to bucking.

Hurricane deck – the saddle of a bucking horse.

Indian broke – horse trained to be mounted from the right side. Cowboys mounted from the left side.

Jingle bobs – jingling pieces of metal that hang from the spurs and make a sound while walking or riding.

Keeper – a strap for stirrups or irons to keep stirrups in the run up position and can prevent the twisting of stirrup leathers by using solid brass scissor snaps at each end with a cotton webbing in the center..

Knobs – spurs.

Leathers or stirrup Leathers – the broad pieces of leather that carry the stirrup.

Malpais , Mally-pie or malapi – rough lava beds or lava-strewn plains prevalent in the Southwest; malpaνs means “bad country” in Spanish..

Manty – the tarp or waterproof cover that goes over a packed packsaddle.

Manty-up – to throw a cover over a packsaddle and tie it down; to pack a horse.

McClellan saddle – a type of Western saddle invented by General McClellan in the Civil War..

Medicine hat – not a particular breed, but a particular color – unusual pinto pattern where the base of the horse is white, but the ears and around the entire top of the head is brown, black or roan; horse looks like he has a tight cap on. Legend has it that Native American tribes, especially Plains tribes, called the spot a "Medicine Hat" or "war bonnet.".

Moon eye – most common cause of blindness; a condition where horses experience eye pain in the sunlight and prefer to be outside at night; eyes eventually become a cloudy, pale blue and resembling the color of the full moon.  Myth said horses had been blinded by the moon and that the coming and going of the condition followed the monthly phases of the moon..

Muleskinner – person who drives and usually rides in a wagon pulled by mules.

Nubbin – saddle horn.

Outfit – a cattle ranch or everyone and everything involved in a trail drive.

Outlaw – a horse that cannot be tamed to ride.

Owl headed – a horse that won’t stop looking around.

Panniers – the bags (of any material) used for carrying, hung on either side of the packsaddle.

Picket line – a line strung between two trees on which horses are tethered.

Picket pin – a pin driven into the ground with a rotating swivel to allow a horse to be staked out on a long rope in an open pasture.

Pigging string or hogging string – a string a cowboy carries on his saddle, used for hog-tying an animal for branding, after it has been roped and thrown.

Pimple – cowboy's name for the very small saddles used by Easterners.

Plug – an attachment inside of a muzzle that restricts virtually all eating while allowing a horse to drink freely; should only be used under supervised conditions. Or an old, worn-out horse (plugs along, or not worth a plug nickel—an 1880s Western America term for a coin that had been tampered by cutting a hole in it and filling the hole with inferior metal; not worth much).

Popper – a flat strip of leather at the end of a set of reins used to make a popping or slapping sound on your saddle or chaps as a way of communicating with the horse.

Puddin' foot – an awkward horse.

Rat tail – old Western term for Appaloosas that often had a sparse mane and tail.

Remuda – herd of horses from which ranch hands select their mounts.

Rig – saddle.

Rocky Mountain canary – a burro used by the miners in the Rocky Mountains.

Rollers or blowing rollers – the blowing, razzing sound a horse makes when it is frightened or nervous.

Roman nose – a draft horse with a profile that bulges slightly outward from the eyes; an undesirable trait in other breeds because it indicates coarseness and can interfere with vision.

Rosette – circular leather fastenings used on a saddle.

Running iron – an o-ring of metal (usually a saddle ring) that could be heated in a fire and, with tongs, used to draw any kind of brand on an animal. At certain times in the West where cattle rustling was prevalent, a man could be hung for carrying a running iron..

Saddle bum – a drifter.

Saddle skirts or skirts – the broad piece of leather that fringes a saddle.

Sawbuck – a type of pack saddle with crossed pieces of wood, on which the panniers are hung.

Sideline – specialized hobble, rope that connects a front leg to its corresponding hind leg.

Six-shooter horse – a fast horse.

Slicker – raincoat.

Slick fork – roping/reigning saddle with a slick seat that is all one large piece of leather; earliest saddle use by plains cowboys.

Slick horn – saddle horn that does not have a protective wrap around it to guard it from chafing during roping..

Snub – to check a horse by means of a rope or line made fast to a fixed object, often to another trained horse.

Soft horse – a horse with little stamina.

Spur shelf – on a cowboy boot, where the top of the heel is positioned to stick out to form a shelf on which the spur rests..

Squaw hitch – a generic style of packsaddle hitch, refers to a number of easier hitches..

Stake out – to put a horse on a long rope to allow grazing.

Stampede string or stampede strap – a strap on a cowboy hat that keeps it from flying off in a gallop or strong wind..

Steer – what you have to do to turn a two-handed horse.

String  – a group of horses belonging to a single rider or cowboy.

Sway back – lordosis-- the deeply sagging top line that develops in some older horses or can be caused by a horse being ridden too hard at too young of an age.

Tack – term used to describe any of the various equipment and accessories worn by horses in the course of their use as domesticated animals. Saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, harnesses, martingales, and breastplates are all forms of horse tack; tacking includes grooming and putting on the riding equipment.

Taps or Tapaderos – leather flaps that cover stirrups; help protect feet from the brush and elements; and keep the foot from sliding too far into the stirrup and therefore reduce the risk of getting caught and dragged if you fall off your horse.

Two handed horse or two-rein horse – a horse that isn’t trained to neck rein; a horse that requires two hands to control.

Uncorkin' a bronc  – breaking a horse.

Vaquero – cowboy in Spanish; Spanish root word for the American word “buckaroo”.

Waddie – a hired man, especially in the western United States, who tends cattle and performs many of his duties on horseback; cowman, cowpoke, cowpuncher; sometimes refers to a cattle rustler; especially a cowboy who drifted from ranch to ranch and helped out in busy times.

War bag – bag where cowboys stored their possessions—extra clothes, extra ammunition, spare equipment parts, harmonica, cards, bill of sale for his horse; also called a "war sack" and a "yannigan bag.".

Widow maker – a very bad or "outlaw" horse.

Woolies – chaps covered with long goat hair.

Wrangler – someone employed to handle animals professionally, especially horses, but also other types of animals; cowboy, cowpoke, cowpuncher.

Wreck – what happens when a horse or horses go crazy; (bad wreck is a wreck in which a person or horse is hurt or killed).

Our thanks to Long Rider Douglas Preston for these terms.

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