The Equestrian Vernacular: A Language unto Our Own


Vernacular (ver⋅nac⋅u⋅lar) (noun): the language or vocabulary peculiar to a class or profession; jargon, argot, slang.

We enjoy a sport that is rife with words imported from other languages and specific to esoteric concepts. Since many of us learn the terminology from reading in books and articles, when you add the challenge of pronunciation to the mix, the results can be both amusing and mortifying.

There was a thread on the Chronicle of the Horse that touched on this subject: Word Pronunciations You’ve Been Too Embarrassed to Ask.

I’ve used that thread as a starting point and added a few of my own.

One of my most embarrassing moments came after I had purchased a high-end Canadian saddle off of eBay. While I’d certainly heard of Schleese, I had no idea that it was pronounced Schlay-za; I’d always thought it was Schleeze. I’d been proudly telling people of my purchase. I took solace in the fact that most of the people I told didn’t know how to pronounce it either!

The list below is of other easily mispronounced words. In some cases, the correct pronunciation is still up for debate! If I’ve gotten it wrong, please let me know.
Ariat = Derived from Secretariat, it is pronounced  Air-ee-at”.
Piaffe = Pee-aff
Mattes = Mats or Matt-iss, depending on who you believe.
Antares = An-tar-eeze
Devoucoux = de-voo-cou
Equine = ek-kwine or eek-kwine
Fjord = Fe-yord (apparently not Fee-yord, which is what I’ve always said).
Holsteiner = Holstyner or Holshtyner
Pikeur = Pie-kur
Trakehner = Tra-kay-ner
Hermes = Air-mess, not Air-mays or Her-meez
Albion = Al-Bee-uhn
Akhal Teke = Ack-ul-teckie
Bosal = BO-sil or bozzle
Grulla =Grew-ya
Keuring = kuurrring
Irish Draught = Irish Draft
Chaps = “Chaps” if you’re English, “Shaps” if you’re Western
Chambon = Sham-bone
De Gogue = I’ve always said De Gogg. I’ve seen Dee-Gow and De-Gawg
Baucher = I’ve always said Bow-sher; apparently it’s Boo-shay. Maybe it’s one of those British vs. French pronunciation things.
Chef D’Equipe – sheff day-keep
Courbette = Cor-bet
Passier = Pass-ee-ay
Puissance = pwee-sonce
Chincoteague = shin-ka-tig
Selle Francais = Sell Fron-say

4 thoughts on “The Equestrian Vernacular: A Language unto Our Own

    1. Thanks for the correction! There are so many different interpretations on how to say Hermes (her-meez, air-maize, air-mess) that I wasn’t sure which was right. Okay, I knew which ones were really wrong, but that was about it.

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