Barry Geraghty Sporting Insights - Racing Lingo

Barry Geraghty’s lesson in Racing Lingo

On the bridle

When you’re on the bridle it means your horse is travelling well. When a horse is going well on the bridle you’ll see a jockey sitting motionless with the reins tight in his hands, whereas if you’re ‘off the bridle’ you’ll see him or her pushing away. Thankfully, I had a good few that stayed on the bridle for a long way in their races at Cheltenham this year! Some riders like Richard Hughes or Jamie Spencer would delay their challenges and keep their horses on the bridle for longer in the process.

Flat to the boards

You’re hoping you won't be flat to the boards too early on in a race as a jockey. You’ll see it a lot on fast, summer ground when jockeys are having to ask their horses to get into top gear to stay with the pace. On quick ground it’s easier for horses to maintain their top speed, so you’ll see a lot of jockeys working flat to the boards over the summer months in competitive races.

Put in a short one

Sometimes when a jockey is asking a horse for a big jump the a horse can 'put in a short one'. This is an extra stride the horse makes before jumping if he feels he can't come up for the big jump the jockey is looking for. It’s about making sure you meet the fence or hurdle on the best stride possible and sometimes, at pace especially, an extra short stride is needed before jumping. Bobs Worth used to be very good at it.

Take a blow

We say a horse takes a blow when he or her fills its lungs by taking a gasp of air. It’s usually done by a horse who isn't at peak fitness, one who can get a second wind after taking a blow and finish strongly. Defi Du Seuil took a blow before the turn into the straight in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham back in November and he then picked up really nicely to eventually win the race well.


We say a horse is green when they show signs of inexperience. Notably you’ll see them looking up at the stands and showing an obvious lack of concentration. Horses that are green can struggle to travel well right through their race and can sometimes wander around a bit, especially under pressure.

Saddle slipped

A saddle can either slip forwards or backwards, and either way it can inconvenience both horse and jockey. I rode Fitzhenry in the big handicap chase at Leopardstown in December when the saddle slipped back and I had to work hard to keep my balance as I was positioned a lot further back on the horse from where I would normally be. As for a saddle slipping forward, that’s usually due to a horse pulling hard. This is caused by the jockey pulling so hard on his reigns against the horse that it in turn pushes the saddle forward through the extra weight going into his irons.

Lost irons

A jockey losing their irons will most commonly happen when jumping, particularly if a horse jumps off in an exaggerated direction. The irons are there to hold your feet in place by the side of the horse and if you lose one or both of them it makes things tricky. I remember losing an iron on Exxaro at the last hurdle in Killarney for Henry de Bromhead and I had to work very hard to keep my balance and drive him home to win.

Ran freely

A horse running freely means it’s pulling really hard. If a horse is keen then you expect them to pull early on and then settle down, but running freely is when they refuse to settle and pull really hard throughout the race. Ultimately, it means a horse isn’t channelling its energy in the right way. My Tent Or Yours had a tendency to run freely.


Whenever we mention schooling we’re talking about horses jumping at home. Whether it’s over hurdles or fences, schooling refers to horses training over obstacles, whereas work is a way of describing more general exercise. We say a horse put in a good piece of work, or has been working well, when they’ve been feeling fit and healthy and galloping nicely at home.

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