what is a colt horse

Understanding Horse Language: What Is A Colt Horse?

Horse lingo can be confusing for newcomers to the equine world. What is a yearling? What are chaps? What is laminitis and how can it be avoided?

Colt is just one of the many labels we use to describe horses. The name can be confusing at first, but by the end of this guide, you’ll have an answer to your question: what is a colt horse?

Defining A Colt

All species have sex and gender classifications, including our equine companions. At the most basic level, there are three broad categories: male horses, female horses, and (a bonus!) baby horses. These groups are referred to by different terms, but there is some overlap between them.

Colt comes from Old English and means “young ass” or “young camel.” Typically, though, the term is used to describe young male horses, mules, donkeys, or ponies below the age of four.

Strathorn Ally: One of our homebred Clydesdales when he was a two year old colt

Castration: Yes Or No?

When your young horse gets weaned from it’s mother, there are two paths to take. If your colt will be used for next-generation breeding, you’ll skip castration and the colt will grow up to be a mighty young stallion. However; if a boisterous stallion used for breeding isn’t in the plans, castration is the route to take. After that, your colt will be labelled a gelding.

Alternatively, if breeding isn’t a significant factor, it’s still important to note that geldings and stallions have very different temperaments. When entering a specific discipline, for example, your horse’s nature and personality traits will play a big part in the decision. Geldings are generally much calmer and easier to work with than stallions, who sometimes display aggressive behaviour towards other horses.

Colt Vs Foal Vs Filly

Everyone knows that a foal is a young horse – but we’ve just told you that a colt is also a young horse…

Simply speaking, a foal is any baby horse, regardless of sex. It is the general term for all young horses under one year old. It is only when we want to specify the gender of the horse that we’ll use more specific terms.

So, when we talk about a young male horse, we refer to it as a colt. On the other hand, a young female horse is called a filly, but both are labelled as foals. If the foal has recently been weaned off its mother (the mare), it will be called a weanling colt, or weanling filly.

If you want to refer to a young foal and specify its gender, here’s how:

  • A young male horse: a colt foal. Under one year old and still “entire” which means not castrated

  • A young female horse: a filly foal. Under one year old

Ally, Freya and Belle at around 11 months old. A colt and two fillies.

Soon after this was taken, they had to be separated as Ally became more boisterous


Once a colt or filly reaches the age of one, it’s referred to as a “yearling.” This classification is significant in the world of horse racing. Young colts and fillies may not be ready to race, but they begin to show promise and talent which may spike the interest of potential buyers. There will always be a few yearlings to look out for at the Kentucky Derby.

Freya and Belle as yearling fillies


What is the difference between a gelding and a colt?

Colts are young male horses that haven’t been castrated. Once it has been castrated, it is known as a gelding.

What age does a colt become a stallion?

Colts become young stallions when they pass four years of age and are not castrated.

Can you ride a colt?

In the racing industry, horses are raced from as young as two years old. In other disciplines, though, horses usually begin training from the age of three. This allows their bones to become strong enough to be ridden. In other words, yes; colts can be ridden.

What is the difference between a pony and a colt?

A colt is a young male horse, uncastrated under four years old. A pony can be a colt if it is male, under four and uncastrated.

What is a group of colts called?

A group of colts is called a “rag” you can find out the names for other groups of horses here

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