20 Horse Idioms & Sayings

Horses are wonderful creatures that have been domesticated and helped humans for thousands of years. It’s not surprising therefore that our ancestors came up with several horse-related idioms to better express themselves. Some phrases about horses have been around for centuries, and we’ve integrated them into ordinary conversations. How many of you know the English expression "get off your high horse"? Here are some well-known horse sayings.

20 Horse Idioms & Sayings

Horse idioms & phrases
Horse Idioms & Sayings

1. Hold Your Horses

used to tell somebody that they should wait a moment and not be so excited that they take action without thinking about it first


Hold your horses! We have not won yet, so don’t start celebrating.
Just hold your horses, Prisha! Let me think about this for a moment.

2. Flog/Beat a Dead Horse

to waste time and effort trying to do something that is impossible


Neha keeps trying to get it published but I think she is flogging a dead horse.
Kevin still has hope that his wife will come back to him, but he is actually beating a dead horse.

3. Dark Horse

a person who reveals little about himself or herself or his or her activities, especially one who has unexpected talents or abilities


I consider myself a dark horse in the industry.
Angela was also one of the dark horse candidates.
Dev was suddenly viewed as a dark horse when he displayed his beautiful sculptures at the art fair.

4. Get off Your High Horse

If you tell someone to, or suggest that someone should, get off their high horse, you are suggesting they stop behaving in a superior manner.


So come on, Dua, get off your high horse.
You're just an intern, so get off your high horse and do this filing, like I asked you to.

5. Eat Like a Horse

to always eat a lot of food


He is so thin, yet he eats like a horse.
Although she eats like a horse, she never gets fat.
My sister is super skinny but you'd never believe she eats like a horse.

Horse idioms & sayings
Horse Idioms & Sayings

6. One-horse Town

a small town with not many interesting things to do or places to go to


She grew up in a one-horse town, and she liked it very much.
Would you want to live in a small, one-horse town for your whole life?
Yash was exhausted by the one-horse town he had grown up in and couldn’t wait to move on and see what else the world could offer him.

7. Don't Spare the Horses

to urge someone to speed up on something that they are doing


Get this bloodwork to the lab and don't spare the horses—it's urgent.
This case needs to be closed soon. Speed up the investigation. Don’t spare the horses.

8. Stalking Horse

If you describe a person or thing as a stalking horse, you mean that it is being used to obtain a temporary advantage so that someone can get what they really want.


I do not think we ought to use the working man as a stalking horse for this sort of thing.
I have no notion of getting up and being made a sort of stalking horse for an attack upon one of my colleagues.

9. A Horse of a Different Colour

A person or thing that is completely different, especially in comparison to someone or something else.


That's what we'll do when she gets here. But if she doesn't show up … well, that's a horse of a different colour.
Most politicians would have resigned after a scandal like that, but this senator is a horse of a different colour.

10. Horseplay

a ​rough noisy play in which people push or hit each other for fun


My nephews are always fighting and getting up to all kinds of horseplay.
The chair got broken when the kids were engaging in a little horseplay.

11. Enough to Choke a Horse

a huge or excessive amount


His movies have enough prestige to choke a horse.
When my mother cooks for family gatherings, she always makes enough to choke a horse!

Keep reading: personality idioms

12. Charley Horse

a cramp (= a sudden painful tightening of a muscle) in your arm or leg


Ow! I just got a charley horse in my leg.
I got a bad charley horse after swimming for an hour.
She had to stop midway and call for help because of a charley horse in her foot.

13. Back the Wrong Horse

to support someone or something that cannot win or succeed


You really backed the wrong horse when you picked that swimmer to win the race—she didn't even get a medal!
The company has been losing money, and many investors are beginning to feel that they may have backed the wrong horse.

14. See a Man about a Horse/Dog

Excuse oneself without giving the real reason for leaving, especially to go to the toilet or have an alcoholic drink.


I've just got to see a man about a horse. I'll be back in a minute.
I don't know where Megha went. She said she had to see a man about a horse.

15. Wild Horses Wouldn't Drag (One) to (Something)

If you say wild horses would not drag you somewhere, you mean that nothing could persuade you to go there.


Wild horses wouldn't drag my best friend to a party tonight.
She doesn't know what to do. Wild horses won't drag her kids to the dentist!

16. Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

used to tell someone to be grateful for something that has been given to them, instead of asking questions about it or finding something wrong with it


He noticed the lute wasn't made of real wood, but he didn't say anything because you shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.
If I were you, I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Just be grateful that she was kind enough to give you her old watch when you needed one.

Small quiz for you: Synonym Quiz #3

17. (Straight) from the Horse’s Mouth

directly from the person who has personal knowledge of the matter


That news came straight from the horse’s mouth, so it is true.
I know it's true because I got it straight from the horse's mouth – Veer told me himself.

18. Drive a Coach and Horses Through Something

to completely destroy a rule, an argument or a plan


The new bill will drive a coach and horses through recent trade agreements.
The judgment appeared to drive a coach and horses through the Hague agreement.

19. Put the Cart Before the Horse

to do things in the wrong order


Tune the guitar first, then play it. Don't put the cart before the horse.
Aren't you putting the cart before the horse by deciding what to wear for the wedding before you've even been invited to it?

20. You Can Lead a Horse to Water but You Can't Make Him Drink (Proverb)

used to emphasize that you can make it easy for someone to do something, but you cannot force them to do it


You can't educate kids who aren't interested. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.
I gave him the email address of the person in charge of recruitment but he still didn’t contact him about the job. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

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