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Horse Idioms

Updated on December 6, 2015

Horse Idioms? Are there that many?

Yes! There are lots that I have stumbled across in my career. By trade I am an English language teacher and one of the lessons I love to give most is on Idioms in the English language. In fact considering there are more than 25,000 of them with that number growing each and every day it ends up being more than one lesson. After living in Brazil I decided to start researching and writing the history of certain idioms on Hubpages. I noticed that there is a startling number that have an origin to do with horses... Below I have included links to the ones I have already worked on and the link will take you through to the relevant hubpages article where you can read about the origin and a better definition of each one, but on here there is a quick definition and use of each one, which is perfect for an English language learner. This article is work in progress, partially cause I have yet to sift every single horse related idiom from the 25,000 and also because new ones pop up every single day. I hope you enjoy. (Image by Franois Marchal)

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth


When someone tells you 'not to look a gift horse in the mouth' it is advice not to doubt or criticize a potentially good situation or thing that has been offered to you.

"You should take that new job, don't look a gift horse in the mouth"


The horses gums recede with age and therefore the higher the gums the older the horse. If you received a horse as a present or gift it was seen as rude to examine the horses mouth to find out how old it was rather than be grateful for the gift itself therefore 'don't look a gift horse in the mouth'

Alternatives or Synonyms:

Don't be ungrateful, Don't criticise

by Ancalagon
by Ancalagon

Long in the tooth


To be long in the tooth is to be old or to be getting old.

for example, "I need a new bike, my old one is getting a bit long in the tooth"

or "you can't trick my grandfather, he's a bit too long in the tooth to fall for that joke"


There are a number of idioms in the English language that seem to relate to horses and the origins of this phrase is no different.

As seen in the picture on the right, you can determine the age of a horse by looking at it's teeth. As the horse gets older it's gums begin to recede and get smaller therefore making the tooth appear longer. Therefore the longer the tooth of the horse the older it is.

Alternatives or Synonyms:

Old, aged

Slooby from Chicago, U.S.A.
Slooby from Chicago, U.S.A.

Straight from the horse's mouth


'Straight from the horses mouth' is a very commonly used phrase in the English language.

If you hear something 'straight from the horses mouth' it implies that you have inside information or special knowledge of an event. It is used to demonstrate a level of certainty about a prediction.

"Dave and Mary are getting divorced, I heard it straight from the horses mouth' implying that either Dave or Mary told the speaker this information. While Dave is not a horse, rather a man, he is referred to metaphorically as one in this idiom.


This is another horse idiom. Sometimes horses are used for racing and people like to gamble on the outcome, as in which horse will win.

When people bet on horses they are given 'odds' or a number that represents the likelihood it will win. You may have seen

Red Rum 1/2

Black Beauty 1/4

and so on...

When a horse is declared the favourite to win, it is usually judged on form or health and the people that look after the horse, like the jockey or the stable boy are said to be the closest to it. They are the ones to know how likely their horse is to perform well. The phrase originated from people saying 'this horse is the favourite, because the stable boy told me and he heard it from the horse' thus the phrase developed that the information had been passed straight from the horses mouth.

Alternatives or Synonyms:

Direct information

Putting the cart before the horse

The cart is the thing the horse pulls behind it usually made of wood and with two wheels. Obviously normally the cart will go behind the horse so that it can pull it.

This phrase means to do things in the wrong order. It used to be commonly used to describe someone who had children before they got married, but as views in society have changed it is now more widely used as a general expression to describe things out of a logical sequence.

"You want to buy a car before you have learnt how to drive, you're putting the cart before the horse"

Others I'm still working on... feel free to add more

'A horse, a horse a kingdom for a horse'

'eat like a horse'

'get off your high horse'

Wild horses couldn't drag me away'

trojan horse

horse sense

horses for courses

hold your horses

Please feel free to add more horse related idioms that I can add to here and also cover on hubpages :)

Let me know what you think

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink


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