Horse Idioms!

English is full of idioms.  I had no idea just how many idioms there are related to horses until I made this video … so many!  Learn some of the most common horse idioms while I horse around with friends.

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Video Text:

A friend of mine in a rock band here in New York recently asked me and another friend to show up at his concert wearing a horse mask. Needless to say, this generated quite a bit of interest. And this got us all thinking about idioms involving a horse. In this American English pronunciation video, we’ll go over some of those idioms. Would you believe we came up with almost 20 phrases and idioms that use the word horse, or somehow reference horses. And, I’m sure there are more.
>>Get off your high horse.
>> Get off your high
horse. That’s a perfect one.
>> Stop horsing around
>> These are, you have so many idioms!
>> Yeah, I’m cheating.
Get off your high horse. To be on a ‘high horse’ is to have an attitude of arrogance, of self-righteousness. ‘Get off your high horse’ means, stop being so arrogant. You have a couple options with the T in ‘get’. You can either make it a flap T, connecting it to the word ‘off’, get off, get off. Or, if you’re really emphasizing and going to make a pause, you can make it a stop T. Get off. Get off your high horse. Stop horsing around. Horsing around is rough or rowdy play, usually in good fun. My mom often accused my brother and I of horsing around.
>> Horse idioms. We have: don’t look a gift horse in the mouth…
>> …you can lead a horse to water,
but you can’t make it drink,
>> …hoofing it.
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. This means, don’t be ungrateful or suspicious when someone gives you something. A friend said this to me recently when I was talking about an offer that I got from someone to help me with my business. And I was a little suspicious. He said, “You know, Rachel, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. This basically means, you can’t make people do what they don’t want to do. Let’s talk a little bit about the pronunciation. You can lead a horse. So the main verb here is the word ‘lead’. That means ‘can’ is a helping verb. So we don’t want to say ‘can’. We instead want to reduce that word to ‘kn’, ‘kn’. You can lead. You can lead a horse to water. But you can’t make it drink. You might hear a CH sound happening between ‘but’ and ‘you’, but you, but you. This can happen when the T is followed by the Y consonant, but you, but you. But you can’t make it drink. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Hoofing it means to be moving really fast, to be running somewhere. For example, I hoofed it to work because I overslept. Note that the double-O here is pronounced as the UH vowel, just like cook, book, and Brooklyn.

>> Straight from the horse’s mouth.
>> Making hay.

>> A charlie horse.

Straight from the horse’s mouth means that you’ve something from the most authoritative or dependable source. For example:

>> Did you hear Jane is quitting her job?
>> No way. Where did you hear that?
>> From Jane herself. Straight from the horse’s mouth.

Making hay, or, making hay while the sun shines. This is to make the most of current opportunities. If you put doing something off, you may loose the opportunity to do it. For example, let’s make hay and go for a run before it starts raining again.

A charlie horse. This phrase is used for muscle cramps in the legs. You might hear this phrase as you watch the Olympics this summer.

>> I could eat a horse.
>> I’m so hungry
I could eat a horse. That’s true.
>> Did we
say don’t beat a dead horse? Don’t beat a dead horse.

I could eat a horse. Well, this means, of course, that you’re very very hungry. Notice the T at the end of the word ‘eat’ links to the next word, a, a schwa sound, so it’s a flap T or a light D sound. Eat a, eat a, eat a. I could eat a horse.

>> Rachel, are you hungry?
>> Yeah, I skipped lunch, so I could eat
a horse.

Don’t beat a dead horse. You might say this to someone who can’t let a situation go. If you think someone needs to accept things as they are, and they just keep talking about ‘what if?’, ‘what if?’, then you might say: Look, don’t beat a dead horse. It’s done.

>> Don’t put the cart before the horse.
>> That’s a horse of a different color.

Don’t put the cart before the horse. This means be patient and do things the right way, in the right order. Sometimes it’s very tempting to do things out of order and skip ahead. But it doesn’t always get the best results. Someone might say to you: do it right, don’t put the cart before the horse.

A horse of a different color. That is when you bring something up that is unlike that which you are already talking about. For example, to me, writing and spelling are easy. But math, that’s a horse of a different color. Meaning, to me, math is very hard.

>> Oh, there are so many idioms with ‘horse’!
>> Hold your horses!
>> Hold your horses!

>> That’s a great one.

Hold your horses. That means hold on, be patient, stop what you’ve just started. It’s among the most common of these horse idioms. Notice I’m reducing the word ‘your’ to ‘yer’, ‘yer’. Hold your horses.

>> This is a one-horse town. Put a horse out to pasture.

A one-horse town is a small, maybe insignificant town. For example, he’s very overwhelmed by the city, he comes from a one-horse town.

To put a horse out to pasture. This is when a racing horse is retired, but it can also be used with people, when someone is forced to retire. For example, Larry is past retirement age. I think it’s time to put him out to pasture.

>> Wild horses couldn’t drag him away.
>> Oh that’s a good one. I use that sometimes. My friend used that once recently.

Wild horses couldn’t drag him away. This is said when someone is very engrossed in or committed to something. Nothing can persuade him or her to leave or stop doing that thing. For example,

>> Are you watching the Mad Men Finale tonight?
>> Yes, wild
horses couldn’t drag me away.

>> A dark horse candidate, for example.

A dark horse is someone who is more or less unknown who emerges to a place of prominence or importance, usually in a competition. This is used quite a bit to describe a candidate in politics.

After doing our idiom research, we went out to dinner, and then made our way home. Although, I can’t really recommend riding a bike in the horse mask, because essentially, I could not see a thing out of it.

That’s it. Thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.

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