Horse Idioms in English - Idioms - The English Digest (2024)

Welcome to the galloping world of “Horse Idioms in English”! Whether you’re an English language learner, a writer looking to enrich your prose, or simply someone who enjoys peppering conversations with vivid expressions, understanding “Horse Idioms in English” can give your communication skills a significant boost. This blog post takes you on a linguistic trot through the stable of “Horse Idioms in English,” exploring their meanings, origins, and powerful impact on spoken and written language.

“Horse Idioms in English” are not only fun to use but also deeply rooted in historical contexts that reflect the importance of horses in human society. These idioms add a layer of richness and color to our daily language. From “hold your horses” to “back the wrong horse,” each idiom carries a unique story and usage scenario that can dramatically enhance the expressiveness of your language.

In this post, we’ll saddle up and navigate through a variety of “Horse Idioms in English,” providing you with engaging examples and practical tips on how to incorporate them into your everyday language. Perfect for enhancing your English vocabulary, acing language exams, or simply making your communication more engaging, these “Horse Idioms in English” are ready to take your language skills over the hurdles of mundanity and into the winner’s circle of eloquence. So, let’s ride into the sunset of linguistic mastery with “Horse Idioms in English”!

1. Back the wrong horse

Meaning: To support a losing candidate or make a wrong choice.

Explanation: This idiom is used when someone has chosen to support something or someone that is unlikely to succeed.


  • He backed the wrong horse by investing in a technology that became obsolete within a year.
  • When it came to picking the new project leader, they clearly backed the wrong horse; she quit within a month.
  • Investing heavily in the failing company was like backing the wrong horse; it only led to losses.

2. Beat a dead horse

Meaning: To waste time doing something that has already been attempted.

Explanation: This idiom refers to continuing efforts that are pointless because the outcome has already been decided or won’t change.


  • Arguing about this issue now is just beating a dead horse; the decision has already been made.
  • He kept trying to get them to change the policy, but it felt like beating a dead horse.
  • We’re just beating a dead horse discussing this matter further; let’s move on.

3. Change horses in midstream

Meaning: To switch to a new course of action in the middle of something.

Explanation: This idiom warns against altering plans or leaders in the middle of a project or period of uncertainty.


  • Changing our marketing strategy now would be like changing horses in midstream; it’s too risky.
  • They considered hiring a new manager but decided against changing horses in midstream.
  • With the software development half done, changing the tech stack would be like changing horses in midstream.

4. Charley horse

Meaning: A sudden, involuntary cramp or spasm in the muscles of the leg.

Explanation: Typically used to describe a sharp muscle pain that temporarily makes movement difficult.


  • He jumped up to cheer and got a Charley horse in his calf.
  • During the marathon, she suffered a charley horse that slowed her pace.
  • Stretch properly to avoid getting a charley horse while exercising.

5. Dark horse

Meaning: A candidate or competitor about whom little is known but who unexpectedly wins or succeeds.

Explanation: This idiom is used in contexts where someone shows surprising potential or success, especially in competitions or elections.


  • He was the dark horse in the election, coming from behind to win comfortably.
  • No one expected the small startup to succeed, but it turned out to be the dark horse of the industry.
  • In the singing competition, she emerged as the dark horse, surprising the judges with her voice.

6. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Meaning: To not be critical of a gift or benefit.

Explanation: This idiom suggests that one should not be ungrateful when receiving a gift, akin to not checking a gifted horse’s teeth for its age and health.


  • When you receive free advice, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; just say thank you.
  • They gave us free tickets to the concert, so let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.
  • Even if it’s not exactly what you wanted, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

7. Eat like a horse

Meaning: To eat a lot of food.

Explanation: This idiom is used to describe someone who consumes a large amount of food, similar to how a horse feeds.


  • After the gym session, he ate like a horse.
  • She’s so petite, yet she eats like a horse.
  • When teenagers hit a growth spurt, they can eat like a horse.

8. Flog a dead horse

Meaning: To continue a particular endeavor is a waste of time as the outcome is already decided.

Explanation: Similar to “beat a dead horse,” it suggests that no amount of effort will change the situation.


  • Asking them again to fund the project is like flogging a dead horse.
  • He kept trying to revive the old argument, but he was just flogging a dead horse.
  • They realized that trying to sell the outdated model was flogging a dead horse.

9. Get off your high horse

Meaning: Stop acting superior; be more humble.

Explanation: This idiom is used to tell someone to stop behaving arrogantly or pretentiously.


  • You need to get off your high horse and admit you were wrong.
  • She finally got off her high horse and apologized to her team.
  • Tell him to get off his high horse and look at his own mistakes.

10. Hold your horses

Meaning: Wait a moment; slow down.

Explanation: This idiom is used to tell someone to stop and consider their actions more carefully before proceeding.


  • Hold your horses! We need to think this through before we decide.
  • He was about to make a huge mistake, so I told him to hold his horses.
  • Hold your horses! Let’s check the figures one more time.

11. Horse around

Meaning: To play around in a rough or silly manner.

Explanation: This idiom describes playful, often physical, behavior that is not serious and sometimes disruptive.


  • The kids were horsing around in the backyard when one of them scraped a knee.
  • I told them to stop horsing around in the office; it’s not professional.
  • They spent the afternoon horsing around at the beach.

12. Horse of a different color

Meaning: An entirely different matter or issue.

Explanation: This idiom is used when distinguishing between two situations or subjects that may seem similar but are actually quite different.


  • I can help with the hardware, but the software is a horse of a different color.
  • You’re good at science, but literature? That’s a horse of a different color.
  • They thought it was a simple repair, but it turned out to be a horse of a different color.

13. Horse sense

Meaning: Practical knowledge or common sense.

Explanation: This idiom refers to the ability to make good judgments based on practical wisdom and experience.


  • Use your horse sense before making such a big decision.
  • He may not have a degree, but he has plenty of horse sense.
  • It takes horse sense to manage a team effectively.

14. Horse trade

Meaning: To bargain hard, especially in a political context.

Explanation: This idiom describes the process of tough negotiations, typically involving compromises or exchanges.


  • There was a lot of horse trading before the two parties could come to an agreement.
  • The legislative process involved some intense horse trading to get the bill passed.
  • They had to horse trade for hours to settle on a fair price.

15. Horseplay

Meaning: Rough or boisterous playing.

Explanation: This idiom refers to a physical play that is energetic and possibly unruly.


  • No horseplay near the pool, kids!
  • The teacher warned them that horseplay in the classroom could lead to injuries.
  • Horseplay at the workplace can be dangerous.

16. Hung like a horse

Meaning: To have a large male genitalia.

Explanation: This colloquial and somewhat vulgar idiom is used to describe a man who is well-endowed.


  • That crude joke about being hung like a horse was not appropriate for work.
  • He bragged about being hung like a horse to impress his friends.
  • The rumor about the new actor being hung like a horse spread quickly among fans.

17. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride

Meaning: If wishing could make things happen, then everyone would have what they want.

Explanation: This idiom emphasizes that merely wishing for something is not enough to make it come true.


  • You can’t just wish for success; if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
  • He always talks about what he would do if he were rich, but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
  • If wishes were horses, beggars would ride—we need to work hard to achieve our goals.

18. Iron horse

Meaning: A steam locomotive.

Explanation: This historical idiom refers to the old steam-powered trains that were once a symbol of modern industrial power.


  • The museum had an exhibit featuring an iron horse from the 19th century.
  • He loved reading stories about the iron horses that crossed the American frontier.
  • The old iron horse was restored to run on special occasions on the heritage railway.

19. One-horse town

Meaning: A small, insignificant town.

Explanation: This idiom describes a town that is so small or unimportant that it could be served by a single horse.


  • He grew up in a one-horse town that didn’t even have a stoplight.
  • After living in New York, moving to a one-horse town was a big adjustment.
  • They made a film about life in a one-horse town in the Midwest.

20. Put the cart before the horse

Meaning: To do things in the wrong order.

Explanation: This idiom is used when someone is getting ahead of themselves, doing things in an illogical sequence.


  • They started decorating before confirming the venue reservation, like putting the cart before the horse.
  • He put the cart before the horse by advertising the product before it was ready.
  • You’re putting the cart before the horse by planning the celebration before passing the exam.

21. Ride a high horse

Meaning: To act in an arrogant or haughty manner.

Explanation: This idiom describes someone who is behaving in a proud and often unjustifiably superior way.


  • He needs to come down and ride a high horse if he wants to make friends here.
  • She rode a high horse after getting promoted, alienating her colleagues.
  • Stop riding a high horse and admit you were wrong.

22. Straight from the horse’s mouth

Meaning: Information coming directly from the most reliable source.

Explanation: This idiom is used to describe information that is received from someone directly involved or from the highest authority.


  • I got the news straight from the horse’s mouth, so it’s definitely true.
  • The CEO announced the merger, straight from the horse’s mouth.
  • We heard about the policy changes straight from the horse’s mouth during the meeting.

23. That’s a horse of another color

Meaning: Something entirely different; a separate issue.

Explanation: This idiom is used when distinguishing a topic or situation that differs significantly from the current discussion.


  • I can help with the software issue, but the hardware is a horse of another color.
  • Budgeting for next year is important, but that’s a horse of another color compared to this year’s deficits.
  • Solving the staffing shortage is one thing; raising wages is a horse of another color.

24. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink

Meaning: You can provide someone with an opportunity, but you can’t force them to take it.

Explanation: This idiom illustrates the idea that you cannot force someone to do something they do not want to do, even if it is for their benefit.


  • I set up a job interview for him—it’s like leading a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink if he doesn’t want the job.
  • We provided all the study materials, but you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
  • She offered to help him start a business, but you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

25. You can’t change horses in midstream

Meaning: It’s not a good idea to change plans or leaders in the middle of a project.

Explanation: This idiom advises against making significant changes during a critical phase of a project or activity, suggesting that continuity is more secure.


  • Despite our doubts, we decided not to change the marketing strategy now; you can’t change horses in midstream.
  • They thought about switching suppliers, but you can’t change horses in midstream during the holiday rush.
  • It might be tempting to switch software now, but you can’t change horses in midstream when we’re so close to completion.

Also, refer to:

  • Fish Idioms in English
  • Bird Idioms in English
  • Snake Idioms in English
  • Dog Idioms in English
  • Elephant Idioms in English
  • Crocodile Idioms in English
  • Cat Idioms in English
  • Monkey Idioms in English
Horse Idioms in English - Idioms - The English Digest (2024)


What is the idiom for horse? ›

2. "Get off your high horse" - meaning to stop acting superior or arrogant. 3. "Dont look a gift horse in the mouth" - meaning to not criticize or question a gift or favor.

What is the horse proverb in English? ›

English Horse Quotes:

Better ride on ass that carries me, than on a horse that throws me.” “Gamesters and race horses never last long.” “Look not a gift horse in the mouth.”

What is an example of the idiom eat like a horse? ›

Eats like a horse is an idiom. When someone eats like a horse, they always eat a lot of food. "Although he eats like a horse, he never gets fat."

What is the idioms of work like a horse? ›

The phrase "work like a horse" is believed to have originated in the 17th century, and it is a reference to the hard work and endurance of horses, which were commonly used as draft animals during that time. It is used to describe someone who works very hard, often for long hours and with great dedication.

What is the idiom see a man about a horse? ›

To see a man about a dog, horse or duck is an idiom, especially British English, of apology for one's imminent departure or absence, generally to euphemistically conceal one's true purpose, such as going to use the toilet or going to buy an alcoholic drink.

What is the idiom of hungry as a horse? ›

In each case, you might say you are as hungry as a horse. In similes expressing a comparison with an animal or (less commonly) a person regarded as having a very large or keen appetite, as hungry as a bear, as hungry as a horse, as hungry as a wolf, etc.: very hungry; famished; ravenous.

What is a good saying for a horse? ›

Horse Quotes of Praise and Respect

Horses are angels with hooves, sent to Earth to teach us about love, trust, and patience.” – Pam Brown. “A horse gallops with his lungs, perseveres with his heart, and wins with his character.” – Tesio.

What is the idiom a horse a piece? ›

“About a horse a piece” (meaning “same either way”)

What is the idiom horse in the mouth? ›

The saying "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" means that you shouldn't criticize a gift, even if you don't like it very much. A gift horse, in other words, is a gift. The term gift horse is pretty easy to remember if you imagine the horse as a present.

What is the idiom of horse eating? ›

to be able to eat a lot of food: My brother eats like a horse.

What does the idiom I could eat a horse mean? ›

idiom. informal. used to illustrate that someone is very hungry. I didn't eat today and now I'm so hungry I could eat a horse.

What is the idiom with wild horses? ›

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 me to a party tonight.

What is a horse idiom? ›

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.

What is the idiom horse drink? ›

'You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink' is a proverb which means that you can give someone an opportunity but not force them to take it.

What is the proverb of willing horse? ›

Possible meaning: Don't urge someone who is already working well to work harder and faster.

What is a metaphor for a horse? ›

Here is what we've learned about the metaphor of horses in human lives. The horse represents self. Your inner self. It represents communication with yourself. It often represents fears, frustrations, and failures like the ones described above.

What does the idiom a one horse mean? ›

: small, small-time.

What is meant by calling a person a horse? ›

It depends on the context, but horse expressions applied to people are usually complimentary. For example, calling someone a “stallion” is very complimentary. “ Workhorse” is usually a term of praise, meaning that a person is hardworking. “

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