21 Common Horse Idioms (Meaning and Example Sentences)

I have put together another great list of useful English idioms. Today’s theme is idioms with horses. After some research, I found many common expressions and compound nouns that use the word horse. 

  1. Back In The Saddle
  2. Beat A Dead Horse
  3. Don’t Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth
  4. Don’t Shut The Barn Door After The Horses Get Out
  5. Dark Horse
  6. Get Something Straight From The Horse’s Mouth
  7. Hold Your Horses
  8. Horseplay
  9. Horse Power
  10. I Could Eat A Horse.
  11. One Horse Race
  12. One Horse Town
  13. Ponytail
  14. (Put) The Cart Before The Horse
  15. Put The Horse Out To Pasture
  16. Saddled With something
  17. Sawhorse
  18. Warhorse
  19. Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away
  20. You And The Horse You Rode In On
  21. You Can Lead A Horse To Water, But You Can’t Make It Drink

You’ll find definitions along with example sentences in conversations that will help you use these horse idioms naturally in your own English conversations.

Idioms with HORSE

*I have included a few idioms that use the word saddle in this list. Saddles are used to ride horses and these saddle idioms are ones that I often hear or use myself.

Back In The Saddle
Starting an activity again after some time away.

  • After not playing for 6 months due to injury, Richard suited up for tonight’s game. He’s fully healed and excited to get back in the saddle. 

Beat A Dead Horse

To waste time doing something that has already been tried.

  • “I’ve asked my boss for a raise 4 times already he always says ‘NO.’  I want to ask him again this year but I feel like I’m beating a dead horse.”
    (I feel like I am wasting my time asking for a raise.) 
  • A: “Do you think it’s worth sending my book to other publishers or am I just beating a dead horse?“
    B: “I think should keep trying, your book is really good. Don’t give up! 

Don’t Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth
You shouldn’t look for fault or focus on the negative points of a gift that was freely given to you. 

  • A: The engine of my car is a bit loud and I don’t really like the color.
    B: “You got the car for free from your brother and it works just fine. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, just be happy that you have your own working vehicle.
  • People who look a gift horse in the mouth are often seen as spoiled or ungrateful. 

Don’t Shut The Barn Door After The Horses Get Out
This refers to a meaningless action that was done too late. 

  • Your motorcycle is too old and rusty, I think it’s time to buy a new one. Putting brand new tires on that piece of junk is like shutting the barn door after the horses got out

Dark Horse
A dark horse is a competitor who comes out of nowhere and unexpectedly wins a contest or competition.

  • Everyone thought that the mayor would be re-elected this term but a dark horse candidate swept in out of nowhere and stole the election.
  • I think too many people underestimate Barry’s ability, I think she can be a real dark horse in this year’s tennis tournament. 

Get Something Straight From The Horse’s Mouth

To get information directly from the source of information.

  • I heard that Kyle will quit school but I don’t believe it, it’s not like him. I won’t believe it until I hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
    (I won’t believe it until I hear it directly from Kyle.) 
This came straight from the horse’s mouth so you can believe it.

Hold Your Horses
This idiom means wait or slow down. 

  • Don’t worry kids, we’re leaving soon but you need to hold your horses until the car is packed. 

Horseplay
rough noisy play in which people push or hit each other for fun. SOURCE

  • I need you kids to cut out the horseplay and behave yourselves before our dinner guests arrive. 
  • My grandmother had one strict rule. Absolutely no horseplay in the house. If you’re going to be rough you need to take it outside. 

Horsepower
Horsepower is a unit for measuring the power of an engine

  • The new Mustang Dark Horse was made for racing, with a 500-horsepower engine.
    *Horsepower is often written as hp.
  • The car has a 500-hp engine.
Horses have a lot of POWER!

I Could Eat A Horse
This expression means I am very hungry.  I’m so hungry that I could eat a horse! A horse is quite a large animal so if you could eat a whole horse you must be starving. 

  • Will dinner be ready soon? I skipped lunch today and now I could eat a horse.

*You can also say eats like a horse to show that someone eats a lot.

  • Dave is coming over for dinner tonight so I hope you’re cooking a lot of food, that guy eats like a horse. 

One-Horse Race
A one-horse race is a contest where one competitor is so superior to everyone else that they are practically guaranteed to win. It’s like a race with only one horse, there’s no question about who will win because there’s only one contestant. 

  • Our prime minister will be re-elected for sure this term. The competition is really terrible, it’s practically a 1 horse race

*We can also say 2 horse race if two of the competitors out of a larger group of competitors are very strong favorites. 

  • Five candidates are running for the prime minister but three of them don’t have a chance. it’s basically a 2 horse race

One Horse Town
A small place that is not significant or important. 

  • As soon as I turn 18 I’m going to pack up my car and move out of this one-horse town. I can easily see myself living in a big city.

Ponytail
A ponytail is a bunch of hair tied at the back of the head so that it hangs like a horse’s tail SOURCE

  • When Anna came to work with her hair down I almost didn’t recognize her. She always has her hair in a ponytail.
Simone puts her hair in a ponytail whenever she does her chores.

(Put) The Cart Before The Horse

To do something before you should have. Specifically when it is smart to wait.

  • A: I heard the city has approved the construction of the new baseball stadium.
    B: Really? The pro team hasn’t even agreed to come to our city! I think they’re putting the cart before the horse.
    (The city has decided to build a stadium before the pro team has decided to come. It would be smarter to wait.) 

Put A Horse (someone/something) Out To Pasture
This is the equivalent of an older horse retiring from work, now it is free to spend time in the field (or pasture) 

  • I’ve had this horse for many years and he has worked hard for me but he’s getting older now. I think it’s time to put him out to pasture

This idiom can be used if someone is being forced out of their job, they are being made to retire even if they don’t want to. 

  • The company president will turn 65 this year and the board of directors decided to put him out to pasture

We can use this expression with machines or electronics that we stop using and replace with a newer model. 

  • The tablet has done a good job for the past 3 years but I think it’s time to buy a new one. Time to put my old tablet computer out to pasture.
We put him out to pasture last year and I think he is happy to just relax and eat all day.

Saddled With (something)
Settle with is a phrasal verb that means to give somebody/yourself an unpleasant responsibility, task, debt, etc. SOURCE

  • Making preparations for the company year-end party is a thankless job. Benjamin got saddled with it this year. 
  • If you travel with it proper health insurance you could be saddled with a large bill if an unexpected medical emergency happened. 

Sawhorse
A sawhorse is the name given to triangular pieces of wood that balance another piece of wood on top so that it may be cut easily with a saw.

  • My brother and I would play games in the garage on a table that we made from a piece of plywood resting on my dad’s sawhorses
sawhorse
My Dad made this sawhorse out of old wood.

Warhorse
A warhorse is an old soldier or politician who has a lot of experience

  • If you have any questions you can ask Timothy. He’s an old warhorse with lots of experience. He can probably answer most of your questions. 

Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away
A person is very committed to doing something or staying somewhere.

  • I was so excited to watch the movie on opening day I didn’t mind waiting in line for two and a half hours. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away

This is a popular song from 1987 by a Canadian singer named Gino Vannelli called Wild Horses.

The song uses this expression to say wild horses couldn’t drag me away from you as a romantic gesture to his lover. He is saying (signing) that he is so committed to his girlfriend.

I included a video with lyrics so you can read-a-long as you listen. 

You And The Horse You Rode In On
These words can be added to another negative English expression to make it stronger. It’s a very powerful way to tell someone to leave.

  • What do you get lost, you and the horse you rode in on.
    (I’m so angry I don’t just want you to leave but I want whatever brought you here to leave also.) 

You Can Lead A Horse To Water, But You Can’t Make It Drink
This means you can offer somebody something or present an opportunity but you can’t make them accept it if they don’t want to. 

  • We can set up programs to help the unemployed find jobs but sadly, some people just don’t want to work. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink

Trojan horse story

Do you know the story of the Trojan Horse? 

Trojan Horse refers to a wooden horse said to have been used by the Greeks, during the Trojan War, to enter the city of Troy and win the war. SOURCE

During the long War between the Trojans and the Greeks, it is reported that the Greeks built a large wooden horse and left it in front of the gate of the city of Troy. The Greeks then left the city and “sailed away.” The people of Troy brought the wooden horse inside their walled city, not knowing that there were Greek soldiers waiting inside. 

As part of the Greek plan, the rest of the army sailed back to Troy during the night. The Greek soldiers hiding inside the wooden horse came out, opened the gates, and let the rest of the Greek soldiers inside. Once inside the walls of the city, the Greek army easily took the city and won the war. 

Trojan horse has come to mean any trick or strategy that causes an enemy to invite a foe into a secure area.

A movie was made about this event called Troy starring Brad Pitt and Eric Bana. (2004)
*I like this movie 🙂

Troy – Imdb

You can watch the Troy movie trailer below >>

The Trojan Horse is even the name of a kind of computer virus that hides inside one piece of software and then attacks your computer from the inside.

If you can think of some idioms that I left out, please tell me in the comments!

Try these popular Idiom posts on my blog!

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