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10 Popular Horse Quotes and What They Mean

Well Known Horse Quotations Explained


A few common horse quotations are self evident. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink" of course means, you can't make anyone do something they really don't want to do.  Some horse quotations are not so easy to decipher. Here are ten common horse quotations and what they may mean.

1. Horse Quotation: No hoof, no horse.

2005 K. Blocksdorf

Damaged, weak hooves can mean your horse will probably go lame, and you’ll have no horse to ride or drive. This is as true now as it ever was, and why good hoof care is essential.

Without healthy hooves, your horse won't be very useful or happy.

2. Horse Quotation: Hang a horseshoe over the door for good luck

Image © Dmitry Poliansky

This superstition is probably an amalgam of beliefs because horse shoes have seven holes and seven is regarded as a lucky number, they are made of iron, which has the quality of strength, and they are associated with horses and donkeys both of whom have been revered through the ages. So horse shoes have come to mean good luck.There is also a legend from the middle ages about a blacksmith named Dunstan. Dunstan was visited by the devil in his blacksmith shop. The devil wanted Dunstan to make him shoes, but Dunstan refused and beat the devil, making him promise never to enter a place where a horseshoe hung over the door. To prevent luck from running out, the horseshoe must hang toe down. In some cultures however, it's believed the toe should be hung toe-up.

3. Horse Quotation: A golden bit does not make the horse any better.

Western Bit
Image: K. Blocksdorf

Even in ancient times, good horsemen realized that what makes a good horse is not the costliness of the equipment, but learned how to choose the right bit, understood that the key to success was patient training. We’ve all seen ‘golden bits’ advertised; the ones that promise to make your horse perfect because they do this or that wonderful thing. And we’ve all probably seen riders that jump from one bit to another in hopes that it will solve some problem. Chances are a bit, or any other piece of equipment is not going to solve the problem. When problems occur, the first question of the many we should ask is why?  Likewise, “You can not judge of the horse by the harness,” nor the rider by his clothes. Good horses and horsemanship have little to do with the trappings.

4. Horse Quotation: Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

Photo: 2007 K. Blocksdorf

While we value horses now as companions, they were once valued as modes of transport. You probably wouldn't give away a young horse that was still useful. When a horse got old, it would no longer be able to pull or carry loads, and therefore, had little value. One way to tell if a horse was old was to open its mouth and look at its teeth, which would reveal its age. So, don't look in a 'gift horse's' mouth, because you'll probably find out its old, and you'd realize you had gotten something of little value (and not appreciate the thought behind the gift - if indeed it was well intentioned.) Pity the poor horse whose new owner followed this axiom.

5. Horse Quotation: One white foot, buy him; two white feet, try him...

Two white hind socks on a horse.
Photo: 2010 K. Blocksdorf

... three white feet, look well about him; four white feet, go without him.

This saying has variations such as ‘four white feet and white on his nose, take off his hide and feed him to the crows.’ That’s pretty harsh! Or, one, buy me, Two, try me, Three, shy me, Four, fly me. This old saying is probably based on the belief that white hooves are weaker than dark and your white footed horse is prone to unsoundness due to wear and cracks.  The saying is reversed in one version.  One white foot, keep him not a day, Two white feet, send him far away, Three white feet, sell him to a friend, Four white feet, keep him to the end. Whatever the intent behind the rhyme, we’ve learned that hoof color is not as important as we once thought it was.

6. Horse Quotation: Who wishes to travel far spares his steed.

Riders and runners on multi-use trail
K. Blocksdorf 2004

This saying by Jean Baptiste Racine reminds me of the story of the tortoise and the hare  and the saying, ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Certainly, this saying isn’t about a race, but sparing energy so that both horse and rider have the physical resources to maintain a slow, but steady pace over the long haul. If you start out on a very long ride at a mad gallop, you might find you’ve used up your horse before you’ve reached your destination.

7. Horse Quotation: The buyer needs a hundred eyes, the seller not one.

Foal galloping
K. Blocksdorf

Most of the horse dealers I know of are honest folks who rely on word-of-mouth advertising to stay in business. They often take a lot of time to match up riders with the perfect horse. But in bygone days, horse traders had a reputation for sharp dealing and unscrupulous methods. Unfortunately, there’s still a few around, but they are in the minority and word travels fast, especially on the internet. It is always up to the buyer to make the final decision though, and that is why the ‘buyer needs a hundred eyes’ to see all the possible faults and problems that horse may have. An unscrupulous seller however, need not see anything, and certainly wouldn't point out problems, even if they did exist.

8. Horse Quotation: You’re not a rider unless you’ve fallen off seven times.

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

I remember my mother telling me this when I was little, and just fallen off of my pony. It was her way of encouraging me and making me feel better about falling. But another saying is ‘fall seven times, get up eight’, which is to say, learn from experience and get back on the horse. Often you're told to get right back on the horse after you fall, which is a good idea (after you've checked yourself over for damage), so you don't have time to think about the fall. Seven is probably significant because seven is regarded in many cultures as a lucky number. You’ll probably want to avoid falling off, and shouldn’t make seven a goal. But it’s wise to be prepared, so here’s how you may minimize the impact of your fall with an emergency dismount.

9. Horse Quotation: A smooth sea never made a skilful sailor, a perfect horse never

Riding a horse.
Image: K. Blocksdorf

As a beginner, you want to find the perfect horse. But as you advance in your riding ability, the not-so-perfect horse can teach you a lot. The key to choosing a horse once you are past the beginner stage and wish to advance your skills is to pick one that will challenge you, without over-facing or intimidating you. After you’ve outgrown your first horse, you might want to chose one that is of very calm temperament, but is only , so that you can learn the process of training. Or, you might choose a horse with a specific problem that you can safely work through. Beginners have a lot to learn from those perfect first horses, but later on ‘imperfect’ horses have a lot to teach us too. I'm sure it's best to learn to sail on calm waters too.

10. Horse Quotation: A good horse is never a bad color.

2005 K. Blocksdorf

Some people like dark colored horses and love bays the best.Some don't like  grays, simply because they are too hard to keep clean. And certain colors of horses have a reputation for having certain types of temperaments. Chestnut mares are often thought to be moody and temperamental. But your should would never choose a horse based on color, because for every moody chestnut mare, there’s probably another who is calm and steady. A lot of people get hung up about color. But choosing a horse that is unsuitable simply because you love its color, over a suitable one that’s the ‘wrong’ color isn't a smart choice. Choose the horse you can get on and enjoy right now, and you’ll find yourself loving the whole horse, not just the hair coat.

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