When someone says hold your horses, it’s a way of telling a person to wait, hold on, or stop.
Example: A fair is in town and I thought it would be fun to go there with my daughter. She’s never been to one before, so her excitement levels are through the roof. In fact, she’s so excited that she was rushing me out the door, so I had to tell her: “Hold your horses, I’m not ready yet.”
In other words, the dad was telling his daughter to hold on.
Synonyms / Related Sayings: hold the phone, just a second, hold it, keep your shirt on.
The Origin Of ‘Hold Your Horses’
What’s the origin of the idiom ‘hold your horses’? It may have originated from a time where horse transportation was more common. Perhaps people looking for a ride on a horse or horse-drawn vehicle would tell the rider to literally hold their horses. Something like: “Whoa, hold your horses for a minute and let me get on.”
Update: However, a more plausible explanation has been brought to my attention. This phrase’s origin may actually be from the Erie Canal located in New York. This canal was completed in 1825 and it was used to transport heavy goods from Albany to Buffalo.
Running along the side of the canal was a single towpath. Using a towline, teams of horses would pull barges through the canal as they walked down the path. Complications could arise if one team of horses got too close to another team (e.g., the towlines could get entwined). Thus, to avoid problems, it was probably commonplace for drivers to call out “hold your horses” to the other drivers whenever necessary.
Considering the Erie Canal was finished in 1825 and the earliest quote I could find of this expression comes not long after (1842, quote below), it’s plausible that this is indeed where the phrase got its start.
This expression is seen in print as early as 1842 in the newspaper Warren Democratic Advocate:
“‘Hold your horses,’ says he, ‘and if you want to hear the greatest shaving story that you ever did hear, just keep cool.’ “
- Ana found some nice shirts while she was out shopping with her mother. She wanted to buy them right away, but her mother said: “Hold your horses for a moment. You should try those shirts on first to make sure they fit properly.”
Note: You just read about an idiom related to animals. For more like this, we have a list of phrases about animals that you can check out. It contains an alphabetical list of sayings for each animal. So far, only a select number of animals (birds, cats/dogs, horses) have their own category because they have enough idioms associated with them to justify it. This will change as more animal-related terms are added.