When someone says hold your horses, it’s a way of telling a person to wait, hold on, or stop.
Example: A fair recently came to 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 was trying to rush 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’? This phrase probably originated from a time where transportation by horse was a more common form of travel. Indeed, today there are a lot of ways to get around. Cars, buses, planes and so on are used every day by millions of people around the world.
As for travel by means of a horse or a horse-drawn vehicle, well, these types of transportation are not so popular these days. But when it was more popular, it was then that this phrase likely began as a way of telling someone to literally hold their horses still. That is, it was a way of telling others to bring their horses to a complete stop; to wait for a moment. Then later on, ‘hold your horses’ developed into an idiom, becoming a way of telling others to wait in general, not just those with horses.
Anyways, it’s believed that this phrase originates in the USA. The earliest I could find it in print with its figurative meaning “wait; hold on,” is from The Port Phillip Gazette newspaper, April 1843:
“‘Hold your horses,’ says he, ‘and if you want to hear the greatest shaving story that you ever did hear, just keep cool.’ “
- Ana was out shopping for clothes with her mother. She found some shirts that she wanted to buy, but her mom told her: “Hold your horses for a minute. Try those shirts on first before you pay for them because you need to make sure they fit.”
Note: You just read about an idiom related to animals. For more like this, we have a list of animal idioms 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.