Get back on the horse

Get back on the horse is an idiom that is the often-quoted first half of a longer proverb. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech or literary devices often use descriptive imagery; common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. An idiom may be a euphemism, an understatement or exaggeration, or an expression of irony or hyperbole. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, red herring, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase get back on the horse, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Get back on the horse is an admonition that one must immediately confront a failure and try again. For instance, if one fails to secure a job after a disastrous interview, one must get back on the horse and continue going to job interviews. The phrase get back on the horse is the first half of a longer expression, get back on the horse that bucked you or get back on the horse that threw you. The idea is that the longer one dwells on a failure, the bigger that failure becomes in one’s mind. It is better to overcome a failure quickly, before it has a chance to become psychologically debilitating. The idiom get back on the horse seems to have become popular in the mid-twentieth century, perhaps because of the influence of western movies.


“We have three weeks before nationals which we will use to, first, reset, deal with any injuries, and then get back on the horse,” the Philadelphia native said. (Yale Daily News)

“Our role is to help them to get back on the horse, so to speak, with clear tangible actions and goals,” she points out. (The Business Times)

Marler starts off talking about how his team have to “get back on the horse”, and ends up following his train of thought so deep into the woods of his imagination that he ends up whinnying an apology to Harlequins fans and promising they’ll play better against Bath in their next game. (The Guardian)

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