Don’t change horses in midstream

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The phrase don’t change horses in midstream is a proverb. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase that particularly gives advice or shares a universal truth. We will examine the meaning of the phrase don’t change horses in midstream, where the term came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Don’t change horses in midstream means don’t alter your course of action, plan, or leader in the middle of a project, don’t change your mind at an inopportune moment. A related phrase is don’t swap horses in midstream. The proverb is credited to Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States. Abraham Lincoln used the phrase no time to swap horses when talking about the presidential election during the Civil War, as well as talking about replacing his generals. It is assumed that the term don’t change horses in midstream is derived from a popular joke published in 1840, in which a man crossing a stream with his horse and colt falls into the water. He grabs the colt’s tail and lets it drag him from the water, but before making it to the other side of the water the colt grows tired. When bystanders advise him to grab the mare’s tail instead, the man says, “This is no time to swap horses.”


“I think that there’ll be a lot of upset kids that didn’t take it ’cause it wasn’t for credit ’cause we said it was not going to be … and I just don’t feel like we should change horses in the river.” (Mt. Vernon Register-News)

The BJP had even to change horses mid-stream when it replaced Anandiben Patel, a protégé of the PM, with that of Vijay Rupani, whose mentor is Amit Shah. (The Hindu Business Line)