What does ‘Hold your horses!’ mean?

If you hear ‘Hold your horses!’, it means the speaker wants you to wait, slow down, or be patient. It can also mean they want you to think more carefully before doing something.

It is an informal idiom often used in speaking.

It is usually used as the fixed phrase ‘Hold your horses!’ as a direct command to the listener . But it can also be used to describe actions or suggestions of waiting or being patient etc. eg. ‘I held my horses and waited for…’ or ‘We should probably hold our horses until…’.

Be careful, this idiom always uses the plural form ‘horses’ and never the singular form ‘horse’ even if only one person is being talked about.

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Here are some longer examples using ‘Hold your horses’:

Just hold your horses, Peter! Let’s think about this for a moment. We don’t need to decide about the project today.

Hold your horses! I know we’re running late but I want to get to the airport alive.

I think we should hold our horses before buying the car.

This idiom comes from a time before cars when most people travelled by horse or horse-drawn carriages. The rider of the horse (or driver of the carriage) would hold reins which were ropes used to slow and direct the horses (see picture above).

Extra tip!:  So how can you respond when someone tells you to ‘Hold your horses!’? If you agree, you can say ‘Sure, okay!’ or ‘Good point’. If you disagree, you can say ‘No, it can’t wait’. Or, you could smile and use an interesting phrase like ‘Snooze and you lose!’ =if you sleep, you won’t win 😉

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