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Hold Your Horses: Origin and Meaning

To ask somebody to be patient, slow down and to stop.
Hold your horses Around the turn of the 19th century, one way to make a quick buck was to set off on a long and arduous journey to look for gold. People from all over America would pack their horse-drawn wagons and head deep into the American outback to sieve river beds looking for glimmering flakes of gold shining out of the sediment.

Being a prospector (a gold digger) meant covering a lot of ground, looking after your horses and sleeping under star-lit skies for days on end.

No mountain was too high, no river too deep. They were a determined lot and they knew (or better, hoped) that the reward would be substantial.

To avoid danger, prospectors would employ scouts to ride ahead on their horses and notify them if they saw anything strange or dangerous. If they did, they would shout out hold your horses as an incentive for the wagon train to stop.

During the 1930s horse-drawn carriages and wagons were replaced by locomotive trains but the expression still remained and started being used in a figurative sense to mean wait, stop or restrain.

Hold your horses is always used in the plural form and usually as an imperative.
Hold your horses! Can’t you see I haven’t finished yet!

– You are driving too fast. Hold your horses!

– Just hold your horses! I will get to the next point of the agenda soon.
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