Throughout recorded history, the horse has been a prized possession of man, plowing fields, carting goods, pulling carriages, turning wheels, and carrying soldiers.Even though its role in society has changed since the advent of the motor car, it is still popular as a gift, as these excerpts in the pages which follow demonstrate.

"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" and other popular adages.

Why shouldn't I look a gift horse in the mouth?
When buying a horse it was essential to check its age and health by examining the lower jaw, and in particular its teeth. Provided of course you knew what to look for this was a sure fire way of checking up on the horse's history. When you received a horse as a gift, however, it was regarded as the height of bad manners to examine its teeth as it suggested you thought you were being given something worthless. Nobody wants to give a gratuitous insult. Hence the advice to accept the horse in good grace. In some cases old knackered horses may have been passed on to new owners as gifts but it was customary not to question the giver's good faith.The phrase seems to have originated in England circa AD 1500.

Editor's Note: Nobody knows whether Tony Blair examined the teeth when a horse was given to his daughter as a gift, or for that matter Secretary General Kofi Annan or John Major when the President of Turkmenistan gave them both fabulous spirited horses from his country - see stories on page 2. Jackie Ashley, however, commenting on Tony Blair's speech at the 2004 Labour Party conference thought the gift horse the Prime Minister gave to the party in respect of pensions and other matters needed its dentures very carefully examined."The unions that count have decided to stick with Blair. Should we trust him?. It is,as Tony Blair admits, the critical question now. That he has lost trust over the war in Iraq is indisputable"

I couldn't look a gift horse in the mouth - Flood-Hit Angler at Bewdley on the banks of the River Severn
One resident, David Harrell an International Angler, waiting for the River Severn to recede at Bewdley, decided he couldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, got out his fishing line and cast it into the flood waters from the convenience of his own balcony. The report from Birmingham doesn't say whether he had any luck or not.

Straight from the horses mouth - what does this saying mean? In former times, anyone betting on a horse would try to get a look at the horse's teeth. I don't think with the degree of security at races these days anyone would attempt that now. But, the mouth would be a good place to start your assessment of a horse's condition and age. This phrase has therefore come to mean the' absolute truth' and not a load of spin.This phrase is of fairly recent origin and started to be heard in about 1830, though not in common parlance until horse racing became very popular in the 1920's. The author P.G.Wodehouse is credited with this sentence: "The prospect of getting the true facts - straight, as it were - from the horse's mouth - held him fascinated"

The Trojan Gift Horse. The Greeks making siege to Troy are about to throw in the towel. Everything they have done to penetrate the massive walls is to no avail. Odysseus however comes up with a ploy to 'sell' the Trojans a horse as a gift, a large wooden horse large enough to hold a band of soldiers inside its belly. The Greeks - Achaens - pretend to sail away having burnt their camps but have only gone round the headland out of sight of the Trojans. Odysseus has however left a 'plant', a soldier called Sinon under the ramparts with the instructions 'get yourself taken prisoner' by the Trojans. He procedes to tell the Trojans that the Greeks have incurred the wrath of Athena for stealing the Palladium and have left the horse as a gift to ameliorate her fury. The Trojans fall for this spin and haul the huge wooden horse inside the gates of the town. Odysseus and his band slip out of the horse, kill the guards, and open the gates of Troy letting in the Greek army.Everybody is killed except a small group led by Aeneas who escapes.

This story gave rise to another famous saying: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts !
What is the lesson to be learned from the Trojan's experience? "So, by Zeus, that third lesson from Troy is the paramount need to listen to skeptical voices. Virgil suggests that the Trojans rashly brought the wooden horse inside their city despite the alarm of two early pundits Cassandra and Laocoon, who warned against Greeks bearing gifts. If the Trojans had just thought it over for a week, by which time the Greeks inside would have died of thirst, then the Trojan War might have ended differently (and we could all be speaking Luvian, the ancient language possibly spoken by Trojans). But the Trojans dismissed the warnings as "windy nonsense" and sealed their fate. We Americans are the Greeks of our day, and as we now go to war, we should appreciate not only the beauty of the tale, but also the warnings within it" - Snipsnap, the easy weblog.

The phrase 'Trojan Horse' in latter day parlance means: a threat disguised as a gift. A computer 'Trojan Horse' is a case in point.

Gift Horse Links
AMHA Select a Gift Horse
Horse Gifts
20th Century Glass, Pottery, Collectibles
Your Gift Horse - Equine Related Gifts

[Gift Horse 2

[Gift Horse 1] [Gift Horse 2] [Gift Horse 3]

[Horse Veterinary Advice] [Horse Mating] [Gift Horse] [White Horse]

The above row of links go to the Frameset Index for each section