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Quotations about Horses



...the horse through all its trials had preserved the sweetness of Paradise in its blood... ~Johannes V. Jensen, The Long Journey: Fire and Ice, 1908–1922, translated from Danish by A. G. Chater, 1923


There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse. ~John Lubbock, "Recreation," The Use of Life, 1894


He doth nothing but talk of his horse... ~William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, c.1596  [I, 2, Portia]


Ah, steeds, steeds, what steeds! Has the whirlwind a home in your manes? Is there a sensitive ear, alert as a flame, in your every fiber? Hearing the familiar song from above, all in one accord you strain your bronze chests and, hooves barely touching the ground, turn into straight lines cleaving the air, and all inspired by God it rushes on! ~Nikolai V. Gogol, Dead Souls, 1842, translated from Russian


At last he saw Snow Cloud in a wide stretch of rippling grass. He pranced nervously for a moment and then cantered off across the open ground, not running away but certainly not coming any nearer. He circled widely, with ears alertly forward and nose high. The boy was not disturbed; he had seen enough of horses to know that such behavior was part playfulness and part high spirits. A horse loves freedom, and the weariest old work horse will roll on the ground or break into a lumbering gallop when he is turned loose in the open. ~Gerald Raftery (1905–1986), Snow Cloud, 1951  [a little altered –tg]


We had... a pony with a bronze coat and a joyful temperament. Most afternoons the colt could be found cantering in the grass, kicking his legs high and twisting his thin torso into jaunty leaps, as though with a little effort he could undo the binds of gravity and gallop away on the wind. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018


I bless the hoss from hoof to head—
From head to hoof, and tale to mane!—
I bless the hoss, as I have said,
From head to hoof, and back again!
~James Whitcomb Riley, "The Hoss"


A horse is worth more than riches. ~Spanish proverb


His glossy hide flashed back the golden sunlight... his noble head erect, his nostrils flaring; a picture of horse beauty — yes, of horse perfection... he was of the wild free blood that man had never tamed. ~Ernest Thompson Seton, "Coaly-Bay, the Outlaw Horse: The Wilful Beauty," Wild Animal Ways, 1916


The horses paw and prance and neigh,
Fillies and colts like kittens play,
And dance and toss their rippled manes
Shining and soft as silken skeins...
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, "How the Old Horse Won the Bet"


I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Chimæra"


Pegasus immediately started from the ground, and pranced about a quarter of a mile aloft, and made a grand sweep around the mountain-top... During the whole of this little flight, he uttered a loud, brisk, and melodious neigh, and finally came down... as lightly as ever you saw a sparrow hop upon a twig... ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Chimæra"


Methought I heard a courser neigh,
From out yon tuft of blackening firs.
Is it the wind those branches stirs?
No, no! from out the forest prance
      A trampling troop; I see them come!
In one vast squadron they advance!
I strove to cry — my lips were dumb.
The steeds rush on in plunging pride...
With flowing tail, and flying mane,
Wide nostrils never stretch'd by pain,
Mouths bloodless to the bit or rein,
And feet that iron never shod,
And flanks unscarr'd by spur or rod,
A thousand horse, the wild, the free,
Like waves that follow o'er the sea,
      Came thickly thundering on...
~Lord Byron


Why, that's just horse nature... It's just their instinct to be afraid of things jumping on their backs. All horses were wild one time... ~Gerald Raftery (1905–1986), Twenty-Dollar Horse, 1955


      ...the noble truck-horses... are large and powerful brutes, with such sleek and glossy coats, that they look as if brushed and put on by a valet every morning. They march with a slow and stately step, lifting their ponderous hoofs like royal Siam elephants. Thou shalt not lay stripes upon these Roman citizens; for their docility is such, they are guided without rein or lash; they go or come, halt or march on, at a whisper. So grave, dignified, gentlemanly, and courteous did these fine truck-horses look — so full of calm intelligence and sagacity, that often I endeavored to get into conversation with them, as they stood in contemplative attitudes while their loads were preparing. But all I could get from them was the mere recognition of a friendly neigh; though I would stake much upon it that, could I have spoken their language, I would have derived from them a good deal of valuable information...
      There are unknown worlds of knowledge in brutes; and whenever you mark a horse, or a dog, with a peculiarly mild, calm, deep-seated eye, be sure he is an Aristotle or a Kant, tranquilly speculating upon the mysteries in man... [T]here is a touch of divinity even in brutes, and a special halo about a horse, that should forever exempt him from indignities. As for those majestic, magisterial truck-horses of the docks, I would as soon think of striking a judge on the bench, as to lay violent hand upon their holy hides. ~Herman Melville, Redburn: His First Voyage, 1849


A handsome foal came charging up to us upon a stretch of common, sniffed the air martially as one about to do great deeds, and suddenly thinking otherwise in his green young heart, put about and galloped off as he had come... ~Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, 1879 [a little altered –tg]


Gamarra is a dainty steed,
Strong, black, and of a noble breed,
Full of fire, and full of bone...
His mane is like a river flowing,
And his eyes like embers glowing
In the darkness of the night,
And his pace as swift as light...
The red blood gallops through his veins,—
Richer, redder, never ran
Through the boasting heart of man...
He lived through all the hot Arabian day,
And died untamed upon the sands
Where Balkh amid the desert stands!
~Barry Cornwall (Bryan Waller Procter, 1787–1874), "A Garland of Common Flowers: The Blood-Horse," 1831


...and God forbid that I should go to any Heaven in which there are no horses... ~R B. Cunninghame Graham, 1917


A man that don't love a horse, there is something the matter with him. ~Will Rogers


There's a Union for Teamster and Waiter,
      There's a Union for Cabman and Cook,
      There's a Union for Hobo and Preacher,
      And one for Detective and Crook.
There's a Union for Blacksmith and Painter,
      There is one for the Printer, of course,
      But where would you go in this realm of woe
      To discover a Guild for the Horse?
He can't make a murmur in protest,
      Though they strain him both up and down hill;
      Or force him to work twenty hours
      At the whim of some drunken brute's will.
Look back at our struggle for freedom—
      Trace our present day's strength to its source,
      And you'll find that man's pathway to Glory
      Is strewn with the bones of the horse...
~"To a Quiet but Useful Class," LIFE, 1902


Each morning he came to meet me at the fence, shaking his nostrils rather as men shake hands. ~J. H. B. Peel, Latest Country Talk, 1981


When the storm clouds in the west are quickly gathering,
      the ponies they run wild there before it rains.
You'll see their sleek dark bodies brightly gleaming,
      you know the fire is flying through their brains.
~Jeffrey Hawthorne Bullock, "Ponies," 1987 ♫


Horses — if God made any creature more beautiful, He kept it for himself. ~Author unknown


A horse is poetry in motion. ~Author unknown


O, for a horse with wings! ~William Shakespeare, Cymbeline, c.1611 [III, 2, Imogen]


I can always tell which is the front end of a horse, but beyond that my art is not above the ordinary. ~Mark Twain


      Coquette was smuggled out of Abyssinia because Abyssinians do not permit good native mares to leave their country. I do not remember who did the smuggling, but I suppose my father condoned it, in effect, when he bought her. He must have done it with one eye shut and the other on the sweet, tidy lines of her vigorous body.
      My father was, and is, a law-abiding citizen of the realm, but if he ever wanders off the path of righteousness, it will not be gold or silver that enticed him, but, more likely, I think, the irresistible contours of a fine but elusive horse.
      A lovely horse is always an experience to him. It is an emotional experience of the kind that is spoiled by words. ~Beryl Markham, "Was There a Horse with Wings?," West with the Night, 1942



Saddle-leather is in some respects even preferable to sole-leather... One's hepar, or in vulgar language, liver, — a ponderous organ, weighing some three or four pounds, — goes up and down like the dasher of a churn in the midst of the other vital arrangements, at every step of a trotting horse. The brains are also shaken up like coppers in a money-box. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table


The summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.
~Masaoka Shiki (1867–1902), translated by Harold G. Henderson, 1958


I'd rather have a goddam horse. A horse is at least human, for God's sake. ~J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, 1951  [Holden Caulfield speaking. To have a horse rather than a car. —tg]


"Poor fellow," said Mr. Winkle, soothingly, — "poor fellow — good old horse." The "poor fellow" was proof against flattery: the more Mr. Winkle tried to get nearer him, the more he sidled away; and, notwithstanding all kinds of coaxing and wheedling, there were Mr. Winkle and the horse going round and round each other for ten minutes, at the end of which time each was at precisely the same distance from the other as when they first commenced... ~Charles Dickens, The Posthumous Papers of The Pickwick Club, 1836


...I will not change my
horse with any that treads but on four pasterns.
Ca, ha! he bounds from the earth, as if his
entrails were hairs; le cheval volant, the Pegasus,
chez les narines de feu! When I bestride him, I
soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth
sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his
hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes.
~William Shakespeare, Henry V, c.1598  [III, 7, Lewis the Dauphin]


He's of the colour of the nutmeg.
And of the heat of the ginger. It is a beast for
Perseus: he is pure air and fire; and the dull
elements of earth and water never appear in him,
but only in Patient stillness while his rider mounts
him: he is indeed a horse; and all other jades you
may call beasts... his neigh is like the bidding of
a monarch and his countenance enforces homage.
~William Shakespeare, Henry V, c.1598  [III, 7, Duke of Orleans & Lewis the Dauphin]


If you're a horse, and someone gets on you, and falls off, and then gets right back on you, I think you should buck him off right away. ~Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts, 1992, deepthoughtsbyjackhandey.com





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Original post date 2002 Jan 18
Revised 2007, 2019, 2021
Last saved 2021 Sep 20 Mon 07:42 PDT
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