Learning any language can be a difficult task; each language has its own specifics. An English specific is the amount of idioms that exist and are used on quite a regular basis. Most of the time, idioms revolve around a specific topic; for example, animals. There are numerous idioms that are connected with the word horse and I want to help you understand them so that you will not have to work like a horse when studying English or any subject.
Work like a horse is a very common idiom in both life and business. This idiom is straight forward, to work very hard; as a horse does. So, whenever somebody is working hard we can say that they are working like a horse. Jack said Jill was very tired because she had been working like a horse on her project all night. In business you might hear that an employee is working like a horse to finish his financial forecast. Keep in mind that this idiom has a positive tone so do not feel bad if someone says that you are working like a horse. Even I am working like a horse on this paper for you.
After you work like a horse you may achieve a high level of success, speak English fluently for example, but you should not get on your high horse. Somebody that gets on their high horse is a person that acts as if he is smarter or better than other people; boasting about their achievement. John worked like a horse for an eight on his IELTS and now he is on his high horse showing everyone his mark. There is nothing wrong with being proud of a good result but do not be so overconfident that you annoy other people. This is why being on your high horse has a negative meaning; you irritate people with your behavior.
People will tell you to get off your high horse if you are on it too much. Of course, this is the opposite of getting on your high horse; to get off your high horse means to humble yourself. Whenever my boss praises me for a job well done I get off my high horse and thank my colleagues. Whereas getting on your high horse irritates people, getting off your high horse will lead to a stronger and healthier work environment. After all, no one likes an overconfident person that rubs their success into other peoples’ noses.
Whether or not you get on or off your English speaking high horse, you have to remember not to put the cart before the horse. This means that you can not start doing something until you have properly prepared for it. Just as a horse can not pull a cart if it is in front of him, students of English can not effectively communicate until they learn some English. Of course, the horse could try to push the cart, as any student can attempt to communicate with a low level or no level at all, but it will not be very useful or productive. So, please, do not put the cart before the horse and travel to America until you have a slight understanding of the language. If you do not put the cart before the horse, you might be more confident and enjoy your trip more.
In the end, I can tell you that you have probably learned a little about horse idioms but ultimately you can only lead a horse to water, but you can not force it to drink. Basically, this states that you can show a horse the way to water or a student the way to knowledge; yet they have to decide if they are going to drink the water or use the knowledge. Take John, for example, who has gone to many lessons but still is not able to speak much English; you can lead a horse to water, but you can not force it to drink. Drinking is your choice and I now will leave you by the stream of knowledge; what you do is up to you because no student or person in that matter can be forced to do something that he does not want to do.
These are just a handful of idioms related to horses; there are in fact many more. This is enough to get you started but make sure you do not put the cart before the horse or get on your high horse too often. Feel proud that you have learned a few new things while remaining off your high horse. As long as you continue to work like a horse you can make these idioms a part of your daily speech. I have worked like a horse for you to understand these phrases and now it is your turn to work like a horse and try to speak with these particular idioms because as we have learned, you can lead horse to water, but you can not force it to drink.