Time to Get ‘Back on That Horse’

    10 July 2021

    And now, Words and Their Stories from VOA Learning English.

    On this program, we explore words and expressions in the English language. Sometimes we explain where they come from and how to use them.

    Today we talk about horses. They are strong, fast, and beautiful animals. Many years ago, in many places around the world, people used horses to get around. These days, horseback riding is done for sport. It is a good way to get exercise outdoors. However, it is not the easiest sport to enjoy.

    First of all, horseback riding can cost a lot. You need a horse, the right equipment, a place for it to live, called a stable, and a lot of land to ride it on. Those things can cost a lot of money. So, many people just rent time on a horse. But that can cost a lot too.

    Manuela Jimenez, 15, rides Splash in a riding lesson at Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, London, April 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
    Manuela Jimenez, 15, rides Splash in a riding lesson at Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, London, April 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

    Then there is the learning curve. This is the time it takes to learn how to do something. Horseback riding has a pretty steep learning curve. Most people need to do it a lot to feel safe on a horse. So, people who did not take lessons when they were young, may have a harder time learning when they get older.

    That is because there is also some danger with horseback riding. You could get seriously hurt if a horse throws you from its back. If that happens, people say it is important to get back on the horse as soon as you can. (Of course, after you get checked for injuries.)

    If you do not get back in the saddle, you may be afraid to ever ride a horse again. But if you climb right back on the horse, you might forget about falling off.

    That is where we get two expressions: "back in the saddle," and "If you fall off a horse, (you) get right back on."

    Now, a saddle is the leather seat that you put on horse's back. It secures a rider to the horse. When we say we are getting "back in the saddle," we are doing something that we have not done in a while or something we think we no longer do well.

    For example, let's say I get fired from my job. It not only upsets me, but it also hurts my self-confidence. So, my friends could say to me, "Anna, It's time you get back in the saddle! Go find another job!"

    "If you fall off a horse, you get right back on" is the same advice. It means: To return to an activity that you have failed at or had trouble with. But not just any activity. If you did something that you didn't enjoy and failed, there is really no need to do it again.

    For this expression, the activity is usually something that you like or that is important to you for some reason.

    For example, a friend of mine is a piano player. Once he wrote a piece of music and played it for a room full of people. But they did not really like it. So, he got upset and wanted to quit playing.

    I told him, "You have to get right back on that horse. Go back home right now and write another song." And he did! He is still trying, but he is not afraid of playing in front of people.

    So, if you need to tell someone to get over their fears and try something again, you can use one of these expressions.

    If you make mistakes speaking English to a room full of people, just forget about it. My advice is: "Get back in the saddle!" as soon as possible.

    And that's all the time we have for this Words and Their Stories.

    Until next time ... I'm Anna Matteo.

    Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    rent – v. to pay money in return for being able to use (something that belongs to someone else)

    learning curve – n. the course of progress made in learning something

    steep – adj. going up or down very quickly

    saddle – n. a leather-covered seat that is put on the back of a horse

    self-confidence – n. feeling good about oneself and in one's powers and abilities

    song – n. a short piece of music with words that are sung