GIFT HORSE - 1
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.
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
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
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GIFT HORSE - 2
Horses have been given as gifts throughout recorded history.
Here are some examples of horses being offered as gifts and declined, others being whole-heartedly welcomed by the recipients.
But, in all cases the importance of the gift is undoubted.
Some Famous People and their Gift Horses
Gift Horse Delights
Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Nobody is sure why Tony Blair didn't accept whole-heartedly the gift of a foal while on holiday in the south-west of France. Kathryn Blair, Tony Blair's daughter, was over the moon when she received the gift of a foal of the Pyrenees Merens breed from the Municipality of Saint-Martin d'Oydes. But, of course, there is nowhere to keep it near Downing Street. Kathryn has been taking riding lessons in Oxfordshire. The foal, however, was left in the safe-keeping of a local family who have children who can ride it.
Anann and his wife Nane Anann receive a Gift Horse in Turkmenistan Oct 2002.
On wednesday 23rd of October before leaving Ashgabat, the Secretary-General stopped at the National Hippodrome in Turkmenistan to view the Akhalteke a rare breed of horse which is said to be the oldest breed of horse in the world going back some 4000 years. They are renowned for their speed and endurance. There are only about 1500 individual horses in the whole country. Koffi Anann was offered as a gift a rare golden stallion called Kenar, the colouring being unique to the breed.
Should former Prime
Minister John Major have looked in the horses mouth when he received it as a
gift from the President of Turmenistan?
A spirited highly strung Akhalteke horse was given to John Major as a gift from the President of Turkmenistan which created a series of totally unintended diplomatic embarrassments. Months went by before Maksat the £30,000 horse was collected from its stables - giving offence to the President; and then after a long journey from central Asia it was rejected by the Queen's Life Guards as to frisky.
Robert.E. Lee and the
Civil War Gift Horse.
In 1861 General Robert Lee whilst in command of the Wise Legion camped near the Big Sewell Mountains spotted a horse which took his fancy. He referred to it as 'my colt'. When winter approached General Lee was ordered to go to South Carolina whereupon to his surprise he came across the colt again still being ridden by its original owner. He was offered it as a gift but declined the offer but averred he would like to have it for a week to assess its capabilities eg 'look in the horses mouth'. If after this assessment he was still interested in it he would agree to buy it from its present owner. As the owner was suffering form a bad attack of camp fever he agreed to the sale at 200 dollars. The horse survived the war and was known as Traveller - yes! spelled the English way with two l's.- and General Lee asked for its pedigree.
Elizabeth Taylor and
the Gift Horse in National Velvet.
Elizabeth Taylor admitted on the Larry King Show that she actually rode the horse in all the scenes of National Velvet with no stunt doubles to help. She said 'I had to do it. Everyone was afraid of the horse but me'. She was given the horse as a gift after the filming ws over - January 4th 2004.
GIFT HORSE -3
Joan of Arc received a gift horse at the end of the Hundred Years War whereas Leonardo da Vinci attempted to create the largest equestrian statue for the Duke of Milan, failed in his mission only to have his design built 500 years later and given as a gift by the American people to their Italian friends.
Here are their stories
OF ARC'S GIFT HORSE
Joan of Arc was a superb horsewoman at the age 17 and drew the critical eye of many knights. Guy de Laval, a young knight, wrote home to his mother about Joan's equestrian skills and another called D'Alencon was so impressed by her ability when he saw her on a borrowed horse that he decided to give her a magnificent steed as a gift. Two years later at the tender age of 19 Joan met her fate and was burnt at the stake. For Joan's complete story click here.
Leonardo da Vinci
and his Gift Horse.
The Duke of Milan in 1482 commissioned Leonard da Vinci to create the largest bronze equestrian statue ever at 100 tons and standing 26 feet high.Leonardo started by making a full scale clay model which was complete by 1483, was exhibited and became one of the wonders of Milan. However, misfortune struck and before he could complete the accumulation of the massive quantities of bronze, the French threatened to attack.The Duke decided to grab Leonardo's bronze stockpile and make it into cannons. The equestrian statue project was put on hold. But, five years later the French attacked Milan forcing both Leonardo and the Duke to flee. In the meanwhile the French discovered the huge clay horse abandoned in a vineyard where it was used by French archers for target practice.Having been pierced by many arrows and in addition suffering the attrition of rainy weather the clay model cracked and fell apart.
However, the tale has a happy ending. Exactly 500 years later in 1999 the completed bronze horse was unveiled with a grand ceremony in Milan. Milan's mayor accepted the horse as a gift from the American people to the Italian people. A second horse called the "American Horse" was unveiled in October 1999 in Frederick Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, Michigan.