Origin: This phrase originates in the horse racing industry. It alludes to the fact that some racehorses were good at some courses, whilst others were better at others.
Meaning and Explanation: This proverb, ‘Horses for Courses’, means that different people are suited for different things. Some people have tastes and skills that other people do not have.
Thus, the proverb is a way of commenting on the fact that what one person loves or is good at may be something that another person dislikes or does not take so well to. The proverb is usually used in a positive way, as a comment on the fact that if somebody does not excel at a particular activity, this is not through any fault of their own. Rather, it is simply because they did not match up well to the activity – just as a racehorse needs to find the right course for it to excel at.
This proverb rhymes, which makes it very easy to remember. Strictly, rather than a sentence, the proverb is a ‘noun phrase’ because it contains two nouns and a preposition but no verb.
Explanation: There are several similar proverbs in existence: ‘each to their own’ is one example. In the past, there was an alternative way of expressing ‘horses for courses’: some people used to say ‘courses for horses’. However, this alternative proverb did not catch on.
The proverb ‘horses for courses’ helps us to remember that everyone has something individual to contribute to the world – and so, we all need to find the right situation in which to make our contribution. Following the proverb’s teaching, we should just try something else until we find what we are best suited to.
Importance: The importance of this proverb is highlighted below:
1. Employment: Recruiters often use the idea of ‘horses for courses’ when they are interviewing people for a job. They want to choose the right person for the right job.
2. A reminder that we all have different skills: This proverb reminds us that everyone has something different to offer in life, and we should all celebrate that. Thus, we can use this proverb to illustrate the importance of celebrating diversity and letting everybody’s diverse talents shine.
3. Education: When choosing which options to study at school or university, it is a good idea to bear the notion of ‘horses for courses’ in mind, as then we will remember to play to our strengths.
4. Helping others: When we are trying to help others, it is good to remember this proverb as it helps us to bear in mind that everyone is an individual. Thus, we will remember to give people the help that best suits them, as an individual with individual tastes and needs.