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You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink:

make horse drink

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink?”




Among a herd of horses there can only be one leader, all of the rest of the herd are followers. The followers will always follow the leader of the herd wherever that leader will guide them.

(Unless the leader exhibits any signs of weakness or indecision. Then another member of the herd will challenge its leadership… but that is another topic.)

When the leader of a herd of horses guides their thirsty followers to a body of water to quench their thirst, the first thing that the leader will do is locate an area of high ground close to the body of water that it has lead the herd to.

The leader will then take a quick sip of refreshing water to let the rest of the herd know that the water is safe to drink. The leader’s next action will be to trot strongly and proudly to the top of the high ground to watch for predators, and protect the now vulnerable herd.

The herd will then approach the water and confidently drink knowing that their fearless leader is watching over them as they satisfy their thirst. After the herd drinks hardily until their thirst is satiated, they will move gingerly away from the water.

Now more mindful of the danger of potential predators the rest of the herd will be watching the area behind them on full alert. This is the cue the leader is watching for to let them know that it is their turn to drink.

Only when the rest of the herd has finished drinking, will the leader come down from the high ground for a gratuitous drink from the water.



This once popular proverb seems to have lost the ubiquity that it once had.

A proverb is a concrete, traditional saying that expresses a perceived truth based on common sense or experience. One example of a proverb is, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

This metaphoric term dates back to the 12th century and is considered the oldest distinctly English proverb that is still in use today.

It was included in John Heywood’s proverb collection of 1546. Mr. Heywood’s version of the phrase was, (sic) “A man male well bring a horse to the water, but he cannot make him drinke without he will.”

Today in the modern world people use the proverb, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink to stress the fact that human beings will desire to do that which brings them pleasure.

They will do this regardless of whether or not you believe that there is something else better that they should do instead.

You can guide someone down a path which you believe will be in their best interest, but in the end you can’t make them do something that they don’t want to do.

Everyone has their own personality, their own sense of right and wrong. They have their own dreams and desires as well. The wisdom of a mentor with far more life experience will fall on deaf ears, when trying to guide one with less experience down the path of righteousness.

Let us venture back to our equine friends, the majestic horse. Going for a ride on the back of a horse in the open country can be a breath taking experience. Eventually you will get thirsty, and so will the horse.

If you lead your horse to a water source, will it drink?

Is your horse just being stubborn, or is it waiting for you, the leader, to let it know that it is safe to drink?











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