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wooden mare

An ancient torture device involving a wooden horse, typically used for military punishments. I was so terrified of what my parents would do when they found out I'd failed my exam that I had visions of them making me ride the wooden mare.
See also: mare, wooden

mare's nest

A difficult, complicated, or confusing situation. The tax laws in this country are a mare's nest that nobody fully understands.
See also: nest

ride shanks' mare

To walk. "Shanks" refers to one's legs. The store is close enough that we don't need to drive, we can just ride shanks' mare.
See also: mare, ride

by shank's mare

By one's legs and feet, used for walking; traveling by foot. A reference to the shank—the lower leg between the knee and the ankle—and the use of ponies or horses for travel. (Also written as "shanks' mare.") My bicycle fell apart three miles away from home, so I had to go the rest of the way by shank's mare. Unfortunately, with the sedentary lifestyle many lead today, travel by shank's mare has largely become obsolete.
See also: by, mare

shank's mare

One's legs and feet, used for walking; travel by foot. A reference to the shank— the lower leg between the knee and the ankle—and the use of ponies or horses for travel. (Also seen as "shanks' mare.") My bicycle fell apart three miles away from home, so I had to use shank's mare to go the rest of the way. Unfortunately, with the sedentary lifestyle many lead today, shank's mare has largely become an obsolete mode of travel.
See also: mare

old gray mare

old-fashioned Something or someone that is aged, obsolete, or outdated. An allusion to the folk song "Old Gray Mare," especially its opening line: "The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be." It's (rare) modern use is usually somewhat derogatory. It may not have fancy apps or let me surf the Internet, but this old gray mare is still the only phone I need. I may be an old gray mare, but I still know how to get up and cut a rug on the dance floor.
See also: gray, mare, old

by shank's mare

Fig. by foot; by walking. (Shank refers to the shank of the leg.) My car isn't working, so I'll have to travel by shank's mare. I'm sore because I've been getting around by shank's mare.
See also: by, mare

shank's mare

Fig. travel on foot. You'll find that shank's mare is the quickest way to get across town. Is there a bus, or do I have to use shank's mare?
See also: mare

a mare's nest

a wonderful discovery which proves or will prove to be illusory.
A mare's nest is here being used to symbolize something that does not exist, as horses do not make nests. The phrase is first recorded in the late 16th century, as is the variant a horse's nest , although the latter is now no longer in use.
See also: nest

a ˈmare’s nest

1 an idea or a discovery that seems interesting and exciting but is found to be false or have no value: I fancy this will prove to be a mare’s nest! We have had these mysteries before.
A mare is a female horse or donkey. They do not make nests and so a mare’s nest does not exist.

2 a difficult or complicated situation; a mess: This area of the law is a veritable mare’s nest.My hair is a mare’s nest!
See also: nest

shank’s mare

n. foot travel. (Old. Lacking a horse, one uses the legs. This does not refer to a person named shank.) You’ll find that shank’s mare is the quickest way to get across town.
See also: mare

shank's mare

On foot, walking. This quaint expression dates from the second half of the eighteenth century, the shank here alluding to the leg. Also put as to ride shank’s mare, it continues to be used, although it may be heard less often. The Cleveland Plain Dealer had it (Oct. 26, 1974): “The people who came to the Barons-Rangers game that night long ago came by streetcar and bus and by shank’s mare as well as by auto.”
See also: mare

the old gray mare

The passage of time. A folk song attributed to Stephen Foster and supposedly referring to a 19th-century harness-racing horse named Lady Suffolk begins, “Oh, the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be . . . Many long years ago.” Unkind people used the image to refer women “of a certain age” (or older), although when used by themselves about themselves, it has an air of self-deprecating resignation. For example, a middle-aged woman who leaves the dance floor short of breath after a vigorous jitterbug may wipe her brow, reach for a cold drink, and exclaim, “The old gray mare ain't what she used to be.”
See also: gray, mare, old

shank's mare

Walking. “Shank” is another word for shinbone. By extension, its use in the phase refers to our legs. “Mare” here is equine transport, and when we walk, we “ride” on shank's mare.
See also: mare
References in classic literature ?
The mare was stripped, and the whole party gathered round to watch him mount.
Your mare understands Japanese, Lady Grace," the Prince answered, smiling.
She was your mare, and it's none of my business what you did with her.
After he had been overpowered by sleep, as on the former days, the mare and foal ran away and hid themselves in the royal hen house.
And Mikolka swung the shaft a second time and it fell a second time on the spine of the luckless mare.
Lute almost caught up amongst the trees, but was hopelessly outdistanced on the fallow field adjoining, across which the mare tore with a fine disregard for heavy ground and gopher-holes.
His little mare was fast bringing him up with a man on horseback, who trotted through the gate a few rods in advance of him, nodded to the toll-gatherer, and kept on towards the village.
Did the mare carry you all the way back to Melbourne?
With this he gave the mare over to Antilochus's comrade Noemon, and then took the cauldron.
The unfortunate grey mare, who was the agony of Joe's life, floundered along at her own will and pleasure until the Maypole was no longer visible, and then, contracting her legs into what in a puppet would have been looked upon as a clumsy and awkward imitation of a canter, mended her pace all at once, and did it of her own accord.
Cheer up, old girl," said Tom, patting the bay mare on the neck with the end of his whip.
Saxon stood under the father of all madronos, watching Hazel and Hattie go out the gate, the full vegetable wagon behind them, when she saw Billy ride in, leading a sorrel mare from whose silken coat the sun flashed golden lights.
The first actual pain which Miss Crawford occasioned her was the consequence of an inclination to learn to ride, which the former caught, soon after her being settled at Mansfield, from the example of the young ladies at the Park, and which, when Edmund's acquaintance with her increased, led to his encouraging the wish, and the offer of his own quiet mare for the purpose of her first attempts, as the best fitted for a beginner that either stable could furnish.
Was it some matter of a bay mare that Peters Sahib wished the pedigree of?
This was a tall chestnut mare, with a long handsome neck.