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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.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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?
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
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.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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.
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price