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1. A veteran of some activity or profession (not necessarily the military) who has a wealth of experience going through various trials and tribulations. I know she's a little eccentric, but Janet is an warhorse in this firm—she's been through more trying court cases than anyone else here. The president's pick for Secretary of State is an old war horse of international trade.
2. A performance or dramatic work, especially a musical, that is widely known and reliably popular due to how long or frequently it has been performed. The announcement that the old warhorse was being revived for a run on Broadway sent a collective cheer across the nation. The theater has a few warhorses that it brings out once or twice a year that it knows will always fill seats.
See also: warhorse
Someone or something who is often depended on to do what is necessary to achieve success, especially in the face of conflict or during difficult times. Though it has struggled in its various other enterprises, the massive corporation still saw a rise in profits at the end of the year thanks to its powerhouse video game console, which has been something of a war horse for it in the past four years. The first goal of the game was scored by the home team's war horse, Jack Milan. You can tell there's been a dearth of new plays worth producing when the national theater company begins putting on shows of their old war horses like "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Streetcar Named Desire."
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Also, old war horse. A dependable, frequently performed attraction, as in The opera company is doing nothing but old war horses this season, like, Aida and La Bohème. This term originated in the mid-1600s for a military charger that had been through many battles. In the 1800s it began to be used for human veterans, and in the mid-1900s for popular productions, especially of musical works.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.