horsing around

Light-hearted, boisterous play; fooling around and having fun in a physical way. Little kids especially enjoy horsing around. 

In the 16th century, “horse” was a common adjective describing anything strong, big, or coarse. Along with horseplay, that’s how horseradish got its name. The verb “horse,” once meant “play crazy jokes on.” Experts aren’t sure how it came into use, or what horses have to do with it, but I’d suggest that it’s because horses definitely have a sense of humor.

The phrase “horsing around” refers to enthusiastic, silly play, especially play with a child-like aspect and may also be called horseplay. This type of play is usually improvised and spontaneous, and it may be engaged in by people of any age, from young children to mischievous adults.

People first started using the term “horseplay” in the late 1500s. It is apparently linked to the concept of young horses at play. Colts and fillies tend to play hard and rough, especially when they have the freedom of a pasture, and most people enjoy watching young horses, or other young animals, at play as they explore the world. Young creatures exhibit a great deal of curiosity and love of fun when they are around each other.

Horsing around is usually physical. People may play a modified version of a ball game with a large inflatable ball in the back yard, for example, or develop more elaborate games. They might also engage in mock tussles and fake fights which promote bonding while also building strength and dexterity.

So kicking up one’s heels now and then can actually be a very beneficial activity. It’s usually good exercise and, because of that, may also confer some mental health benefits. Play, laughter, and having fun all seem to promote a more even, calm, and happy mental state. A bit of play, especially with friends, can help to relieve stress. Playgrounds for children are often designed to promote horsing around in a safe way, so that children will not injure themselves.

And, of course, “kicking up one’s heels” is exactly what young horses do when they race around in a field, playing. Since I only have two feet, instead of four, I can only kick up one heel at a time. Too bad!

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