A game for people to show off their skill with a basketball. The players take turns choosing a shot. If they make it, then each other player has to try to make the same shot. Anybody who misses gets a letter in the word HORSE. Collect the whole word and you're out of the game. Perhaps related to the phrase horsing around.

Several notes about HORSE the game, in addition to what /dev/joe pointed out.

Horse is about making a better shot yes, but it is also about 60 % mental. Whether or not you are a better player, talking trash and making wildly better shots is really the key to winning. Making the other player mess up is just as good as making the good shots, as long as it's just in good clean fun.

Horse is also a two-player trick mode in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. You each take turns trying to perform better tricks starting from the same location in a stage. You try to 1-up each other, until a person messes up or scores less than the previous player. That person gets a letter and the match continues on. A player loses when one person spells HORSE, just as in the basketball game.

The game of Horse was best embodied in a set of very famous McDonalds commercials, where Larry Jordan and Michael Bird play each other in Horse. It ran as a running commercial gag for a while before it was taken off the air. The official name of the commercial is "Showdown". The only rules were set forth was by Larry Bird and was (memorably) "no dunking!" (Bird could never really dunk).

The two would interchange shots, and were so perfectly matched, the shots moved to quite incredible things. It started out on the floor, moved over to the rafters (Bird: "Off the floor, off the scoreboard, off the backboard, no rim" *), and then in the second spot, it had moved outside (Jordan: "Off the expressway, over the river, off the billboard, through the window, off the wall, nothing but net.", *swish* sound here).

It was a quite sucessful commercial spot and ran throughout 1993, airing at the Super Bowl, and continuing afterwards. McDonalds got quite a good value with their money by playing off the highly publicized friendly rivarly between the two, and it has stuck in the mind of all who have seen it.

* Quotes taken from a Google cache of an expired web page
In voodoo, one who is possessed ("ridden") by a loa during a rite. The horse exhibits behavioral traits associated with the spirit and, speaking with its voice, answers the questions and entreaties of the participants (or refuses to answer them -- the loa are tempermental sorts).

For further reading, check your local library for Zora Neale Hurston's Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica or Alfred Metraux's Voodoo In Haiti.

Papa Legba,
Come and open the gate.
Papa Legba,
To the city of camps.
Now, we're your children
Come and ride your horse
In the night
In the night
Come and ride your horse

-- Talking Heads

I have always been crazy about horses. When I was little, my family lived in a subdivision, so my parents let me take riding lessons at a stable close by (to keep me from driving them to insanity asking for a horse). This kept me happy for a while, but then I decided that we should move to a place where I could have a horse. So my parents reluctantly started asking others at the stable about the joys of horse-ownership. One particular guy had had a horrible time, apparently the horse was always sick and the vet bills were astronomical. Unfortunately, this guy made a big impression on my dad. So, I learned the one fact that has remained in my dad's mind about horses ever since.

"Baby, a horse is an animal looking for a way to die."

Of course I was hurt, but thinking about it now, the way he said it was amusing - he was completely convinced. And I am still getting a horse as soon as I get away from this damned city living.

Horse is also slang for heroin. A lot of theories have been generated as to why it's slang for heroin, such as the initial 'h' sound mimics the 'h' in heroin, or that heroin referred to as the horse because it has more kick than other drugs, but the reality is contained in the animal itself, and another vice of humans, gambling on horse races. This piece of slang is circa 1945, originating from horse trainers who used dosed their horses with heroin before races, because in equines, heroin is a powerful central nervous system stimulant.



Sources:

The Slang of Sin, by Tom Dalzell, Merriam-Webster Inc.

Interesting Fact: Horses inhale only through their nostrils. If their nostrils are blocked, they will suffocate, and they will die.

Exploitation of this knowledge has led to a phenomenon in horse racing known as "sponging", where a sponge is forcibly shoved up one of the nostrils of a horse. With only one nostril a horse has a much harder time re-oxygenating its blood and their racing ability is significantly impaired. Horses are now being guarded much more carefully and checked by Jockeys and Owners prior to races to make sure they have not been sponged. Horse enthusiasts express deep shock that anyone involved with horses could be so cruel.


http://www.websouthwest.co.uk/ponyclub/pages/respiratory_2.htm
http://www.horseit.com/en/Health2001/respiratory/stablekepthorses.htm

Horse (hors), n. [AS. hors; akin to OS. hros, D. & OHG. ros, G. ross, Icel. hross; and perh. to L. currere to run, E. course, current Cf. Walrus.]

1. (Zoöl.)

A hoofed quadruped of the genus Equus; especially, the domestic horse (E. caballus), which was domesticated in Egypt and Asia at a very early period. It has six broad molars, on each side of each jaw, with six incisors, and two canine teeth, both above and below. The mares usually have the canine teeth rudimentary or wanting. The horse differs from the true asses, in having a long, flowing mane, and the tail bushy to the base. Unlike the asses it has callosities, or chestnuts, on all its legs. The horse excels in strength, speed, docility, courage, and nobleness of character, and is used for drawing, carrying, bearing a rider, and like purposes.

⇒ Many varieties, differing in form, size, color, gait, speed, etc., are known, but all are believed to have been derived from the same original species. It is supposed to have been a native of the plains of Central Asia, but the wild species from which it was derived is not certainly known. The feral horses of America are domestic horses that have run wild; and it is probably true that most of those of Asia have a similar origin. Some of the true wild Asiatic horses do, however, approach the domestic horse in several characteristics.
Several species of fossil (Equus) are known from the later Tertiary formations of Europe and America. The fossil species of other genera of the family Equidæ are also often called horses, in general sense.

2.

The male of the genus horse, in distinction from the female or male; usually, a castrated male.

3.

Mounted soldiery; cavalry; -- used without the plural termination; as, a regiment of horse; -- distinguished from foot.

The armies were appointed, consisting of twenty-five thousand horse and foot.
Bacon.

4.

A frame with legs, used to support something; as, a clotheshorse, a sawhorse, etc.

5.

A frame of timber, shaped like a horse, on which soldiers were made to ride for punishment.

6.

Anything, actual or figurative, on which one rides as on a horse; a hobby.

7. (Mining)

A mass of earthy matter, or rock of the same character as the wall rock, occurring in the course of a vein, as of coal or ore; hence, to take horse -- said of a vein -- is to divide into branches for a distance.

8. (Naut.)

(a)

See Footrope, a.

(b)

A breastband for a leadsman.

(c)

An iron bar for a sheet traveler to slide upon.

(d)

A jackstay. W. C. Russell. Totten.

Horse is much used adjectively and in composition to signify of, or having to do with, a horse or horses, like a horse, etc.; as, horse collar, horse dealer or horse&?;dealer, horsehoe, horse jockey; and hence, often in the sense of strong, loud, coarse, etc.; as, horselaugh, horse nettle or horse-nettle, horseplay, horse ant, etc.

Black horse, Blood horse, etc. See under Black, etc. --
Horse aloes, caballine aloes. --
Horse ant (Zoöl.), a large ant (Formica rufa); -- called also horse emmet. --
Horse artillery, that portion of the artillery in which the cannoneers are mounted, and which usually serves with the cavalry; flying artillery. --
Horse balm (Bot.), a strong-scented labiate plant (Collinsonia Canadensis), having large leaves and yellowish flowers. --
Horse bean (Bot.), a variety of the English or Windsor bean (Faba vulgaris), grown for feeding horses. --
Horse boat, a boat for conveying horses and cattle, or a boat propelled by horses. --
Horse bot. (Zoöl.) See Botfly, and Bots. --
Horse box, a railroad car for transporting valuable horses, as hunters. [Eng.] --
Horse breaker or trainer, one employed in subduing or training horses for use. --
Horse car.
(a) A railroad car drawn by horses. See under Car.
(b) A car fitted for transporting horses. --
Horse cassia (Bot.), a leguminous plant (Cassia Javanica), bearing long pods, which contain a black, catharic pulp, much used in the East Indies as a horse medicine. --
Horse cloth, a cloth to cover a horse. --
Horse conch (Zoöl.), a large, spiral, marine shell of the genus Triton. See Triton. --
Horse courser.
(a) One that runs horses, or keeps horses for racing. Johnson.

(b) A dealer in horses. [Obs.] Wiseman. --
Horse crab (Zoöl.), the Limulus; -- called also horsefoot, horsehoe crab, and king crab. --
Horse crevallé (Zoöl.), the cavally. --
Horse emmet (Zoöl.), the horse ant. --
Horse finch (Zoöl.), the chaffinch. [Prov. Eng.] --
Horse gentian (Bot.), fever root. --
Horse iron (Naut.), a large calking iron. --
Horse latitudes, a space in the North Atlantic famous for calms and baffling winds, being between the westerly winds of higher latitudes and the trade winds. Ham. Nav. Encyc. --
Horse mackrel. (Zoöl.)
(a) The common tunny (Orcynus thunnus), found on the Atlantic coast of Europe and America, and in the Mediterranean.
(b) The bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix).
(c) The scad.
(d) The name is locally applied to various other fishes, as the California hake, the black candlefish, the jurel, the bluefish, etc. --
Horse marine (Naut.), an awkward, lubbery person; one of a mythical body of marine cavalry. [Slang] --
Horse mussel (Zoöl.), a large, marine mussel (Modiola modiolus), found on the northern shores of Europe and America. --
Horse nettle (Bot.), a coarse, prickly, American herb, the Solanum Carolinense. --
Horse parsley. (Bot.) See Alexanders. --
Horse purslain (Bot.), a coarse fleshy weed of tropical America (Trianthema monogymnum). --
Horse race, a race by horses; a match of horses in running or trotting. --
Horse racing, the practice of racing with horses. --
Horse railroad, a railroad on which the cars are drawn by horses; -- in England, and sometimes in the United States, called a tramway. --
Horse run (Civil Engin.), a device for drawing loaded wheelbarrows up an inclined plane by horse power. --
Horse sense, strong common sense. [Colloq. U.S.] --
Horse soldier, a cavalryman. --
Horse sponge (Zoöl.), a large, coarse, commercial sponge (Spongia equina). --
Horse stinger (Zoöl.), a large dragon fly. [Prov. Eng.] --
Horse sugar (Bot.), a shrub of the southern part of the United States (Symplocos tinctoria), whose leaves are sweet, and good for fodder. --
Horse tick (Zoöl.), a winged, dipterous insect (Hippobosca equina), which troubles horses by biting them, and sucking their blood; -- called also horsefly, horse louse, and forest fly. --
Horse vetch (Bot.), a plant of the genus Hippocrepis (H. comosa), cultivated for the beauty of its flowers; -- called also horsehoe vetch, from the peculiar shape of its pods. --
Iron horse, a locomotive. [Colloq.] --
Salt horse, the sailor's name for salt beef. --
To look a gift horse in the mouth, to examine the mouth of a horse which has been received as a gift, in order to ascertain his age; -- hence, to accept favors in a critical and thankless spirit. Lowell. --
To take horse.
(a) To set out on horseback. Macaulay.

(b) To be covered, as a mare.
(c) See definition 7 (above).

 

© Webster 1913


Horse (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Horsed (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Horsing.] [AS. horsion.]

1.

To provide with a horse, or with horses; to mount on, or as on, a horse. "Being better horsed, outrode me." Shak.

2.

To sit astride of; to bestride. Shak.

3.

To cover, as a mare; -- said of the male.

4.

To take or carry on the back; as, the keeper, horsing a deer. S. Butler.

5.

To place on the back of another, or on a wooden horse, etc., to be flogged; to subject to such punishment.

 

© Webster 1913


Horse, v. i.

To get on horseback. [Obs.] Shelton.

 

© Webster 1913


Horse, n. (Student Slang)

(a)

A translation or other illegitimate aid in study or examination; -- called also trot, pony, Dobbin.

(b)

Horseplay; tomfoolery.

 

© Webster 1913

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