Posted by James Briggs on October 29, 2002
As some of you will know, I have a site where I've posted origins of as many phrases as I can find. I get regular questions from around the world, plus suggestions about origins - I've posted some of these recently. I thought you would all be interested in the following message that came today.
"I came across your site while looking up an expression
that I heard this weekend at Churchill Downs in Louisville, USA. On a behind-the-scenes
tour of the track, our guide pointed out a goat tied to a stable door next to
a thoroughbred. She explained the goat was present as a companion to an otherwise
anxious horse visiting a new stable. She said the expression "to get one's goat"
derived from the dastardly practice of a rival trainer stealing the opposing horse's
goat and unnerving him before the big race. ....I thought it was bunk, but decided
to research it when I got home.
We only saw one goat out of a couple dozen stalls, but she seemed to think it was not uncommon. Maybe there's something to it?....though it may well be predated by (your suggestion of) the rival farmer's milk cow production. Just thought you'd like to know. Thanks for an interesting site."