Posted by R. Berg on October 29, 2002
In Reply to: Hmmm posted by Word Camel 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."
: Wasn't there a sheep in a similar role on the Sopranos a few weeks back?
That explanation of "get your goat" has turned up here before and been discounted. See https://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/3/messages/432.html (link below).