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He won the Officers’ Scurry—five furlongs—with Benoni on the first day, and that sent up the price of the stable in the evening lotteries; for Benoni was the worst-looking of the three, being a pigeontoed, split-chested dâk horse, with a wonderful gift of blundering in on his shoulders—ridden out to the last ounce—but first.

This is from "Sleipner", late "Thurinda" by Rudyard Kipling.
https://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/tale/sleipner-late-thurinda.htm

I can't Understand the meaning below.
with a wonderful gift of blundering in on his shoulders—ridden out to the last ounce—but first.

I am glad if someone would kindly teach me.

1 Answer 1

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The syntax is confusing. The two em dashes do not set off a parenthetical phrase, as you might think, but instead are two distinct uses of an em dash which each indicate a break in the flow of the sentence.

You can think of the sentence as being a list of three items:

Benoni... [had] a wonderful gift of:

  1. Blundering in on his shoulders
  2. Ridden out to the last ounce
  3. But first!

Blundering here is meaning 3 at wiktionary: "moving blindly or clumsily." I am not sure what "on his shoulders" means, but from context I would say it is a technical term used to describe the way the horse is moving—presumably a non-optimal and inefficient movement, given the use of "blundering."

"Ridden out to the last ounce" means that the horse has been ridden—that is, made to run by his rider—to the point of exhaustion, the metaphor being a physical amount of "energy" or "stamina" that is all but depleted.

And of course "first" is obvious. Despite the horse's inelegant movement and near-total exhaustion, he has a wonderful gift of winning races.

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  • randomehead, thank you so much for your detailed and kind answer as before! It is very helpful for me!! Nov 14, 2021 at 3:37

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