The Day We All Won Wordle

Mar 8, 2023 - 7:56 AM

In the dark of early morning Tuesday, in tackrooms—and, let’s be real, probably bathrooms—around Thermal, California; Wellington, Florida; and every place in the U.S. where horses reign supreme, a great cheer erupted.

Was it due to a fantastic jump-off being streamed from some far-off country where the day already had begun? No.

Was it due to news that the price of hay will drop throughout the year? No, sorry, sadly not that either.

Was it due to an untold number of riders seeing their dogged commitment to starting every Wordle with the same word finally pay off? In a word, HORSE.

Wordle winner
What?! Are you kidding?! At last!

Canadian Equestrian Team show jumper Erynn Ballard is just one of the legion of riders who starts her Wordle off with “HORSE” every day.

So is Wyoming-based eventer Christian Eagles. And—in a highly scientific poll involving responses to her announcement that she got Wordle on her first guess—so do her friends and fellow riders Ingrid George, JJ Kane and Anna Chalfoun.

And, sometimes, so am I.

I normally like to let the mood of the day dictate my first word (FLAKE when it’s snowing, BRAVE when it suits, and ANGRY when it doesn’t, STARE or AUDIO when I really want to beat my husband). But when I’m lacking inspiration at 5 a.m., I simply saddle up my old faithful five-letter friend.

As a New York Times subscriber, I’ve also used its Wordlebot feature to help me determine the quality of HORSE as an opening salvo:

“HORSE is a strong opening guess,” it told me one day in February, assessing me a 94 out of 99 on skill. “Not only is this a good guess for any Wordle, but it also was a lucky one today.” (That day’s word turned out to be HEADY.)

And what did Wordlebot think of my guess yesterday? Well, I don’t mean to brag, but it called me a genius, and gave me a 99 out of 99 for luck: “You guessed the Wordle on the first try!? Buy a lottery ticket today?”

No I didn’t. Because I’ve got a confession to make: I cheated.

I only remembered to open Wordle on Tuesday after seeing my social media feed filling with riding friends gleefully announcing that they’d gotten it on the elusive first try. Being a professional journalist and all, I had what we in the biz call a “hunch.” Or maybe a “lead.” Or possibly a “scoop.”

Whatever. I knew it was not the day to faff about with hazy-dazy emo-inspo words. It was the day to go straight back to my trusty old HORSE.


Worldbot today
Why is HORSE only a 93 in skill today when it was a 94 last month? That’s for another story.

And my efforts—informed as they were by broad hints on social media—netted me my first-ever, first-guess win. I was not alone.

Casting about on social media to see who else was with me, Virginia-based dressage trainer and Chronicle blogger Lauren Sprieser admitted she followed the same trail.

“Everyone posted about it, so I figured it must be occupation adjacent,” she wrote, “so I kinda cheated in how I got there.”

Massachusetts-based eventer Sue Berrill said, “I’ve noticed many of my friends also go this on the first try (as I did).”

And Erynn Ballard? A member of Canada’s victorious team in Saturday’s FEI Nations Cup Wellington (Florida) she kept her winning magic alive by also notching her first first-guess Wordle by riding HORSE again.
So friends, I hope you all enjoyed your day of glory Tuesday, reaping the rewards of your commitment to the word that binds us. Because now we’ve got an imposing problem to tackle:

What next?

Since Wordle first scattered its green and yellow boxes across our timelines, since opting (or not) to share your performance on social media briefly become one of those value-laden decisions—like, “Do you believe pineapple is a pizza topping?”—that causes rifts between friends, we’ve been using HORSE to solve the daily puzzle.

What five-letter word is both horse-related and offers a suitable combination of frequently used consonants and vowels? (My kids suggest GIRTH or REINS, but we all know Wordle rarely if ever uses a plural word, so they’re cute but wrong, at least on the latter.) Where, friends, do we begin again?

Chronicle web editor Melissa Wright lives in downtown Houston, with two daughters, a husband, an old basset hound and a rotating cast of foster rabbits. She Wordles daily, with stunningly mediocre results.


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