I grew up with a grandma who loved horses.
I went through a phase of wanting to be a veterinarian, wanting to own my own horse (this was at its strongest point when I lived in south bend, indiana, on a very suburban street with no horse pasture for miles), and just thinking horses were the most fabulous creatures on earth. next to unicorns, that is, but I guess the "on earth" qualifier wipes the mythical horned creatures out of the running.
regardless, I was always begging my parents for an opportunity to go ride a horse, and I eventually learned enough about them to realize that we couldn't house one, or really even afford one. and that they took a lot of work, all that feeding and currying, sweeping out of stalls, training, and riding.
I also learned that most of the horses I was able to ride had a distinct preference for their barn. you'd get to take your horse out, ride him on this trail or that, ride him around the corral, whatever it might be: at the end, they always got a little more excited when they realized they were on the path toward home. a slow walk outward ended with a fast trot back to the barn.
bill once told me I'm the same.
we were coming to the end of the Tour de Park City, having ridden about 280 miles, (okay, a hundred and five, but it felt like more), and he commented that I always seem to finish rides pretty strongly, saying it must be the smell of the barn.
I think he's right.
there is a definite lift to my spirits when I know that I am close to finishing one of those will-it-never-end rides. and, truth be told, I even sometimes experience that lift on a shorter ride. I love the riding, I am thrilled to be in the canyons, I make it through the steep parts and glory in the less challenging climbs, and I always feel better for having ridden. but I still am glad to have it end.
I smell home: a shower, food, water, a book, my couch, coffee if it's early morning, a diet coke if it's later in the day . . . all of those things that are my oats and hay.