Horses and the homing instinct

  • Anyone who’s prodded and zig-zagged their horse away from the barn, only to beeline back on the return trip;
  • anyone who’s ridden an egg-shaped circle, bulging as though magnetized toward the arena entrance
  • or anyone who’s  earned a break-of-gait penalty at the show ring in-gate knows…

Horses have a “homing” instinct.

No wonder – a horse is designed to be drawn to an environment where things are safe and predictable for their very survival. A place where meals and turnout come on schedule. Where he knows where he stands in the pasture hierarchy. A horse feels “at home” when the cues and signals of his rider are clear and logical.

Horse show grounds, in contrast, are NOT predictable; NOT familiar. “We’re NOT in Kansas anymore!”
The horse show gate represents the exit from the alien sounds, lighting and movement of the show ring. The gate is the exit from physical exertion, mental focus and…aloneness (Where are my herd mates?)

Yep, horses have a homing instinct.

So do we.

“We don’t know what it is at first. But we know this much. From the moment we are born, we are on a quest.
It starts with toys. We think if only we had a certain toy, then we would be happy. Then we get older. We think a certain position or relationship or thing will make us happy…We have a homesickness for a place we’ve never been before. God wired us that way.”
Greg Laurie

After the Black Friday frenzy and the sober realization that, in truth, I didn’t reeeally need that bargain, seafoam- blue, matching set of halter fuzzies and shipping boots, the lull returns to longing…for something to make me happy.

Hmmm…I wonder if there were any Black Friday deals on Advent calendars –you know, the ones with the little cardboard doors to open in the countdown to Christmas?

 Advent, the 4 weeks before Christmas, is about longing and waiting. The ancient Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” speaks of the yearning of ancient people for the promised Messiah – who would be a leader and Saviour. Emmanuel – from the Hebrew, meaning the presence of God with us.

And in the 1st century AD, living under the harsh thumb of the Roman empire, Jesus’ disciple John recorded how he was convinced the promise had been fulfilled- the events he’d actually seen, and heard:

 “So the Word [of God] became human and made his home among us”. John 1:14, the Bible.

For those who celebrate Christmas, its message is of a Saviour who made His home among us. He knows the unfulfilled longings we share navigating an unpredictable world. He spoke of a home beyond this life – a place where every unmet longing would be satisfied.

When I’m driving at dusk or dawn past farmhouses with their golden lit windows, Christmas wreaths and front porch urns, I feel that tug of homesickness. For a place of belonging. A place of peace.

We are wired to be homesick. We, like horses, have a homing instinct.