A small four letter word. So many levels of meaning.
Miriam Webster Dictionary gives us several contexts to consider: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/home
Definition of home
(Entry 1 of 6)
1a: one’s place of residence
2: the social unit formed by a family living together
3a: a familiar or usual setting
1: relaxed and comfortable
2: in harmony with the surroundings
3: on familiar ground
Definition of home (Entry 2 of 6)
1: to or at one’s place of residence or home
2a: to a final, closed, or ultimate position b: to or at an ultimate objective
3: to a vital sensitive core
Definition of home (Entry 3 of 6)
1: of, relating to, or being a place of residence, place of origin, or base of operations
2: prepared, done, or designed for use in a home
3: operating or occurring in an area that is a headquarters or base of operations
Definition of home (Entry 4 of 6)
1: to go or return to one’s place of residence or origin
2: of an animal : to return accurately to one’s native area of place of birth or origin from a distance
3: to move to or toward an objective by following a signal or landmark
4: to proceed or direct attention toward an objectives
I am not a linguist, but I found this fascinating. I am an expat. This means that I choose to live in a country not of my origin. There is a good reason why I have called my business Expat Equestrian. It defines me, and I have always been a sucker for alliteration. As an expat- or an imigrant- HOME has a very unique setting in my heart.
I come from a land down under!
The most common question I get when I meet a Polish person for the first time:
“What are you doing here?!”
Fact is, I was not sitting in Australia and dreaming about Poland. I was dreaming about Europe, about a career which I have seen abandoned and more specifically I dreamed about finding a place in the world where I could be 100% myself. Really what I wanted was a sense of belonging.
I did not fit-in back ‘home’ in Australia. I did not fit in anywhere. I had my friends, but they were not easy to find and once I found them I held onto them tightly. I felt restricted by the culture of my country. Nothing against Australia, really I would feel restricted by cultural normality anywhere! But as an expat I am the ultimate free outsider. I do not belong to the native culture, but neither am I connected with my ‘home’ culture on an everyday kind of way. The result is, I am free to make my own choices about who I am, how I relate to the world and how I relate to others. As a result, I am able to live an authentic life on my own terms. I have an everyday kind of peace. I can sit on public transport here in Warsaw, with people talking about their everyday drama around me and because it is not my language I can easily tune out and read my book. Back in Melbourne, I cannot tune them out no matter how hard I try, unless I blast music or have earplugs.
I am able now to live my life through my instincts, and reinvent myself if I have to.
Home, is Australia.
Home is my apartment in Warsaw.
Home is a place inside myself where I can find hard truths, answers to my life’s struggles, direction when I feel lost, and a sense of peace and belonging, that I can carry with me.
Home is where my partner is, when I am with him, I feel at home.
Home is also where my horse is.
Home, as a word, can be a noun: a name, but it can also be a verb and an adjective. It can describe feelings. Feelings are the core of quality horsemanship. Can you feel? Do you feel? Are you awake to your environment? Do you feel of and for your horse?
When I sit on my horse, in our saddle, I feel at HOME. I feel like I belong there. I feel this way on almost any horse now. If I sit on a horse and I do NOT feel at home there on their back then something between me and that horse is wrong, and I get off them.
There were moments back when Sanson first arrived in Poland from Spain, when he was struggling with his life transition, that when I sat on him I did not feel at home. For whatever reason, I had not passed the point, and Sanson was not in a state to accept riding… he was struggling just to be a horse and needed space and energy for coming to terms with himself. Accepting a rider was far from his mind when he was now no longer skinny or in pain from ulcers or standing alone all day in a small corral, but did not know what to do with his new fresh body that had access to space and a large herd to live in. Horsemanship was a distant memory for him when there was deep snow on the ground and his body was cold and stiff from standing still in the frozen mud all night. So I refrained from riding. I slowly identified things which were stressors for him and resolved to solve them, one by one, as my budget allowed. I worked on our relationship and our bond. I worked hard to earn his trust and help him through things. I took no shit from him when he attempted something unsafe, but never with violence or coercion.
A rainy day ride last week with friends, feeling like I could live in the saddle and need nothing else
For several months if I rode it was for 2-10 minutes. I did a LOT of groundwork and support in his diet and care, and just waited for Sanson to come HOME to HIS body.
Nowadays, we are clocking 6-7 hours a week in the saddle. And I can feel he is able to do more. I feel at home there on his back and I feel safe. He is at home in himself. And we can share each others bodies like they were belonging to both of us. He lives in relative peace, in a herd of four horses he likes and who like him, and he does not have to compete for food. His feet are doing better, and he is more familiar with his body and with his new surroundings. I have more time for him, and it seems the more I visit him, the sweeter he feels. Having said that, I accept the possibility that this may not always be so, but for now, we are in a good place together.
The same in groundwork. If you are relating to a horse or in contact with them, without riding, and you do not feel at home there… get out! Go somewhere else! Do something else! Do not ignore that feeling. Problem is, the person who is not at home with their horse is probably also disconnected with how they feel- their feelings are in chaos- and they can find no discernible clarity in their mind to listen to those cues from the horse and take steps to protect themselves. It is then the horses responsibility- as a creature of immense intelligence and emotional sensitivity- to express to this chaotic person in no uncertain terms ‘You are not welcome, at home or in a state of belonging here.”. The result is a rear, a kick, a bite, turning and walking away. In some horses even a tightening of the eye is their signal. Did you see it? Are you paying attention?
https://www.gabineurohr.com/index.php/problem-horses/obelix/120-difficult-horses-obelix-a-little-black-guy-in-trouble (Photo from this great blog, have a read)
Home is not a fixed place. It is not immoveable. It is a dynamic and flexible idea that can both offer you a sense of belonging, stability and safety, whilst also providing a foil for exploration, discovery, courage and novelty.
I feel at home with my horse, but this sense is not a feeling of laziness or stagnation or a sedentary outlook determined to ‘staying where I am’. It is dynamic feeling and full of possibilities and movement.
Just like the homes we all grew up in, and the storylines we all have from childhood, NO home is perfect. There will be times of happiness and harmony, and times of struggle, confusion and doubt. But it is sill home. Such as I am with my horses and with other horses too. There are moments of gallops in the forest with no reins, physical aid free transitions, and incredible moments of softening and learning and discovery, and there are times of refusal, confusion, fear and doubt from both me and Sanson and other horses and that is ok!. That is life, such as it is. To be at home is to honestly accept the full range of experiences that come with it.
If you cannot accept the whole host of emotions that come into horse life and horse work, then you should take up something else which helps you get your physical activity kick. Tennis. Swimming. Cycling. To engage with a horse is to engage your emotions because the horse is ALWAYS engaged with their emotions, unless they have been broken. And if I meet a broken horse, my first job is to put them back together.
Home is where my horse is.
Home is where my heart is.
Home is where my hope is.