smell the barn

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Metaphor, from the idea of a livestock animal returning to its barn at the day's end.


smell the barn

  1. (chiefly US, idiomatic) To experience heightened anticipation or to act with renewed speed or energy as one approaches a destination, goal, or other desired outcome.
    • 1996 Aug. 11, Ian Fisher, "To U.S. Troops in Bosnia, Home Looks Closer," The New York Times, p. 18:
      "The horses smell the barn right now," said Capt. Clark D. Carr, the battalion's Protestant chaplain, who knows perhaps better than anyone how badly they want to leave.
    • 1998 Nov. 4, "Age has its advantages, says Bonnie Neglia", Gazette, University of Waterloo (retrieved 14 June 2007):
      "I visualize the finish line to keep going—like the horse smelling the barn—and try to finish as strong as I can."
    • 2001, LtCol. Bryan P. McCoy, "Identify and Combat Five Treacherous Phenomena," Ground Warrior (Summer), U.S. Navy Naval Safety Center (retrieved 14 June 2007):
      Smelling the barn can result in driving too fast, not clearing weapons properly, and bypassing ammunition-recovery procedures.