I went to the barn yesterday intending to do a little light arena riding. Blue has had two weeks off since Klickitat to do basically nothing but hang out in the pasture with his buddies.
I decided to lunge him in the arena first to make sure he was sound. Last weekend, when I lunged him in the field (new arena fencing was being installed), he was very mildly off on the bad front foot still. But the ground in the field is fairly hard now that it is dry, and fairly uneven because of us riding on it when it was wet. I considered Blue to be nearly normal and well on his way to recovery already, though I didn't ride him. Another week of R&R would set him right.
Nevertheless, as Blue was circling around me yesterday on the smooth, forgiving sand of the arena, something still seemed not quite right. It was puzzling. The rhythm seemed even. The stride length was normal. There might have been an occasional head bob, but it was hard to tell if that was lameness or just high spirits. And yet, something was definitely telling me he wasn't ready to ride yet again.
What was it? I was puzzled. There was...something. I sent him off circling the other way (bad foot on the outside) for a while as I took stock, front-to-back from the ground up. Normal stride length. Normal landing. No stiffness. One ear forward, one ear on me. Willing attitude. Good footing. And yet...
I turned him around again, so the bad white foot was on the inside where I could see it hitting the ground in my peripheral vision as I watched the rest of him.
And that's when I saw the thing that had been tickling my subconscious: Every time the bad foot hit the ground, he blinked.
Such a subtle thing. Too subtle for video, I'm sorry to say. (I tried!)
Horses are always so quiet when they communicate. Blink- blink- blink is horse for ouch- ouch- ouch.
So my saddle will be gathering dust for another week. Luckily, I've got nothing but time! :)