I posted a while back about the comment Sarah had made to me in a lesson on Milo. She said to get a small "flip" in Milo's neck at (about the C3 vertebrae). It wasnt a huge obvious arc in the neck, just a flip. I didnt visually see what she was describing, instead I have been trying to get a small arc in the neck, not fully understanding why she said that.
Last weekend at the horse show she was describing this same flip to one of her client's parents, and had a student mounted come over to demonstrate the literal "flip" on the horse's neck. The nuchal ligament, which runs from the poll and along the back, actually flips when the horse's head moves from left to right. When Sarah demonstrated this on the student's horse was the first time I visually saw it happen. But I didnt think much about it again until a few nights ago.
I was loping on Milo, loping, and loping, getting in tune with my body in connection to his. That is when I noticed that the arc in his body at the lope to the right was stiff and non-existent. He had trouble balancing on the right outside rein, which seemed to only exacerbate his arc to the outside. After coming down to the walk, I focused on using my body to turn him left and right in short turns (like the snake exercise you might remember us doing - Milo following his nose). And thats when I saw the flip. The subtle but obvious flip of the nuchal ligament from left to right as his neck arced each direction. Now I knew what Sarah was describing, and when I mounted the next ride, bareback, I paid careful attention to it, especially at the lope when it was most obvious of his counter arc.
It took a while of loping before Milo, who had had two days off and had excess energy anyways, finally settled into his stride, and I could work on the nuchal flip. Staying steady but soft on the outside rein, and using my body to direct Milo in the direction of the correct arc, and with only subtle bumps on the inside rein to flip the ligament, he finally arced properly to the left. It would only hold for a moment or two, and we would have to find it again, but I praised him, knowing that this was new for the muscles in his neck.
When he was arced and correct, his lope slowed down and became more balanced. I didnt have to work so hard to hold his inside shoulder up either. And I noted how important the subtle arc or flip was in the lope departure as well. Even with the outside hock loaded, if the nuchal flip was to the outside, he would pick up the wrong lead - naturally because his body was arced that way. Once I noted that I again focused on the subtle flip before loping off, which would yield a nice departure.
It only took me months to finally understand what Sarah was talking about. What else am I going to suddenly "get", months after lessons?