Button #2 is the shoulder button. The shoulders are a lateral movement button. We can use pushing energy on the ground or in the saddle to move the shoulders over. On the ground, our core with the aid of a whip can send a push to a horse’s shoulder to move away from us laterally. Blocking energy can keep a pushy shoulder from coming into one’s space. In the saddle, our leg aids influence the shoulders to move away or block a shoulder from unwanted lateral movement.
Chris Irwin defines five major “buttons” on the horse’s body that we can influence. These are: 1) the corners of the mouth; 2) the shoulders; 3) the girth button; 4) the flank area; and 5) the hips.
Button #1, located at the corners of the mouth where the bit rests, is where blocking energy is applied to tell the horse where not to go. We do not pull on the left rein to go left or the right rein to go right. Remember…no pushing or pulling energy should be directed at the horse’s head. So, left rein does not pull to go left. Left rein blocks the horse from going right. Right rein does not pull to go right. Right rein blocks unwanted left. Try riding with reins that block unwanted direction instead of pulling on the horse’s mouth and throwing him off balance. You will gain more respect and trust from your horse. Blocking not pulling puts your horse in good hands.
The way a horse carries its tail is a big clue to how the horse is feeling. There are six basic emotions the horse will reveal by the carriage of the tail. A softly curved tail means the horse is relaxed and content. A tail clamped tight to the bum is a horse feeling fearful. A swishing tail signals annoyance while a wringing tail is definitely anger. A tail carried high or up straight is a “yippee”, “I’m hot stuff” tail. A stiff, slightly angled tail is a horse that is suspicious or lacking trust. When working with a horse, awareness of these “tell-tail” signs gives insight into his expression so that we may respond with appropriate body language.
The horse’s state of mind is revealed in the shape of its body. Its physiology and psychology are so completely connected that the horse is incapable of separating how it feels from how it moves. The frame of mind is congruent with the shape and expression of its body. When working with a horse we must also be congruent with our intent and our body language. By aligning ourselves correctly in body, mind and spirit we can become the leader our horses need us to be.