As I’ve been exploring equitation now for over five decades, I’ve come to conclude that true control of a horse comes not from the hand on the reins, but the seat and legs controlling the hindquarters. I live with one boot in the stirrup of vaquero or cow-horse tradition, and the other in the stirrup of the classical school. In both schools, when you get down to brass tacks, there is less interference with the mouth, and more input into how the hind legs reach, carry and push the horse’s body.
The key to achieving this state is the lateral movement known as shoulder-in, or two tracking, in the two schools mentioned. But don’t be fooled! this movement is less about shoulders than it is about hind legs! The essence of the shoulder-in movement is the reaching forward and toward the center of the area under the horse’s body with successive hind legs. This requires strength, as well as balance, and builds the foundation of collection. The horse develops the ability to maintain a moving stance of an athlete or a dancer.
Nuno Oliveira referred to the shoulders in as the ‘aspirin of equitation’ and said, ‘I do nothing before I do shoulders-in!’