First, my background: Began riding at a young age (around 9) taking western pleasure lessons. Decided I wanted to learn jumping, and started taking lessons with a trainer who focused on eventing. I've had basic dressage and jumping instruction and shown through pre-beginner novice at horse trials, and started two green tbs off the track. I'm now 24 and have had 1.5 - 2 years out of the saddle, at least consistently.
I found a girl letting me do a partial lease, 1-2 days a week affordably. 9 year old 17.2 hh gelding, advertised as a warmblood, but he looks pretty thoroughbred to me. She told me I can do whatever I want with him, trail ride, jump, etc. She said he used to be a 'made hunter' and sold for the big bucks before she got him. She also told me that the last barn he was ridden at, (hopefully I paraphrase this well) he threw a few people for what sounded like trying to get him to get on the bit/collect/engage/etc. Basically take up contact with the bit and urge him forward at the same time.
How do you navigate a major hunter course without being able to collect your horse? Is this common? She also acted a little confused when I asked her if she'd ever done lateral work with him. I'd like to start some very basic dressage stuff, figure eights, bending, extension and collection, etc., but I also don't want to pick a fight with him. She's a former hunter rider who says she's been riding him western lately (why ride a 17.2 hh beauty western when you can event?? ) She said I'm welcome to try.
Suggestions here? Should I find a different horse? Should I use this opportunity to get back in shape, and then find a different horse? Is it a waste of time to try schooling him anything but long and low? Any specific exercises you recommend?
Thanks in advance :) Sorry for the wall of text.