Thanks tinyliny :] Very descriptive!
The only thing I can't do with him is how people wait for contact and then give a release as a reward. He constantly seeks contact and if you try and reward him by releasing he gets irritated. I have never ridden a horse that wants to be ridden the specific way that he wants to be ridden.
I am definitely going to be trying to work on softness! My trainer, his owner, said that I have very soft hands but stiff arms. Gotta work on getting my arms to not be so darn stiff.
I will definitely try the bending with him. Bending is really hard for me with him because in order for him to bend while turning left for example, I would bump a little with my left heel, open my left rein about an inch or two and then pull with my right rein. In essence he neck reins...very confusing for me since all the other horses I have ridden direct reined. If you pull on the left rein to try and make him go left, he will bend right :/
This is probably becuase he is so stiff in his neck that the bend occurs in only one place; the base of his neck, just in front of his shoulders. So, he is "breaking" there and then this probably throws him onto his outside shoulder. So, you ask with an inside rein, he breaks in half there , and like a semi-truck/trailer, the front goes left, but the rest goes right, and a horse must go where his shoulders go.
So , to help him get softer and have more even bend in all his neck, jaw and body, you focus on two areas: his abiality to soften his jaw and pivot his head (with face on a vertical line. NO twistiing or lifting the nose off of perfectly vertical) to the inside via the Poll. AND, helping him to step under himself with the inside rear leg. Those two things help break up the kind of stiffness he seems to have.
YOu do not want to have soft hands, I men that you dont' hold the reins all droopy and flopping. You get HIM to be soft on the rein. To do that, you might need to get very firm. YOu may have to put more resistance on the rein than he wants to meet. It's nice that he wants to have contact with the rein. You can test this by moving your hands out and down and see if he'll follow the contact out and down (doing long and low).
But, if his idea of contact is to lean on it and brace himself on it, this is not ok. He must carry his own head. He can come TO the contact, but it is YOU who decides where that will be and his job is to come TO it but not lean on it. Do you know the difference?