Alllrighty. Heres what I have. :)
With the draw rein/curb debate (as I'm sure you've heard enough already! :P) --it is very, very hard to give a 'release' when you use the Draw reins with the curb--That's why it's a no-no. It takes a LOT less pressure to earn a response with a curb (because of the leverage) then it does a true snaffle, and that's why they are supposed to be ridden with loose reins. Draw reins don't really get 'loose'--when they're loose, they get dangerous (the horse could put a foot through, ack!). Curb bits were NEVER meant to be used with two hands (except for maybe a rare correction), and it bothers me that they are so main stream with people two-handing horses in them. They are not meant for lateral motion of the head, because they were designed to just pull backwards (for a stop). Ergo, they are to be used on finished horses, aka, horses that will neck rein and not on green babies. I'm sure your trainers are wonderful people, but please please please try not to use the curb until he's finished. There's metal in his mouth, on his gums--ouchie.
However, I completely agree that a horse should be 'versatile' in his bits--he should be able to change from one to the next with little to no fuss. But just as it doesn't make sense to put a kid in basic arithmetic into geometry, it doesn't make sense to put a greenie in a 'baby bit', like a snaffle, into something with a curb--he will not understand, at this point in time, what is being asked of him and the lifting effect of the curb is completely lost. He needs to 'graduate' to it. :)
Second thing--totally ditch the draw reins. You are driving his chest right into the ground the more you pull to 'collect' him. Collection isn't achieved by slowing him down and 'pushing' him into your hands (especially with draw reins, because he'll just curl his neck and tuck his chin.. and low and behold it becomes instant rollkur! Ack.). Collection is achieved by teaching him first that you need him to engage and use his body, and THEN showing him how to do it slowly. To me his jog looks very mechanical and 'ouchy'--I believe he has the ability to make it look pretty, but right now he's just being pulled into it with draw reins. Just remember--if collection was just about where the head was, why would there be all of this talk about the hind end? A horse can have his head in the perfect position and be less collected then a three-legged broodmare. The draw reins are also really making his canter look more like a scramble, where there's no moment of suspension. I don't think that's a knock at his talent, I think he just needs his training schedule altered. ;)
First thing I would do is bring his head up. You have to teach him how to collect and use his body first; I'm not talking up like a dressage horse but past horizontal. His body structure is to have his head low, so don't worry about trying to get it back down in the future. It won't be hard (This is how I train mine ;) . Second thing to do is push him ooout. Have him move like a HUS horse--you're not trying to get a fast choppy trot, you want a ground-covering, long-strided trot. You're telling him 'I want you to wake up and use those back legs and your back, mr.!' At the canter, you're just looking for a 'stride with purpose'; let his head come up, and with your seat, try to feel the moment of suspension. Again, long, purposeful strides here.
I would start this kind of work in Dec. or Jan., keep him there for two months, and then start to take a gentle hold of his face and tell him, 'I want you to be engaged! ...but I would also like you to move slowly :)' and you will be AMAZED at the difference. He'll stop looking so mechanical, and his canter won't be a scramble any more. And if you ditch the draw reins, he'll stop learning to tuck his nose away from contact.
I know this sounded like a blast, but I DO really enjoy him. :) He's trying so hard for you and he's just a little baby! I do enjoy your seat, too--just loosen up your hips and you'll stop the slight pump you have at the canter. It's not bad by any means. And for AQHA classes, I don't think you're 'too far back' at all. :)
Last edited by mayfieldk; 11-13-2008 at 04:07 AM.
Reason: typos, ack.