Your advice is very helpful and has made me feel that what I have been doing is a step in the right direction. I was advised to hold the contact, keep my hands low and bring my shoulder blades together when my horse becomes unsettled and start to speed up. It has worked a treat and he has improved so much. People around the yard have commented on how well he is working, stating to listen and working through his back, from behind. His pace has improved and fussing with his head has reduced dramatically. He now only does this when he is having a tantrum which appears to occur when he is starting to get tired and would rather be in the field. After that, he does some nice work and occasionally tests his luck and sees what he can get away with. I relax my shoulder blades and give a little, when he does soften, as a reward. When he leans on the bit he is still coming from behind and his paces are nice and long, but it’s not as comfortable for my arms and he tends to over bend. When he bring his head up his paces become short, choppy and he is tight through his back. Some sitting trot and a strong squeeze from the leg reminds him that he’s not in charge and does tend to help this, but would like the tantrums to be a thing of a past. When asked to walk or halt he is nice and soft and is very supple in general.
I am being a little unfair towards him as he is far better than he used to be, but I just felt that he should have pretty well stopped leaning on the bit. I rode him today and he was a quite bit better than he was yesterday. Hopefully it is just as case of needing to get back into the swing of things as he had a couple of days of hacking, a day in his stable, and a day off. He seems to be a one person horse. I let my friend ride him for a little while, before I hacked out with her on another horse, and I found that when I rode him again, he had gone a bit backwards from how he had been progressing. Don't get me wrong, she a nice, soft rider, but he takes some getting used to and likes things to remain consistent. I am obviously happy with the way she rides as I’d not have let her get on him, but it is a little frustrating to let someone else on him to find I have to go back a couple of steps. This happened the last time I let someone else ride him too. At the time I thought it was a coincidence, but now feel it may be the way he reacts to different riders. I don’t want him to be a one person horse as I don’t think it does much good for him. If I go away for a couple of weeks, I would like to keep him in work for part of the time. I don’t want to worry about his progress being jeopardised as a result of someone else riding.
I have read that article and it seems very good. I think I will put that technique to work. Thank you very much for bringing that to my attention. It may be that he is still testing me and seeing what he can get away with. When I first got him and he started showing signs of pain, he wouldn’t trot or canter without consistently bucking at some height! When he came back into work he tried his bucking tricks, but soon stopped after some consistent riding. When my horse started picking up the wrong canter lead and shooting into his transition, I was advised to take his mind off of the problem and let him walk and stretch. This, in theory, is very good but sent him backwards as I let my horse walk and stretch as a reward when he has done as he has been asked. This advice resulted in my horse throwing his head up, tightening through his back and would only settle when he was allowed to walk. As you can imagine, this upset me quite a lot as we had been working so hard and the progress was being unravelled. I felt I should do as I was told as I didn’t know the lady very well, but in hindsight, I should have carried on with what appeared to be working for the both of us. Maybe with some more hard work he will reduce his tantrums to odd days or we will be able to work through them quicker?
I do have some pictures of him. I don’t have any of him working in the arena as I won’t let anyone take any pictures until I am happy with his work. I think I have some of him on the lunge and have a few of him in his stable. I don’t know how to upload them though?!
Thank you for your help and sorry for such a long reply!