Battling respect issues
I'm having some trouble with a 10-year-old gelding of my mother's.
He is very quiet, has good ground manners, etc. He used to be ridden by a little kid with cancer. My Mom bought him as a horse for her to go jump on and ride. But my Mom has been battling cancer, and hasn't had much time to ride him. So every couple of months, my boyfriend or I jump on him and take him for a spin around the section (about 4-5 miles).
The last time I got on him, he was very barn sour, and did not want to leave the place. We realized that he had this issue from the beginning, so he has been by himself (across the road, in another pasture) since he arrived almost a full year ago.
I now have him with me, and I am going to give him a "tune-up" before the summer. My boyfriend is also going to ride him in a roping clinic (which the horse is perfectly familiar with) at the end of the summer, so he needs to act like a gentleman.
The first thing I did was lunge him. All seemed well, although he was a little slow on transitions. But still, he was calm and seemed to be listening "okay" (not perfectly, but "okay"). I felt comfortable with his behavior, so I went and tacked him up, and took him back into the arena. I planned on just working on mounting and dismounting, as he likes to walk off. I did that for about 20 minutes, until he stood well with weight in one stirrup, then mounted. Of course, he walked off. When I tried to stop him, he just pulled right through the bit. It's some kind of long shanked, split bit (I don't know my bits very well, my Mom just gave me this one). It spiraled downhill from there, although there were no fireworks. He just wanted to return to the barn, and wouldn't listen to me AT ALL. I had to call someone over to hold him while I got off. (First rule I broke: End on a good note with good behavior.) I didn't want to end it like that, but I hadn't planned on taking so long with him, and had a night class to get to. It was disappointing, to say the least.
After seeing what I was battling, I called in the help of my riding instructor to see if she had any ideas. I had planned on riding him for a lesson, but his total lack of attention on the lunge line before she had even arrived convinced me that we needed to focus completely on ground work and respect. Our lesson involved half an hour of lunging, focusing on attentiveness, but he did not want to pay attention to either of us. In fact, I have not been able to get his eyes on me. At all. He just started listening to me yesterday, and his transitions were much better. His behavior also improved, as he only tried to change directions without being asked once. Seeing that he couldn't pull me across the arena, he stopped doing it.
My problem is that this horse will never give me his eyes. He looks EVERYWHERE but at me. It's like he has ADD, honestly. He looks out the door, he looks at the mounting block, he even stares at the WALL. But he refuses to look at the handler. It's like a big "F U". I always give a twitch with the rope (or tug, depending on his behavior) until his focus is directed towards me. And I growl, stomp, etc. until he pays attention to me. But it's exhausting! My instructor said that he's one of the worst she's ever had with that problem. In her words, "Usually they get it, after so long. But he's ignoring us intentionally. He's flipping us the bird."
He'll pay attention to verbal cues, but just refuses to look directly at me.
Anyone ever have a horse with this issue? Anyone have any exercises to try and gain that respect, and get those eyes on me?