I am almost positive he is not in pain. I've checked his back, stretched him after warming up.. I've even massaged the sucker several times! I've come to the conclusion that this is just simply a conditioned response that either I or his previous owner ingrained in him. Unfortunately I'm just now realizing the importance of softness and bend. So now I'm dealing with how to reverse this.
To give you an idea of what goes on: When we circle counterclockwise he is soft, will yield to my leg and will make the circle smaller or larger when asked. When walking in a straight line I can ask for a slight bend to the left and he immediately and pleasantly complies.
Now I ask for him to go to the right. No matter how little pressure I apply to the inside rein or how much inside leg I use he refuses to bend or give the head/neck. His neck generally stays fairly straight and he will root his nose out and lean on the rein. I've tried holding pressure until he rounds, adding more pressure.. and it just doesn't do a darn thing. When going in a straight line If I ask for a slight bend in his body to the right.. nope we just turn. Refuses to bend at all. When standing still he gives to both directions well. However I've noticed that the offending side.. his neck isn't smooth, relaxed or curved. Its like he moves his neck at the shoulder and his head at the pole but won't bend the neck. I can physically manipulate his neck in the way I want it. Like I can grab his head and bend his neck. (on the ground)
I know he isn't purposely doing this to be a pain in the butt. He is fairly to kind and willing for that. I think this is purely a conditioned response that I unknowingly created.
My first few years with him I had not a clue about true connection or horsemanship. I didn't understand the fine tuning and the subtle things. Now I do.. or at least I am starting to.. and I realize the giant mess I've made for myself. I'm at a loss because I really do not know how to help him understand what I want, but I don't want to go on riding him this way either. I will try and post a video as soon as possible as I am sure that would assist things! This is only at the walk. I'm not about to make him trot when he isn't completely soft at the walk.
Thank you for reading my book, and advice, exercises, etc. are appreciated. I will talk to my BO about getting their Chiro friend down to check Duke out as well. I just really don't think this is pain.
I'm also hoping for some lessons soon, but for now I'm on my own.