My five year old APHA stallion is a very willing learner, but I have yet to get him to quit leaning on the bit and to lighten up in general. I have a lot of riding time on him (by Alaska standards - I ride in the freezing weather when many people don't), but he continues to be "hard" on the bit. He does a bit better if I warm him up really well.
How might I soften him on the bit? How can I teach him to use the bit as a balance point, but not a support for all of his weight :) ?
I really think that improving in this area would really improve many other areas of his training (crisper/quicker stops, turns, etc.)
I would try giving very firm half halts with your inside rein when ever he starts leaning. Basically lifting the rein upwards in a short sharp motion, preferable not a jab in the mouth. I do this with youngsters who are just being lazy, I'm not necessarily trying to get them into a frame, more to let them know that they should be carrying themselves and not me them.
I ride more english style, so honestly I really wouldn't know if this is suitable for your boy and his training but it works for my babies. :)
He is actually in a loose ring in the photo, and I have ridden in either that or an eggbutt depending on the class. In western, I can ride him two handed in a snaffle until he his six, but then I will have to switch to a curb or other show approved bit. I am trying to solve these issues before I make the switch.
I read someone else's post with a similar problem, and saw that a copper ring bradoon was suggested. I am willing to try different bits, but it really feels like the actuall excercises I do with him and whatever bit are going to be the most helpful.
I like the idea of the half halts on the inside and will try that. For now becasue I am still able to ride him two handed, it will definitely work for western training.
A lot of time, I feel like I am really having to constantly squeeze him to drive him forward. When I get the impulsion it does help him balnace on the bit rather than lean on it, but I have a really hard time maintaining the really good impulsion for long. Does it sound like the impulsion issue is related to the leaning on the bit? If so, any ideas to keep the impulsion there (he is naturally a bit lazy)?
What about suppling side to side (which I already work on a lot) - will that help with over all suppleness??
When asking for something with the rein would it be best to ask an hold releasing right when he perfoms whatever is being asked, or to ask release, ask release while the action is being performed??
For your last question I definetly would say ask release ask release because by doing that you don't allow him hang on the bit.
Also for the impulsion thing I do think that could be part of it. Basically I think that if you get his butt more engaged he wont be on his forehand and hanging on the bit. Try halting, backing up and "goosing" him up to a trot so he has to use his hind end. Also, by doing trot/halt/trot and other downward and immediate upward transitions help. Also, when you are riding, imagine yourself being picked up and sit back. This imagery coud help you help him get to where he needs to be.