Our horse is turning 18 in April, so he's not exactly a young spirit. He has some issues but mainly he takes advantage of my mother when she rides him, and she gets nervous, lather rinse repeat.
We ride him in a regular single link snaffle on a generic english bridle. Now I can ride him around with very light contact on this bridle just fine, he will do nothing more than stick his nose out. Because he is so fond of sticking his nose out rather than bringing it down and softening he has an EXTREMELY over developed muscle under the neck and almost nothing on his top line, his ewe-neck is pretty ugly.
Picking up the contact with him and sponging and asking him to soften and go on the bit for me usually turns into him getting annoyed and sticking his nose out more or shortening his neck. It does not help. I have had lessons with various trainers with him for years, all experts at riding any horse and none of their instructions help. I've been told to just let him have his head completely and ask him via my leg (works slightly, but he still sticks his nose out a bit, he does prefer this to full contact) I've been told to shorten my reins and flex him with my inside rein using my wrist and hold him on my outside, which he will ignore, and various other bits of advice. It's not that he doesn't get worked enough, for the past month I had been riding him for at least an hour and at least 6 days out of the week.
I found that the only thing that I can do to get him to soften up and lower his head and go round and on the bit is to give him strong signals. By strong I mean holding him so hard on the outside that my inner elbow hurts and flexing him so hard on the inside that he has no choice but to look in and drop his head. One instructor tells me "If this is the only way he's going to actually listen, so be it!" and encourages it, only softening when he finally softens himself. This is the most successful method I've ever used. One instructor will literally rip my throat out if she see's me doing this. She will say "STOP TOUCHING HIS MOUTH! LENGTHEN YOUR REINS AND USE YOUR LEGS!" To which he moves out and sticks his nose out.
I can do just fine riding him with no contact and letting him move out with his nose up as long as he's listening, steers, and doesn't spook.
My mom, on the other hand, has an impossible time with him. He gets to a stick part of the ring and either drops his shoulder and leaves the rail, sucks in and pulls back a gait, or spooks. He is a complete butt head for her. A completely different horse than for me. He does not listen to her in the slightest and because of this she gets super nervous and never has a good time on him. If she lets her reins out he drags her around, if she pulls them in and takes contact he senses her nerves and well, drags her around. I really try to get him to behave for her by really getting him to soften, drop his nose, and listen to me but it's no use! And in order to use this I have to use painfully strong signals! Something my mom doesn't know how to use.
Our instructors main remark to my mom in comparison to him behaving for me better than her is: "Because she kicks his a**" I don't want to have to do that! I want to use normal signals and light flexion with my reins to get him to soften and listen. I think it's time to take a step up from the snaffle, mainly for my mom.
Any suggestions? Bits to play around with? I don't want anything harsh just a small step up from a snaffle, preferably something with more leverage, to see how it goes.
I don't want suggestions on riding techniques please, I under the advice of three trainers, and although they all have different advice (all riding the same discipline though!) they are all helpful techniques. Just suggestions on bits to play around with as a possible solution. I want to be able to relax my arms more when I ride!