You are putting too much pressure on the bit and giving him something to brace against. I would ride him so that there is no contact for a while. Then instead of taking contact squeeze the inside rein with the lightest contact possible. If he braces then keep squeezing and ask him to circle which will cause him to soften and then release (stop squeezing) and then ride him straight. Ride him like that in a pattern straight- circle- straight and do it all over the place. Eventually he'll stop bracing. I'm pretty convinced that you are putting too much pressure on the bit - it has to be so light and you should be using your body to draw his back up not your hands.
Another reason Lovedone's point is good is that a horse cannot brace against ONE rein. Do work with one rein, solely, or one rein much more dominant than the other.
However, if the horse braces against you and you DO release, then you ARE teaching him to brace. There are circumstances when you must take up MORE contact to achieve lightness. You have to take up one ounce more than he does, such that you are not in the middle of a stalemate. When he gives, you give bigger, but you stay one ounce stronger until he gives a wee bit.
There are times (not necessarily your example) when it gets uglier before it gets prettier.
I like this.... one ounce more.... and I can see with him things getting worse before they get better. I always want to pull my hair out and then suddenly, he does exactly what I have been asking for.
I almost exclusively work with one rein for that exact reason, which is why it is frustrating me that he is stiffening. But he is Mr.Test-a-rider, and will try everything he can think of before giving in...... putting his head down low, putting his head in locked position, opening and shutting his mouth....
No its not teaching him to brace! It will take a lot of patience and strength to get through that. They always have a stiffer side but you just need to let him find that release. Even, the slightest give will help him to realize what he is supposed to do. Do you also work just sitting on him tacked up and use the bit to soften him? Posted via Mobile Device
I do. We use the bit before and after mounting, and the halter when in the field.... I wiggle the reins a couple times, then run my hand down the rein and pull his head about 50% of the way, then wait for him to bring his nose to my toe or until I feel a real give, not a half-a$$ed try, then I release in a big way (drop the rein) and pet/praise.