I have had a lot of time to reflect on my ride on Wednesday, and while I admit that I am no doubt the problem, Walker is too.
This behind the bit thing is not something that happens a couple times a ride. It goes on for at least 85% of our ride. It happens 95% of the time while cantering, and 80% of the time while trotting - but only when I'm seeking contact or connection at the trot.
When it comes to the canter, it's an automatic reaction. I haven't even tried to work on connection at the canter. He tucks his head instantly. He does it on the lunge line. He does it on a loose rein. Sometimes I can convince him to come up, but contact must be minimal. Have I done something to scar him mentally at the canter? No doubt I have been excessive with the reins at some time. But I'm not as bad now and I'm extremely conscious about it.
At the trot, he starts out above the bit. Most people picture that as him trotting around with his head in the air like a giraffe like most horses do. In case you haven't been following along, Walker is not like most horses. He never trots around with his head straight up in the air. Never. Period. I actually think he finds it difficult. I've seen him try. Not his thing.
He likes his head low. In a loose rein, his nose drops to the ground. The highest it ever gets is level or a smidgeon above level. We are never going to have that high lovely arch. That's fine. Walkers way of moving works in the QH world. I'm fine with that for now.
When I ask for a trot and have contact, all is well. When I ask him to be more forward and surge into my waiting hands, he's surges forward and then behind the bit. It gets to the point where if I apply leg, he just curls automatically. When he has curled with his nose to his chest, he maintains contact because he kind of has to. In an ironic sort of way, there's usually more contact on his mouth when he's curled up like that than when I originally ask for connection.
I have had two different professionals ride him. Both drove him behind the vertical in a deep frame - not behind the bit, just a deep frame. They were both Western riders and were looking for something different. This is fine for training purposes but I can't ride him like that in a ring.
This is not to say I haven't gotten him connected before. I have but either it didn't last or circumstances were different.
I appreciate everyone's posts. Getting a dressage trainer into my barn really isn't an option. I have been debating just going to the trainers at the barn despite their Western focus because they obviously will see the problem in this too. I've been planning to get some video and photos soon but I've been waiting for a visit from my mother to do so, since there's rarely anyone around who can take the time to tape me.
He has always been the kind of horse where people don't believe it until they do it themselves. They see me lunge or ride and assume I'm the problem and then ride or lunge him themselves and realize he's actually like that. This is not to say that I am not contributing or that they are unable to fix it. This is just me saying that I thought for a long time that everything was 100% my fault, and it really isn't. It's usually only half me.
I apologize for the long post without pictures or videos. If you made it this far, you deserve a prize. This has just become the most annoying thing I deal with every ride and it makes me feel so absolutely stupid. Horses are good at that.