When Zeb gets excited out hacking or schooling he drops behind the bit and leans, he will literally move along with his lips touching his chest. The only way I can get his head up is to release some pressure on the reins and push him forward but that's exactly what he wants. (He's just in a french link eggbutt snaffle). I've managed to work him through it in the school but it's not that easy when out hacking and I want to go for a canter or something.
Is there anything else I should be doing to discourage this behaviour? I always try to use lots of leg and keep a steady hand but once he's decide he's started to drop behind it's a mission to get him back.
Have you tried lifting your hands? not pulling at all, keeping a soft contact, just lift both hands to about where your belly button is. That should encourage him to lift his head out of his chest and move forward properly. Obviously, put your hand back where they should be when he's back to normal, then give him a bit of rein to relax onto. I'm talking about just move your elbows forward instead of dropping the reins and having him hoon off.
How about transitions? Icarus can get a little overbent and tense. So i tend to halt properly, let him have a loose rein at walk for a few strides, the pick the reins up again. That works with Icarus, though obviously dont do it if Zeb's gonna bolt off! Always halt first though. that halt will get him listening and stop him from thinking he's got the extra rein on his terms. The extra rein will be a treat for reponding to you request for halt. Not as a sort of 'giving up' from you, if you see what i mean?
if he can lean whilst dropping back this implies the rein contact is too strong......
using leg to create more forwards and upwards is the only way to get him back off his forehand. you can try using a few steps of lateral work and circles to help you.
try to feel when he is about to do it so you can use your leg to prevent it from happening...
Yes lifting you hands is good.
When he's that over bent he cant see forward properly. You could try puttting trotting poles out and maybe raising one end of the pole by a few inches. If the horse isnt paying attention he'll scatter the poles. It should encourage him to focus forward. Obviously you cant do this on a hack but perhaps plenty of transitions to keep him ocupied and hopefully not leaning.
It might also be worth experimenting with different bits. A single jointed snaffle has a slightly different action and may discourage what he's doing.
Kick him on and make him go into the contact or drop all your contact so that he has nothing to go behind and nothing to try getting away from, bend him side to side and work on getting him to loosen his neck and poll for him to be forcing his head to his chest he wont be very loose around his poll so making him bend his neck will stop him doing it the same
if when you go to push him on and relase the reins a little he contiues to do it or runs off make him do it make him carry on until he wants to stop and make him go further until you ask him to stop