I started off with an experiment: longed him for about 10 minutes, w-t-c both ways. He was a perfect gentleman about it, which was a huge relief given it's been 18+ months since he was last longed, and I always have flashbacks to early days when I longe him. (Because you haven't lived until your horse has reared, struck out at you, landed, bolted, and dragged you across the ring on your face as you frantically try to dig the longe line out of the skin of your hand...)
He was in fact well-behaved enough to sometimes respond to half-halts by stretching into the bit, which is an encouraging and heartening new development since the last time he was longed. Overall, I think the longing accomplished its goal: warm him up a little bit, loosen him up, etc. And he did indeed start out much MUCH more supple than on Saturday. Which is not saying a whole lot: the changing temps and cold snaps have regressed us about 6 weeks at least in that department. This too shall pass, I suppose.
In the meantime, we focused a lot a LOT on not getting into fights with him. It's one of those lessons I need to re-learn every couple of weeks, it seems. He is a past master at tightening and turning into a brick wall and ignoring any semblance of softness I try to create with the bit. L. worked very very hard on me to keep my elbows soft, my shoulders heavy, my core engaged so that I could simply sit securely in my seat and guide him firmly but not get caught up in his drama. Every single time we started to get pissed off at each other, and flail stiffly through a turn, L. called out for me to soften my elbows, and I did, and he gave with a disgusted huff. So.
I also dropped stirrups for about the last 15 minutes and worked really, really hard on bringing him up through my seat in the sitting trot, and keeping weight through my outside seatbone and leg in the canter and transitions. HARD. But really rewarding, and I kind of love feeling my abs and core engage like that through the sitting trot. I'm even much less sore than I had imagined I would be!