Hooray and huzzah, back in the lesson swing!
This was just a 30 minute one that ended in 40 minutes of work if you count the walk warmup and cooldown. I primarily asked for eyes on the ground to recalibrate our sense of forward: not to let me either get him almost there and then give up OR shove him into rushing instead of forward. End result, develop a more honest reaching connection to the bit.
It was a fast, energetic 30 minutes and we were both pretty tired at the end of it, which was great. It was my first lesson with the barn manager, who teaches through the winter, and I was glad that we clicked nicely and I saw a lot of things we can work on.
1) Ask for acceleration when coming to the long side when first asking for more forward. Going forward out of the turn weights the inside hind, which helps develop lift, and gives him the length of the arena to really motor through.
2) Get transitions crisper; we worked on this on a 20m circle going walk-trot-walk-trot with a step or two in each, setting a baseline of a quick but firm aid. Our best transition was actually a bit muddled - there was a split second where I felt the offer of a canter in there - but that meant that the lift and the forward I wanted were contained in the transition, it just wasn't quite clear enough.
3) Keep my hands further forward, and resist the temptation to fiddle with the reins just to get him stretching down and through. Leg, not hands! (Story of my life.)
4) Use cavaletti to encourage hind end action and stomach muscles, which will help make forward easier. Start with a regular distance and then shorten them slightly to make him think a bit harder and step a bit more quickly.
This was followed by a massage which had good and bad news. In good - he was quiet and responded really well, and J. confirmed that he's back at a good weight. In bad - still not muscling up quite enough. Continue with tummy tuck and sternum lift exercises, and really commit to a regular exercise schedule with more work than he has been doing.