Super behind, but I DID have a lesson in March!
We worked more on getting him truly forward, and then on working out how much weight he takes in the reins right now.
I always worry about this line: when do I take too much weight back, too much of a pull, and I'm backing him off or being hard on his mouth?
The answer we worked out in this lesson was: way more than I had been using (I'd been using an extremely light touch with the reins to keep encouraging him to fill them up) BUT the key was that he had to be going forward.
Forward is always the key; I should be able to remember that by now, right? Ha. But: when he is forward, I can take much more weight than I can otherwise, because I'm not sucking him back, or stalling him out. I'm using the weight to encourage him to lighten.
Primarily, I was using very strong inside aids to a firm holding outside rein as a very hard half halt. Strong aids is not a new thing for Tristan, but I struggle with getting in & getting out again, and often fall into the trap of simply increasing the strength of the aid over and over again.
That's actually been the story with my leg aids for a long time now, and I've been working hard on leg aid means GO and then taking them off in the meantime.
This may sound really stupid, and I feel kind of embarrassed for putting it out there, but Tristan has typically required constant, strong, nagging leg aids to maintain forward momentum. It's a training problem, and it's entirely my fault. I'm working hard on fixing it right now, with the result that we're getting long minutes at a stretch of a springy, forward trot with only occasional leg aids to ask him to come strongly out of a corner.
By the end of the lesson, I'd reached a new equilibrium with my rein aids and he was giving me a lovely strong uphill feel through the base of the neck and into the bridle.
In the two weeks since, he's been going really well, like we've unlocked something in him, to the degree that I've been schooling transitions in that uphill frame, and working on lightening him in the bit in the trot. Canter still weighs a ton and is not wildly maneuverable, but I can feel how much lighter it is already, and I'm excited!