I know my riding is improving because I can now feel when I start to restrict Izzy. He'll get tense and tighten up his topline and suddenly, I am riding him defensively without giving him the opportunity to stretch down. By recognizing that, I can now give him a firm half halt that says slow the heck down and rebalance yourself followed immediately by a gigantic release that says I trust you not to run off.
The weird thing is that it actually works. Sometimes I have to do it ten times in a row, but by the eleventh time, he's starting to rebalance himself. And if I am methodical about it, I can begin to use just my seat without my hands, and he still gets the message.
I know that my work on my sitting trot is where most of the changes are coming from. I find that I have much more influence over his movement when I sit. And when I remember to lift and tuck my pelvis while also sitting up and lengthening my spine, I get some pretty fancy movement from the big brown horse.
And the legal bit? I am still using it once a week. Over the weekend, I had a great ride on Izzy WITH the bit. I even forgot we were using it. He's definitely easier to control with the ported bit with the chain for leverage, but he's definitely figuring out the legal bit.
Our rides now consist of riding movements rather than just trying to get him broke. I am focusing on most of the First Level movements, excluding the trot and canter lengthenings. The connection just isn't true enough for those yet. Other than that, he can hold the counter canter without difficulty, and the leg yields are better than Speedy's.
I am actually having fun and looking forward to the next day's ride. That was not a challenge, Universe!