The first time I did it I got the response I expected - flattened ears accompanied by a threat to kick or buck. But when Speedy realized that it was only a soft tap and not a move it, buddy! kind of cue, he cocked an ear back as if to say, huh?! I tapped again, and when he reached forward from his shoulders he got a good boy! The whip tap hasn't fixed the problem, but it's a separate cue from a go forward leg squeeze. We had an improved ride which also included some nice canter transitions that were happily free of kicks and bucks.
Round and round we went. Sydney's neck was braced, and his nose was pointed straight out in front of him. He actually had a look of resignation on his face as though he was thinking, and so it goes. Yet another rider who is just going to pull on my mouth. But I didn't. (And I don't.) I pulled and let go, pulled and let go. Little by little our circle got rounder, Sydney maintained a steady pace, and his neck started to move at the shoulder. Once I felt him start to let go of his neck the littlest bit, I pulled more softly and continued to let go. And then I stopped pulling and just kept the contact light. I returned to a rising trot, and I alternately squeezed my fingers and felt him go round and soft. He reached for the bit and held it lightly. And with JL's words ringing in my ears, I started to fiddle. A little rocking on the rein, little nudges here and there. And just like that, we were there. He was soft, rhythmical, and on the bit.
With my point made, I quietly asked for a halt, and got it. The whole exercise took less than 15 minutes. This was the first time that I was able to get him truly soft, rhythmical, and between my aids without being at a lesson. And we did it very quickly with no fussing.
We finished the ride with some stretchy walking and soft halts. Up until recently, getting a halt from him required all of my upper body strength. He has quickly learned that a deep sigh done as my weight sinks into the saddle means stop, and do it without flinging your head in the air.
Hopefully we're almost ready to move on to the canter. Can't wait to show JL what we've learned!