I got to have good rides with MT this weekend! I'm still working on learning about contact, how to get a correct, balanced, soft, elastic contact and keep it, and then modify it as needed. It's all about the feel, and that takes time. I know Reveille understands it, because she's lovely when MT rides her, even though he doesn't have it perfect all the time either. Just orders of magnitude better than I can do. ;) So he's helping me learn how to get that contact and how and when to change it. We're also working on getting her hind end to push better and more consistently.
A few observations -- when I have the nice steady contact and a strong, pushing trot, she's super easy to steer. This is probably painfully obvious, but ... well, there you have it.
I'd been asking for more push through the hind end by giving her a seat aid, a stronger and higher post, basically. MT recommends that I not do that, at least not start with that, because if I train her to respond to seat aids primarily, any bobble in my seat or loss of balance becomes an aid. So start aids with the leg, always.
Start the ride off with just looking to establish contact and control each step of the walk, and don't worry too much about where she puts her head.
Careful careful careful about how I use my leg -- which part I use, how often I use it, and how quickly I use it. MT has Rev well-tuned to the leg, and I have a bad habit of overusing my leg. I need to be very aware of what my leg is doing and communicating, all the time. Instead of clamping it, I need to close the leg, then release. Slight bump, release. If necessary, short kick, release. Reward a response by just letting her carry me, offering no aids or corrections.
As I was working the contact, I'd try wiggling the bit, try closing my hand, try raising my hand, opening my hands ... what worked best was when I wiggled and then softened. She'd come right down. But it would never last, so I need to figure out how to maintain that good contact when it appears.
Looking forward to this week's rides and next weekend's lessons. :) Looking forward to rejoining the jumping lesson whenever MT thinks I'm ready.