I had the most amazing lesson on Sunday. I could not ride my own horse.
Let me explain.
We started out with the aforementioned in-hand work to get him light and thinking. Then once I was in the saddle, it was shoulder in, shoulder in, shoulder in.
I could feel a change happening. My trainer noticed it too and said, "He's experimenting with a whole new way of going right now." That way of going was AWESOME. Forward, balanced, and listening so hard to my aids.
In fact, too hard. About halfway through the lesson, every aid I gave in the walk produced a collected canter. And we're not talking cowboy kicks: we're talking moving my hips forward to ask for the trot.
For me, the person who usually has to start most rides yelling the aids, those are tiny aids, but they were no longer tiny. The scale of yelling to tiny had changed with Connor's attentiveness, and I had no concept how to ride something that sensitive.
My trainer was ready to play, "This is not a bad thing right now. Now pretend like you cannot use leg aids on him at all for a few minutes and use just your seat and core to communicate to him." And let me tell you, there is no cooler feeling than asking for a transition by sitting up just ever so slightly taller, maybe not even visibly from the ground, and getting it.
"Part of it is that it's cooler and he's clipped, but part of it is that we're making him more sensitive to your aids, and now you have to learn how to ride that. You have to sit absolutely still when he's on your aids like this, because every movement is overload."
I've ridden him when he's sensitive before (see also that Dressage test where he broke to the canter in the trot last spring), but this was a whole other level. At the end we talked about ways I can get that kind of responsiveness in my rides on my own, which I continue to struggle with, and I think we have a game plan going forward.