The key is to keep your wrists and hands supple. Although you are shortening the reins, the feeling of freedom up front must remain.
In the stretchy circle, make sure you are not compromising your position. Even if the horse's nose is in the dirt, your ear-shoulder-hip-heel line must stay in tact!! This allows you to keep an uphill balance during the stretch. This way when you half halt to alert the horse that you will be picking up your reins, he doesn't have to re-balance, only bring the neck back up.
They say money doesn't buy happiness -- well happiness doesn't buy horses!