Happy to say that today was a better ride!
The main thing I'm realizing lately is that I really need to find an instructor who will travel out here to do lessons with me. I have been trying but so far have no luck. If not that, I need to at least start getting regular videos of myself riding to look back on for self critique, and post on places like here to get critique from better riders.
Anyway, after our warm up/walk to the arena, I tried something different. Instead of starting with some trot, I brought him to a canter right away, and let him go around the ring a couple of times, with some circles thrown in, both directions on a fairly loose rein, just to get him in a forward mindset. I think it made a difference! Once we went to trot he was moving much more forward than he normally starts out, and seemed to be lifting his back and rounding up some of the time.
We then did some trot-canter and trot-halt transitions, which went mostly well. He still pulls down, mostly going to the right, when my left side is outside. I think that's my weaker side and it's really hard for me to get a good halt going that direction. Going to the left, all it takes is for me to sit, close my thighs and close on the reins and he will halt with very little pulling down into the bit. Going to the right I can't get him to stop and there's weird bending, and it honestly is just harder for me to close my hand and move my arm properly. It's kind of hard to explain.
I also took him over some trot poles, to help get him lifting, and we spaced them out a little more today too to get him to reach more. Seemed to work pretty well. Ended with some shoulder-ins and turns on the haunches, which he is getting very good at!
I think I need to get a video and post it here for critique. Not a super edited version, something that really shows what we deal with so that I can get the most accurate critique. Hopefully I can get someone out there with me this weekend while the weather is nice!
In the meantime, here's a short clip from lunging the other day. I had music playing out of my phone so that's why that is there. :) I've been working him with sidereins a couple of times a week, and I do think it's helping. And I know it's not perfect, but I'm happy to see that he's got slack in the reins and is not bearing down at the canter. Hopefully we'll be able to get that undersaddle more regularly soon! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOdNEASfu4Y