Trainer suggested a new bit for Mac. I was using a Nathe, but she thought I should move to a KK training bit, which she had in her collection and let me borrow.
Trainer is also very classical in her training methods and her advice was to go back and do more "bridle work" - meaning lunging in sidereins (which admittedly I don't do a lot of on my own) and teaching him how to long line, which I don't know how to do.
Step 1, though is more work in the side reins so he learns to give to the bit (aka, submit), balance himself more, be attentive to voice commands, move forward on contact with the bit, etc.
We had our first lunging session with the new bit and it went very well. He seemed to be more accepting of it than the old bit, and he was starting to carry himself lightly.
Then he had a day off and then after that I think maybe I just took him on a short trail walk. Then the day after that was Saturday and I couldn't ride because I was going some where so she lunged him for me. Sunday I also couldn't ride so he had the day off. When I got on him on Monday, I could definitely feel the difference in his mouth. He was soft and giving to the bridle and it felt really good in my hands!
I think for the next lesson I'll ask her to lunge him so I can get some video because he's looking like a different horse! And for some reason, he seems bigger to me...guess he's "growing up" and filling out with this work.
My plan is to lunge, ride, day off, lather, rinse, repeat. Yesterday I lunged him in the round pen and with side reins. And of course the person who trailers in sometimes did so yesterday and rode in the outdoor arena, which is next to the round pen. This was actually good because I knew it would distract Mac, but it was a good test of keeping him working through it until he got his focus back and then we could stop.
We were just doing our last exercise when OR (outside rider) got to the arena, so we had done most of our work already. Mac had his tail up in the air, was snorting, and of course had this lovely suspended trot (oh to be able to get THAT under saddle! - minus the tail and snorting, of course), but he kept going on the circle and eventually got over it! So that was good! I took all the tack off and left him in the round pen so he could have a nice roll in the sand, after which he stood there staring at OR and what he was doing. I think that was a really good "teaching moment" for him.