Since Steepleview, I've been playing a lot with Royal and biomechanics. I've been wondering if our troubles with a consistent connection with the reins has to do less with tension and more with his body being out of sorts. He's been carrying himself like a llama the majority of the time for the past 10 years (and probably the 7 before that), so it hasn't been an overnight change.
I made an interesting discovery while doing some Moving Massage last week when I touched his flank right in front of the stifle: he moved slightly away and immediately stretched down and sighed. And it happened on both sides. Huh. His hips have always been something of a problem area, but apparently calling attention to them was a good first step. I also experimented with moving his shoulders around on the circle, and that seemed to make a difference too. He's already started moving with more correctness and engagement.
We also went for a little trail ride... in the rain. It wasn't raining too hard, so we did alright. The CalmWafers seem to be having a positive effect: instead of freaking out and trying to head to shelter at all costs, he simply stayed calm and moved over under the tree cover with little fuss. Much better than our dressage test at Roebke's Run, but then we were BOTH freaking out about the thunderstorm barreling towards us, so it was doomed from the start.
So, yeah. Not much. I'll actually be able to put some of this into play with riding soon, but so far we've just been getting the basics on the ground, slow and steady.