A break from trying to describe softness . . .
Dawn has firmly declared that she will only be ridden in the side pull from now on. I tried her in the bit again yesterday - it's been about 6 weeks since the serious injury to her tongue, which seems to be well-healed by now. She gaped her mouth, she lolled her tongue - it was clear the bit didn't feel right to her. I expect she has some scar tissue or reduced sensitivity of her tongue, which just makes the bit feel odd. So side pull it is - she rides very nicely in it, and it has the advantage that I can lunge off it when she's a bit, ahem, wild . . . But today all was well - she was nicely responsive on the lunge, so we didn't do that for long, and had a lovely ride (in an arena that was about 25F - brrr!).
And since it's Wednesday, and I have my music lesson in the afternoon, the boys get a day off today. But I still can't stop myself from walking out in the big turnout to say hello to them - I often do this after I ride Dawn, even on days they are getting ridden. They're usually to be found chowing down together on the bales. Both boys politely said hello, and then went back to the important business of eating. As I headed back to the barn, several other horses came up to say hello too.