Yesterday I finally faced up to the need for more flatland work on balance and control. Over lunch I rode to a nearby playground with side-by-side basketball courts and a hockey rink.
The center circle markings on the bball courts provided the course markers for riding figure 8s. I like 8s because they are a balanced drill...you do turns in both directions. I did 10 of them, trying to reduce the diameter of the circles each time while still keeping them smooth. Occasionally they were smooth. It seemed to help when my inside foot was putting pressure on the outside of the pedal and I focused on putting equal pressure on both pedals through their power strokes. I did 10 more where I did two loops around each center court before riding to the other circle. By the end I was feeling like I had gained a notch in control.
I have a basketball in my locker...I think I should bring it out to the court next time.
Then it was on to the hockey rink to work on stalling and eventually on rocks and backward riding (not all today!). I did lengths of the rink trying to stall and start, stall and start, first one foot back then the other. I've been working on this for a while, and never really felt good progress, so it was easier to just go out to the trail and bomb around on the horse paths. This time I focused on riding slowly and keeping as much control as I could. Then I'd focus on stopping one foot back. I noticed that if I pushed the unicycle forward just a fraction before stopping the pedal I keep in reasonable balance. I'd then let my body back carry forward over the unicycle to my usual riding position and I could restart going forward. That sounds way more complex then what actually happens. You just stall and start, simple. But the feeling to me is that either my body is leaning back, or the unicycle is moving out front, simultaneous with the force stopping the wheel. That seems to be necessary to maintain balance.
I did have some success, and in particular had one case where I rocked back a bit and then forward, and believe me, even small successes like that are thrilling.
I came off plenty of times too, and that gave me the opportunity to work on free mounts without holding the wheel (I've been doing Megan mounts on the 29er until now).