Over the weekend, I decided to see what would happen if Speedy stayed tucked in his paddock while Izzy and I made the trek to work on our own. The verdict? Some things went great, some things went not-so-great, but nothing was a disaster.
I did a bunch of exercises to help him relax: walk to trot to walk transitions, mini-serpentines along the rail, and changes of rein across the diagonal. To his credit, he would take a deep breath and relax for a moment or two, but then he would remember that he was alone and his tension would come roaring back.
I finally moved on to some canter work and was mostly pleased with the left lead canter. He picked it up, stayed tense, but he never bolted or freaked out. He did a few nice little canter to trot to canter transitions before we came back to a walk.
To the right was a different story. His tension was at maximum power in the right lead. He just couldn't get a bend to the right which meant that he couldn't hold the lead. I did every exercise I know, but things felt like they were snowballing into an avalanche.
The one thing I didn't want for the day was a fight. I finally brought him back to a walk and showed him exactly what I wanted. I straightened out his front end, lined up his back end, and convinced him that he could let go of the inside rein. Then he picked up a round and relaxed right lead canter. We did it twice and then called it a day.
Do I wish he had come to work relaxed and happy? Of course, but Izzy is simply a very hot horse who lacks confidence. Nothing is ever going to be easy with him. I was quite pleased however that he was rideable even if it wasn't always pretty. That's progress.
My new plan is to bring Speedy with us most of the time, but at least once a week, I'll leave him behind. Izzy has shown that he can relax completely and work beautifully when he has a friend nearby. Eventually, he'll be able to do the same work on his own.