Izzy is doing fantastic. Again, remind me of this post next week when I am once again bemoaning the difficulties of bringing along a salty green bean. Its not like he's decided to start piaffing or anything, but definite progress is being made.
Normally, we walk for a few minutes before he starts flinging his head up so that he can bolt out of the contact. After that, he tries it at both the trot and canter while also flinging his shoulders to one side or the other. In short, rides on him are usually frustrating and tiring.
Once he has stopped or lowered his head, I apply the outside aids with a bit of a counter bend and send him into a smallish circle so that he has to sit a bit which helps him lift his shoulders up and over. It's working like a charm. I am steadily getting control of his outside shoulder, and he is steadily losing interest in flipping me the bird.
In fact, when he throws those temper tantrums, I am needing to use less and less outside rein to convince him that jerking the reins from me is not in his best interest. Once that conversation is over, we've been able to get to work.
We're still just hacking away at 20 or 30 meter trot circles, but my focus is on leg yielding him into the outside rein while keeping control of his haunches. I can't exactly put his hind end wherever I want, but it's no longer fishtailing out of control.
We've also been getting the canter more and more under control. The dude is turning out to be pretty smart. It didn't take him long to figure out that putting him in a counter bend meant that we were going to canter. As soon as he started to get tense about being counter bent, I realized that I couldn't canter. I didn't want him to think that counter bending was the canter cue.
So instead of cantering, I just kept switching the bend. This is an exercise that Chemaine showed me with Speedy. It has done wonders to help loosen Izzy up through his neck and poll. As we trot around, I switch from bend to bend to bend. Eventually, he relaxes and then I ask for the canter. It's still a bit explosive in the first few strides, and I have to use a lot of outside leg and a bit of a counter bend to make the turns, but he is no longer swapping the lead behind, and he nearly always gets the correct lead.
Just three weeks ago, I couldn't get a canter departure at all. After only a single lesson with Chemaine, I can now get it both ways. It's happening more and and more promptly, and occasionally, I can even move him around by making the circle more of an oval, or bigger or smaller.
I've hinted at the notion, and even been pretty direct, about my concern that Izzy was going to be another Sydney. That worry is totally gone. Izzy is already so much more reliable than Sydney was after three years. This week, I've been hacking Izzy around the neighborhood after we've worked in the arena. He hasn't been totally relaxed, but there has been no jigging, spooking, or balking. I always hated doing that with Sydney.
Izzy usually has to do something a few times before he gets it, but once he does, it ceases to be an issue. Sydney never liked trying new things. Izzy seems to enjoy learning new things, and even when it's not his idea, he allows himself to be talked into going with the crowd.
He's still an opinionated bulldozer at times, but he is sure fun to have around. If he's not careful, he might end up staying for a very long time!