After discussing it with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, I decided to try a four-day course of Ulcer Gard (blog post about that coming soon) followed by a course of once-a-week Ulcer Gard for a month.
The second part of Operation Boot Camp involved a boat load of lunging and free lunging. Chemaine's advice was to get him moving until he finally agreed to give me access to his back. That's really the crux of Izzy's issues, he holds all of his tension in his back which prevents him from achieving any sense of relaxation. And without relaxation, none of the good stuff can follow.
The whole thing took about thirty minutes, and he was huffing and puffing when we were "done." He wasn't relaxed, but he had shown me a moment or two of stretch over his top line. I walked him back to his paddock and turned him loose. I spent a few minutes grooming Speedy, and then haltered Izzy back up. The look on his face was priceless. I then rode him for about 45 minutes. While there wasn't any jackassery, which was a huge improvement, he wasn't exactly relaxed either.
While schooling the counter canter, I could feel him getting stuck, but I propped up his "inside" shoulder and reassured him that I'd help him keep his balance. He gave an audible sigh and floated through the counter canter. I had my horse back!
As before, I tossed him back in his paddock to continue working on breakfast, and then I brought Speedy out for a ride. More on that tomorrow. And then Izzy got to come out again. While maybe a bit unenthusiastic, he followed me willingly enough and seemed resigned to yet more work.
We had one of the best rides we've ever had. I worked him through all of the trot work at Second Level and even schooled the turn on the haunches and rein back. Those are a wee bit scary for him, but he's picking up on it quickly. And then, for the first time ever, I rode the 20-meter counter canter half circle into the single loop serpentine, and he did it brilliantly!
Operation Boot Camp taught me two things: the first time I hear myself ask What the freaking hell is wrong with you? I know the answer is that he needs to see the chiropractor. If after seeing said chiropractor I still find myself asking what is wrong with him, I know the answer is to lunge him until he's tired. Only then will I be able to access his brain (and later his body).
I am actually looking forward to today's ride. I fully anticipate an enthusiastic, Yes, ma'am!