No worries Dreamcatcher Arabians - your tone was not at all accusatory :) You're absolutely right about my anxiety being a big part of the problem. Yet I think I'd have to be stupid not to be nervous at all about this! That doesn't help the situation though, and I recognize that. Have gotten some good reassurance and suggestions here, and I feel I can keep at it and eventually get the result I want.
Thanks a lot for the great tips on crossing water! The issue is that I have two places I can cross. One is wider (like 4-5 feet, really not any significant water here normally) but shallow, however there is ice on both side of the bank and I don't like that idea. I worry he will break through the ice and that will create more stress (I know, I know, I'm already worrying about something that hasn't happened, but it's common sense! Ice breaks this time of year!). The other crossing, which I am going to try, has no ice, is very narrow, but deep. Also, there are trees surrounding the brook at both crossings, so taking it at an angle is not really an option (I'll be sure to remember that for other crossings though!). It will be straight down and up, but on the plus side, he doesn't need to step in the water - in fact, it would be best not to since it's a lot deeper there. He can easily step over since I can. I will get off and lead him over.
What about taking him to our property along the road because he is fairly quiet going in, and coming back by cutting through the brook? That way we don't backtrack at all. I could vary the ways of getting home too so he doesn't get into bad habits.
Ok, now that you've described it for me, here's how I would do it. Avoid the ice spots altogether until they are thawed and the water has slowed down. I think you said it was "raging" or "rushing" in the beginning? I have had a horse fall through ice in our stock pond, not fun. Didn't hurt the horse but of course, he got soaked and if it had been any deeper, he could have drowned because he was wearing a heavy blanket which got soaked. I had to take him in the garage, use several old wool army blankets and blow him dry to warm him up again. It was during one of our really bad ice storms and it was below zero with the wind chill. Not fun.
So, for the smaller one, I can tell you from practice that it could be problematic. Horses tend to think narrow, dark, lines (water or not) tend to be bottomless and can be very silly about crossing them. So just the fact that you can step over, doesn't always mean it will go smoothly. I'll see if I can find a post about my afternoon trying to persuade Lady B to cross a little crick like that and how I hid in the brush from the rescue helicopter thinking my friends had sent out search and rescue. She did eventually cross it when I threatened to take off all my tack and go off and leave her. She finally looked at me like, "Well, if you're going to be THAT way about it." and stepped over like she had just never really understood what I wanted. She was particular about her pedicures that way.
I would see if you could get a friend to go with you when you first attempt to get him to go over, that way if he stops the friend can give some "encouragement" with a stick or crop or something. Can save you HOURS.
For the road, I would make myself walk up and down it, in the saddle. Maybe only a few feet at the time but kind of an immersion therapy kind of thing. Ride a few feet, stop and force yourself to relax. Walk a few more feet, stop and BREATHE for a few minutes, sing, whistle, whatever works to keep the anxiety down. Once you can do that calmly with no cars, have a friend drive slowly by and you stop the horse and let him watch her pass, while you work on being calm.
Any time you see a car before you are ready, step to the side of the road, into a bar ditch or up on the side of an embankment, wherever you can get out of the road.
Don't worry about him rushing home at this point, just stop him and get off and on in different spots (out of the road way), turn circles, do some figure eights, whatever you can do to re-focus him. Concentrate on calming your anxiety and let him worry about his own for a little while. Once you have gotten yourself calm, then you can go on to concentrate on him and his being silly.
At this point, if you find you're getting too anxious, I would go back to the last place YOU are comfortable and stop there, get off and walk him home.