Hi, sorry for the long post!
I've been dedicating some time to work on my Phoenix's canter. It's bad, always has been.
So a tiny bit of back ground so you know where i'm coming from; he's 12, one of his hips sits just a hair higher than the other, he gets regular chiropractic treatment to help with any discomfort and movement issues he has from this problem. He cross cantered badly in the past and still does occasionally going clockwise (his right hip is the higher one), and he has come a long way from the horse I thought would never be able to canter properly.
Anyway, so over the past few months i've been working on getting him to canter consistently both from the ground and under saddle. When doing round pen work he canters pretty well, picks up the canter when I ask. He didn't used to, he would speed up at the trot and rush headlong into the canter by basically throwing himself at it and hoping he came out the other end. After asking again and again and telling him to slow down and try again he's finally getting it. Oddly he's brilliant with voice commands, at the trot he'll slow or speed up from voice commands so I can ask him to slow and then ask for the canter and he'll do it from a slow trot! We've been working on it for ages so that fact he can do it now makes me very happy.
What I need advice on is how to transfer this great progress on the ground into the saddle.
I've been working in the round pen as he finds it easier to pick the canter up on a circle (and I find it easier when I don't have to worry about him skipping out of the circle); I plan to move to the bigger arena once i've got him cantering promptly from my cues and then to work on keeping it all calm and prompt in the arena.
So what i've been doing when i'm riding is using my voice commands and backing it up with my outside leg to ask for the canter, bu only when he's trotting slowly (i hate the rushing). Going counter clockwise I feel like he's getting it and improving but in the saddle going clockwise it's still awful. He pulls and rushes at the trot, and when I ask for canter both voice and leg he either ignores it or gets all strung out and goes back to throwing himself at it and hoping for the best.
I'm getting a bit frustrated and i'm not sure what to do to help or correct this rushing behaviour. Can anyone suggest either some exercises or advice?
If he goes at the canter from a slow trot he feels a lot more together and it really helps stop the urge he has to cross caner, but from the rushed strung out trot it's almost like his legs flail. My instructor (who I will get back soon when my money issues resolve themselves) suggested doing lots of leg yielding to help build his hip muscles up so he could get into the canter easier and we do this too.