Try this little experiment: Spend some time doing a turn on the forehand in hand (on the ground), so you can really watch what happens to your horse's body when he steps underneath himself with his inside hind leg. While he may remain hollow at first in tension, as he relaxes into the exercise you will usually see him naturally becoming "rounder" in his body, and therefore lowering his head and neck. You will also likely see him chewing the bit softly. This is an example of how engaging the back and the hind legs positively affects the front end.
"I've been working on making sure my hand is following and not fixed, especially in the walk and canter when the head and neck need to move more. The biggest breakthrough has come in working on doing a little shortening/collection at the canter, as now I can get my very sensitive mare to sit more without stopping or hollowing her back or bracing in her neck, just by making sure I don't lose the motion in my arms as I ask for her to come back." ~ Alexis Soutter
Horses that tend to hurry often do best when ridden at a deliberately slower pace until they become rhythmical and relaxed, and are then no longer trying to hurry. Only then is it a good idea to gradually develop more energy within the stride.
To keep your horse's hind legs more engaged in your upward transitions, (with the hind legs carrying weight AND pushing, rather than pushing alone), think of sitting on those hind legs and feeling the transition begin with a deeper step of a hind limb.
Everyone knows that we want to keep a straight line from our elbow to the horse's mouth. But did you know that it means when viewed from above as well as from the side? And that it also includes your wrists and fingers??
When a horse has trueimpulsion, they become easier to steer and keepstraight. And being able to perform perfect geometrical figures (the ability to be straight on curved lines) proves your ability to maintain a consistent level of impulsion.
Put your leg on justbeforeyou start to shorten your reins after the free walk or the stretching trot circle. This way you can ride forward into that shorter rein (as well as asking for bending) even as you are shortening them.
The increased activity of the hind legs will elevate the horse's head and neck naturally from your stretching position, and that allows you to shorten the reins with minimal fuss. If you start to shorten your reins with your leg off, and your horse will be more likely to hollow his back and resist.
"Suppleness in the back is the most important basic you can give your horse. When a horse is not supple in his back, it’s a big deal for him. Horses store a lot of emotion in their backs. If you have ever hurt your back, you know how painful it can be. It occupies your every thought." ~ Scott Hassler
"Give the horse the feeling of freedom when you sit on it, always the feeling that it can move forward. Most riders all over the world use their hands to try and control their horse, the neck starts to shorten and then it all starts to go wrong." ~ Christoph Hess
Sometimes you can improve your circles by not working on circles!
Work onsquares, 90 degree turns, and diagonal lines for a while, and maybe somenose to the wall leg yield. Then come back to your circles, after you have worked on better use of and response to your outside turning aids.
"I think we judges have to look more carefully into the body language of the horse. The body language for me, is more important than the technical part of a movement. Three strides in the half pirouette that's okay, but if everything is good and we have four strides, that for me is no problem, for me it is important that the horse is happy and you see it in the face, you see it in the tail, you see it in the swinging, you can listen, how the horse is breathing, these are the things that are important for a quality test." ~ Christoph Hess
You have to look for the particular rhythm that works best for each horse in each gait, allowing them to swing through their bodies with activity. Slower than the horse's optimal rhythm, and the horse will probably be inactive behind. And faster will be rushing, inhibiting the swing.
Never underestimate how much any turn on course can take away from the power in your canter. With the lazier type of horse you need to be proactive in maintaining your impulsion through the turns. And even with the hotter type of horse, you need to be conscious of being soft with your hand, so you don't take too much away from them.
"Lots of riders find it hard to let the reins go. They have their horses pulled into a short neck. What is important today is that I can give you the feeling of how you can let your horses be freer in the neck. The horse needs his head and neck to balance, interfere with his head and you interfere with his balance, and then the horse’s confidence goes out the window." ~ Clayton Fredericks