I've always found that there's a strong connection between work at the walk and work at the canter. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but I suspect that it has something to do with the 4-beat nature of the walk, and the 4-beat (counting the suspension as one beat) of the canter. There are differences, of course - the most notable of which in canter is the diagonal element, moving from one hind to the opposite front foot.
But a horse and rider with a good quality and feel at walk are likely to have a good quality and feel at the canter, or at least have a good place to start. A horse and rider with a poor walk - low energy, uneven footfalls or poor engagement - are also likely to have a poor canter. One of the reasons that I got Red, despite his obvious issues, was that he had an amazing walk, even just when being led in from the pasture.
Pie and I did some canter work today, and my hypothesis about the connection between walk and canter really proved true.
Those of you who have been following along will recall that one of the things we worked on at the clinic was my position at the walk. Instead of collapsing in my lower back and driving with my seat and secondary aids - therefore blocking the energy flow from hindquarters forward - we worked in the walk at having me sit the same way I did in trot - more on my inner thighs than seat - with a more upright posture and no driving aids - basically getting out of the horse's way so the horse could move more correctly and with full energy.
I did this today with Pie in the canter and it worked like a charm. We've struggled a lot with canter - or he's struggled and I've interfered, would be one way of saying it. Today, his canter was round, and soft and engaged, and he was able to do 20-meter circles without loss of the hind end or loss of impulsion, and I was doing a lot less - basically nothing other than being with him - so it felt wonderful. All I did was concentrate on having my position be the same as my (revised) position in walk. And he was "through" from back to front, on his own - because I wasn't cutting his energy and movement in half in the middle. Amazing how effective getting out of the way can be . . .
Walk = canter.