Thanks for your insightful post.
I have a passion for dressage! I even try and ride 6 times a year in front of a known clinician.
Contact does not mean the snaffle pulled back into the corners of the mouth and the curb leveraged. I have had the privilege of schooling a few upper level riders and they discovered positive results by lessening the amount of pressure on the rein connections...and they rode warmbloods.
Below is a picture of my OTTB that I had many years ago. He was 17.3 hands high and weighed 1700 pounds. I schooled him in dressage, trail, racing on the beach, barrels. I never had to 'hold' him in the manner currently seen in the dressage arena. So I have personal hands on riding experience with a big hot horse and know that I do not have to hold one in the manner being shown in dressage.
Let me tell you from personal experience, you want the horse to appear to be doing it on its own, then give it some release of the pressure....let it have fun. I promise you that you will get a horse that loves to perform and will give it all he/she has got correctly.
As for repeating subject matter:
What lower level riders are exposed to by GP riders is what they emmulate. So shouldn't clinicians, trainers and riders be striving to teach correctness by the descriptions and not the incorrectness rewarding by inappropriate judging? Gymnastic schooling does not require the overbent and behind the vertical methodology......! "I think there IS something wrong when the first look at a sport evokes disgust."
You would be surprised by just how accurate your statement is known to spectators. The number one question I always hear coming from spectators is; Why are they so overbent and held so tightly? So you see presentation is the number one element of marketing our sport.
I agree with this. I also agree that you can't tell actual pressure by looking at a photograph. On the other other hand, I do know that many Warmbloods can be heavy, they are ridden differently from Arabs, and TB. What used to seem "heavy hands" when I was growing up is now consdered okay, partly, I believe, because it is the norm for certain types of horses. The "look" of the horse acting on its own, or in perfect unity with his rider, now appears to be too automatic, or tricky, perhaps. Judges want to see contact. I know the older type of dressage hasn't near the power and, shall we say excitement, as the modern competitive horse. So the "appearing to do it on its own" has changed somewhat.
As for bringing this topic up over and over again: yes, it is an ongoing concern. I am always surprised when I meet someone who simply HATES dressage, wants to have nothing to do with it, the only part they like in a test is when the horse gets to stretch his neck out and leave the arena. These are usually people who care a lot about horses, who know nothing about gymnastic schooling, but are appalled by the "look" of it. I think there IS something wrong when the first look at a sport evokes disgust. Not that discussion will help much, especially if you've been successful in your approach.