I was working my horse in the arena while A gave B a dressage lesson. I was actually surprised when I entered the arena to see this, as B is a pretty decent rider and A rides around using a hackamore to crank his horse's head in so her nose nearly touches her chest and the horse *always* looks slightly off. B's horse can be tense and high-headed and she usually uses a standing martingale on him, and fair play to her for dropping the martingale and looking for other approaches. The approach A was clearly taking, as I nosily kept half an ear on the lesson, was to get the horse's head down by having B brace her hands on either side of the pommel of the saddle but not give at all (you really can't give much when your arms are nearly straight down at your sides). The horse was arching his neck but wasn't any more relaxed or through his back than he had been when going around with his nose in the air.
What bugs me is that B also teaches lessons, undoubtedly passing on what she's learned in her own lessons, and in this transmission, the basic principles of dressage, of impulsion, softness, and relaxation, are being further lost to the importance of the headset. Presumably A learned what he knows from someone else, and is seen by B and others at the barn as the dressage "expert." I've seen it before at other barns -- BHS instructors even cranking horse's heads around without any release but able to force an outline, so the student thinks it's "right." While I have no doubt that good dressage can be found at "proper" dressage show barns here, it saddens me to see that this knowledge is virtually non-existent at "amateur" barns even when people seek out dressage instruction. The questions people seem to be asking are, "How do I get his head down?" Not, "Why is he so tense and how can I create more forward relaxation so he comes easily into an outline?" No one seems to know that the latter question is actually the one which needs to be asked.
I try to cultivate indifference to what other people do with their horses -- it has nowt to do with me and there is really nothing I can do about any of it -- but when you see this poor thing fighting the flash noseband when his face his being pulled into his chest, it's hard to maintain indifference!