...The only problem I see with that is that it insinuates a disconnect. To say that "easy dressage" is not "dressage" is presuming that you do not need the lowest of low levels in order to achieve the top which is not true at all...
By easy dressage, I do not mean low-level dressage. I mean dressage tips divorced from the system of dressage. This causes many of the terminology problems. As an example of a terminology disconnect:
Keep in mind that there are different levels of collection...So when you stay you watch a top reiner showing and you are not seeing collection you are. If the horse was not collected he would be falling all over the place and loosing his footing...
If 'collection' means 'not falling over', then there really isn't a reason for dressage to emphasize collection, other than the understandable desire not to be squished when the horse falls on you. That is why I've used terms in this thread like balanced, easy-moving, relaxed, coordinated or collected GAITS.
If collected means well-balanced, flexible and athletic, then nrhareiner is correct - every reiner I've seen is collected. And I think this is how most western instructors I've seen use 'collection' - as the equivalent of balanced. If it means shifting weight to the rear and using the strength of the hind end to support weight and take the load off the front end, then all the reiners I watched were at least briefly collected - when there was a need for it. Dressage would value a collected gait - a trot or canter where much of the horse's rear power is supporting weight instead of driving the horse forward - the horse on the head of a pin concept, all that power ready to go in any direction, or no direction at all if the rider so chooses.
I usually think of a continuum running from extension to collection. Speed events value the former. Agility values the latter. Polo and barrel-racing mix them up (as does reining, I think).
Easy dressage separates the terms of dressage from the system of dressage, and leads to people who learn easy dressage at a clinic to say things like "Collect his head!"
As an analogy:
My mare was spooky to the point of being dangerous. The trainer I hired concluded she had never really been broke at all. The first part of breaking her was desensitizing her to things like lead lines touching her legs, etc. Now, I can read a book and watch a DVD and go out and 'desensitize' a horse. However, doing it RIGHT isn't something you do after reading a book. It requires you to judge how much stress the horse is feeling, and when to increase it and when to release.
I hired a woman who had spent 40 years with horses to do it for me. I consider it money well spent. I did lots of work under the trainer's supervision, and I've continued to work on Mia, but the change in her is tremendous. I think I can claim some credit, but the smartest thing I did was hire someone whose preparation included 40 years of work instead of watching 4 DVDs.
Easy dressage is the equivalent to easy training, and easy training has ruined many horses. I've watched enough DVDs and read enough books to understand my limitations as a trainer. Those who don't understand their limitations screw things up.
I have my share of dressage books well rated on Amazon. Most purport to teach dressage principles, but almost none actually discuss dressage as a system or how the end goals of the sport of dressage affect the beginning. It is like the heels / hip / shoulder alignment thing. That is good for some things. Not good for others. I've got plenty of books that say to do it, but none of them explain why it is good for some things and not for others.
Maybe I should switch 'easy dressage' into 'parrot dressage' - the unthinking repetition of stuff that is only good when it is understood...
Thanks to all for the discussion!