I had a lot of hope when AQHA changed the rules for WP, but I quit going to the shows because I saw no difference. Horses with their heads lower than their withers and hardly any forward motion still. I was very disappointed. Recently I went to a friends Paint show & it was the same thing.
As someone who writes for AQHA's flagship magazine, The JQURNAL, I can say with absolute impunity that is has changed. I don't know what shows people are attending, but "level neck" is the name of the game. If what you're seeing is at APHA shows, that would make sense; they typically lag behind AQHA due to the time it takes to breed that natural loper...with color. So don't give up. Subscribe to the JQURNAL. Read about the hammering AQHA judges have been taking to JUDGE PER THE RULE BOOK. I'm seeing a big difference, especially in HUS.
I wanted to add that if what the OP is seeing is at local open shows, I would not be surprised. Out here on the west coast open show judges stink. Most of them have been judging for 30+ years, have no card, and they've made no effort to keep current. I know why this is. Show managers can't afford carded judges, but this does a huuge disservice to those people looking to move up the showing food chain. Typically these people think that because they've done well while showing to uncarded judges, they'll do well at breed and/or rated shows...and they don't. It's a rude awakening for most. Frankly, I think it scares people away.
I was just at a horse this past weekend albiet it was a small 4-H show but I was praised by the judge for keeping my horse's western canter a natural canter. I won all of my riding classes but one and that is only becasue I messed up.
Ive often wondered about western pleasure for my horse. It was *my* thing back in the day but he is a speed horse with lots of go. His jog is beautiful to sit and nice and slow but he does have that umph behind it. His lope is a beautiful collected three beats. I don't push him for his headset and though im sure I will not place, I plan on showing him without a lower headset this year. He is not high in the sky....just a normal a bit above the withers set. The gaits are right, the speed is right, the horse looks beautiful but I've been told without getting the nose down, he's not even close to placing.
AQHA is doing better. I saw a video the other day of a horse called One Hot Krymsun and he looked the best of any of them. Though he was still to slow and low for my particular taste, he looked comfortable and happy and he actually moved out into a natural slow lope.