I agree with a lot of what
has written. I dont think there is anything I can add, it was explained better than I could do.
I think a lot of horses enjoy it once they understand. I think introducing collection and increasing the level of collection a lot of horses find very difficult. I think the introduction of movements like half pass, half steps, etc often can make even a very sweet horse confrontational and ask questions. It isnt that the rider is being mean or unfair to the horse but that it is asking the horse to release so much of it's mind and body to the rider that some simply dont like that. I think that many act out their opinions in the beginning and it is the rider's job not to punish or get after the horse but be patient, keep the expectation, dont change the story and have faith it'll all come together. Keeping the expectation through the tantrums. I think ugly moments are to be expected and normal. And people who havent been through the process or havent really experienced very much just expect it to be easy all the way up the stairs of training without realizing what goes into producing a result or how much time is spent behind closed doors developing these horses are all the ugly moments that were before he picture we see in the show arena. And truthfully these top riders do NOT show a lot of the developmental processes with their horses because of all the "know it all" amateur riders who cant even ride 2nd level trying to claim to know better than a professional. Or thinking because a horse was imperfect a moment the rider must be bad because people seem to think if it's a capable rider everything is smooth and easy. It isnt but the experienced rider knows to keep to their guns, be patient and wait for the results that may take months and years to come but will no doubt come. And I think that is one of the biggest differences between experienced and inexperienced people. For example when I needed help with my horse, I talked to a GP trainer, FEI riders and people who have done it and not people who are learning how to develop a horse up. But a lot of people who havent even developed a horse up the levels always think they know better than the people who have done it.
I think my horse enjoys what he does, there are definitely moments of confrontation and discussion and each day is different but I find he enjoys it. He loves to half pass, extended canter, extended trot when he gets it and there are moments when he gets the piaffe a few steps and I can feel it in him. He is very proud. He also likes the spanish walk. I think he loves having his brain activated. If he hasnt worked in a few days, even in the cross ties he's biting the air, kicking out and not happy then he works and he's in the cross ties and he's relaxed and happy. I dont think it's a job necessarily all horses love but I think some horses it just gives them an outlet to channel their energies into. And as
said human athletes wear expressions of focus and can carry tension in their bodies, it isnt a sign that they are unhappy but extremely focused and tuned into what they're doing. I dont think dressage is the most relaxed work, the upper level work definitely has tension but it's not necessarily bad tensions and some of the horses are SO SO SO hot they carry tension and the goal of the trainer is to reduce it and gain more relaxation. Every horse is different in what process is best for them. For example if you talk to a Portuguese GP rider they focus on collection before they develop extension because their horses dont know how to step forward with regularity until they understand how to keep tempo with a rider's seat and the rider has to be much more actively involved regulating that horse's rhythm to develop an extended trot. Vs the Northern european horses find extension very easy and struggle in the collected work. Generalization.
I think dressage increases ridability, cooperation, willingness to work together and harmony. Yesterday I let a GP jumper ride my horse who I never thought would become as agreeable and sweet as he is today. And all he said was super horse, incredible ridability, this one should have been kept a stallion. When a few months ago, that same horse would throw a fit because you half halted and wouldnt let him run, or told him he doesnt get to just take the bit and do what he wants. I think half pass for example is such a good exercise because the horse has to release so much of it's body to the rider and most horses struggle releasing that much of themselves to a rider. It really connects the outside hind to the inside rein and asks the horse to move into a bend which is quite tricky. Or half steps-piaffe helps a horse understand how to shift weight to the hind end, as well as to respond and listen to the riders seat. It helps regulate tempo and develop a trot. Here and at most top stables a horse starts half steps at 2nd level and should start learning passage at 3rd because it improves the quality and understanding of the trot work. I think the increase through the levels is increasingly asking horse and rider to submit their minds and bodies to one another and I think developing that trust and compliance is where some of the tension comes in.
There is a lot of good to dressage and I think it helps with horses who have prior injuries with soundness.