: "A horse who is ridden 'correctly', meaning they are bending and in balance, lifting their shoulder and using their butt to move will be sounder.
Otherwise horses will just pull themselves around by the front legs, the muscles through their back will be weaker which the rider then sits on. Horse's backs really aren't that well designed biomechanically to hold people, compared to other animals. They may lose balance when turning, increase their stress because they feel like they are falling. There is an increased chance they can take a misstep and hurt themselves. If they aren't taught how to be ridden comfortably, they will have no idea that the 'correct' way is better. Many times people think a horse's natural way of going is the best way because its natural, but that is often head up, back dropped, heavy steps, and doesn't translate well to adding a rider.
...There are two ways a horse can turn - straight and leaning. If you get on all fours and try to turn "straight", you will shorten your strides, particularly on the inside. With your knees and palms following the same track around a turn, you will go slower - but the vertical axis of your body will remain straight up and down.
However, if you try to turn faster and tighter, you will not be able to remain "straight". You can initially lighten your front and shove your hands a little sideways, turning your front end faster. If you keep increasing the speed and tightness of turn, then you will need to drop down and shove hard sideways. The book that pointed this out to me was written by a professor of mechanical engineering who also enjoyed riding horses. He pointed out that barrel racing horses do not collect to turn because that would make the turns too slow. They lower at the withers, typically.
It is the equine equivalent of this:
This photo is over 100 years old, but it shows a balance very similar to a modern athlete, tilted below the hips and vertical above:
Left on their own, horses rarely turn straight. I suspect if you measured metabolic rate versus turning, one would find a straight turn costs more, and so does the digging in turn. The "Momma Bear" turn would be to lighten the front a little and shove a little sideways. We don't have to lighten our front end since we only have two feet, but humans almost never turn "straight" either. If you tied a rope to a pole, and jogged around the pole with your shoulders forming a straight line with the rope, that would be "straight". And if you had not trained to do it, you would find it hard to do well....
There is nothing WRONG with teaching a horse to turn "straight", but it is not a requirement for the horse's health. There is also no need to teach a horse to shift weight to its rear to 'balance' for longevity. The horse is well built for carrying more weight on the front end. Why? Because the front legs are not directly attached to the back. The weight on the rear end is carried in the hips and directly to the legs and ground. In the front, a cradle of muscle supports the weight of the horse and rider. If you wish to reduce peak impact - which is what is likely to damage bones and joints - supporting it in a cradle of elastic muscle makes more sense than transferring directly via bone.
With back muscles - they will develop more when ridden. And that will work fine, as a huge number of trail horses who were never ridden "collected" have demonstrated. A horse adjusts to increased weight by adjusting its stride, so that each foot stays on the ground a little longer. It also shortens its stride. It does not do so by rounding its back - something that is physically impossible for a horse to do to any significant degree.
None of this makes it wrong or bad to teach or compete in dressage. But the approach to riding used in dressage is not superior
to other approaches and it does not improve longevity.
So what should you do, Horsef? Pretty much whatever you want. If you enjoy lessons and see value for what you do, continue. If they are not helping you or your horse do what you want to do with your horse, then drop the lessons. Or compromise, and cut back. It isn't a sin to ride horses and not take lessons.
My youngest daughter wanted to learn enough to trail ride. She had a wonderful instructor. I think she took lessons weekly for 1-1.5 years. Then the INSTRUCTOR said, "You're fully ready for trail riding. You don't need more lessons, just more riding on trails. If you ever want to do something else, try barrel racing or reining or WP or whatever, give me a call. Until then...have fun!
...Look around and figure out what it is you really want to do with your horse. What is fun to you? There is no right or wrong answer. Do you want to do some trail riding or even a few clinics or small open shows? Take the money you are spending on lessons get yourself a truck and trailer. You could join a horse club that puts on small shows and that also has organized trail rides...
Exactly. Decide what motivates you and your horse to ride, and adjust to match THOSE goals. If you want to compete, or just enjoy Haute Ecole, take lessons in dressage. If you don't, then adjust any lessons you take to your
goals. If that means no lessons, fine.
If your horse is too forward on the trail, fussing too much and being a nuisance, that is a separate issue. An open horizon affects a lot of horse different from an arena, and they need to learn a measure of calmness in the open. Post a thread and you can get advice on that issue.