Deep down beneath all of those layers of "customs" and "expectations" that cloud our perceptions of what we truly want from our lives, lays a grain of truth to guide us if only we might open our minds to question the things that our culture asserts as "desirable".
If you want to win the fashion show, you need to have the look that those who are judging you, desire to see.
But the wise judges will go crazy for the contender who they perceive as having an understanding that fashion is only an accent that embellishes the truth that lays within.
Find the truth at the center of that relationship that is communication between horse and rider, and you may discover that everything that you find as unnecessary for creating and sustaining that relationship, is just some type of fashion.
Fashion. When you have top riders winning medals using harsh hands and over bent horses than that is what most people follow. When top riders win medals using sympathetic hands, that is what other people will try to emulate. There was a period when 'modern dressage' was deemed to be different from 'classical' and this seems to be fading away.
Remember the Olympics? The British riders were qualitatively different, softer and more giving and that is why Dujardin placed for gold and Cornelissen silver, to the disgust of the Dutch. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/19196032 Since then, European riders have been working to be lighter and softer.
Also, a great many people are simply over horsed by big WB's that can cover an arena in about 10 strides! Takes a lot of riding and gadgets are easier than skill.
When I stopped to think about the question and issue more in-depth, I thought of the horses I've seen with "contact issues" and a lot of them are in dressage.
Why is that?
Maybe because dressage riders are the ones who are really going for a true connection? I rode hunters for years and that "long and low" look that works in the hunter ring is very easy for any horse with reasonably nice gaits and natural balance. Getting the horse to really use its hind end and brings its withers up is much, much harder. Heck, my horse would happily go around long and low forever without much effort on my part, but that it isn't dressage
As I start to better understand dressage, I am very impressed by the quality of riding I see and can only hope I will learn to ride as well as some of my dressage friends
I think a lot of it has to do with the rider's inability to help the horse truly engage it's hindquarters and back. A horse who is using it's topline really well shouldn't be heavy in the mouth, but maintain a positive, light, "stretching to bit" connection. For a horse to do this the entire ride is very physically demanding. I think we as riders are impatient about this process and want the "frame" results too soon. Sure, you can pull a horse's head in via the bit and crank their mouths shut with nosebands.
Obviously that's a generalization, but in my opinion, that's what has been the reason behind riders I've seen with heavy hands and tight nosebands.
My take on heavy contact in dressage particularly, is that many dressage riders adhere to the "ride forward into a restricting hand" school. Now, of course, we want the horse forward but controlled so the rider doesn't have to crank the horse back to keep him in gait or in frame. I see a lot of this in the Dutch school (flame suit snug).
Most of my horses have been rehabs with a lot of contact issues. If one can just change one's mindset from "taking contact" to "allowing contact" the dynamic can change and the horse can learn to trust the hand. It takes time and feel and there is a fine line between throwing the reins away and letting the horse flex into them (at the poll not down the neck @ the 3rd). JMHO
I'm hardly an expert but this is what I spend a lot of time on.
"I've spent most of my life riding horses. The rest I've just wasted". - Anonymous