I think it is important these days to speak out on behalf of Dressage as it is under fire right now. I want to draw positive attention to the fact that there are some very progressive people out there (Yours Truly included) who are successfully integrating Natural Horsemanship with Classical Dressage principals. At it's most progressive this movement is bringing bridless collection to the realm of possibility.
I want people to understand the Dressage can be fun for the horse and rider and still is in my opinion one of the corner stones of all horsemanship. All training starts with a good connection between the horse and the human. The next part is endless patience and a "takes as long as it takes" attitude. 3rd is the moment of possiblity. This is the moment right after you do something with your horse and you allow a moment for processing, spontanaeity. Which in turn often allows you to make the most "right" decision next. Most so called "mistakes" are made out of reactionary haste and general rushing and impatience. This causes people to make possibly too harsh or inappropiate responses to their horses behavior. If we can learn to slow down our whole interaction with our horses, It becomes WAY more fun and relaxing for both of you. Learning is actually accelerated because of the space allowed for it. This applies to whatever your doing or not doing with your horse.
So back to the Dressage. Dressage by definition is designed to optimize the horses athleticism and suppleness. It is designed to help the horse carry us more efficiently and balanced which in turn is better for joints, muscles and soft tissue. It helps a horse be more symetrical in the use of his body (provided you are symetrical as well). It is by my own definition Yoga and Pilates for horses WHEN applied with the philosophies outlined above. The horse should receive a mental and physical benefit from it. Obviously, forcing them into unnatural positions for any length of time is about as beneficial to the horses wellness as it would be for us if it was done to us. I always look at training that way. How would this feel to me if it was being done to me. Food for thought.