Dignity in dressage arises by having consideration for the horse and being gentle with both yourself and the horse. With gentleness, you go forward without recklessness, and the result is that you avoid any accidents. Taking the time it takes is far more important that training on a fixed schedule.
Good dressage has its own timeline. Too often our ambitions try and set the time. Certainly one can sit on a young horse in a matter of a few hours but that is just a parlor trick and not good training.
Working bitless or liberty work is similar. It is not that such things cannot be done. They do have entertainment value but both avoid the issue of safety for both human and the horse.
The fact is that we have an intelligence which sees beyond what the horse can see and so the natural hierarchy is for our mind to be dominate but that does not imply aggression. To ignore this hierarchy is to bring danger to both horse and human.
The problem from our side is that we must learn to use simple tools to exert our intelligence without discomfort to the horse. The bit (simple snaffle), stick and rope used intelligently is the interface which allows us to extend our kindness by asserting an authority based in compassion and not aggression.
The saddle, well made and fitted is a matter of comfort for the horse and is a device which adds an intelligence to our aids which is not possible without one. No primitive culture which was horse dependant failed to adopt a saddle when they became aware of the saddle’s existence with reason.
Some people have the desire to be “natural” with the horse. The excuse that something is “natural” is a weak one at best. There are many powerful poisons which are quite natural. It is up to us to make the horse comfortable and keep ourselves safe when we work even if it is not so natural.
The reason for dressage, in the end, is that dressage expands the mind and heart of the horse and the rider. The use of a simple rope and stick are extensions of our mind and body. The simple bit is a combination of both a rope and stick but much more durable. The first bits were like either rope or stick but fiber and wood do not survive time or in use with the horse well.
In the rope and stick we have the embodiment of the masculine and feminine principle which form the foundation of mind itself. It is through this masculine and feminine or the yin, yang and the transition between these two basic states that forms the core of everything and so dressage touches the universal principles of life itself.
Here is the ground. There are no tricks or theater here. Good dressage deals directly with the mind. Equality does not forbid hierarchy but willingly works with it. Good dressage is compassion which contains both equality and hierarchy. This is very natural and very kind.