Solon, we have that same bit hanging in our tack room. The shanks on mine are shorter but the mouth is the same. There was only 1 horse that was ever used in it and that was the old buckskin horse that I rode growing up. The only time it was ever used is when Dad would team rope on him. He was a very different horse with a personality like I have never seen. If Dad was riding him, no matter what he did, sometimes Buck would just ignore him completely and go the way that he wanted to. For the first 5 years we had him, we had to keep a solid chain tie down on him to keep him secured at a roping or show. He would just nose through and break everything else. If he could get his head over it, he would climb it. It didn't matter if it was fencing, pickups, trailers, or people. For the kids, he was the perfect kid horse and always went where we told him but with an adult, he was a whole different story. He was the type that the only way to get his attention was to really inflict pain on him. Dad tried everything else but Buck would almost just laugh at him. He was a true outlaw horse that Dad saved from the killer truck and he did belong there. He was the one exception to the rule though. No normal horse should ever need anything more harsh than a simple snaffle or grazing type bit.
I think with the right training and patience there'd be no need for those stronger bits. There are always exceptions of course, but the majority no way. Those stronger bits were designed for impatient people not horses!!!
A few weeks ago I attended a class with one of the Myler brothers at our local tack and feed store. Of course someone asked what bit they could use that would "put more stop" on their horse.
Mr. Myler looked them square in the eyes and said the same thing you did Solon. More training and patience. Made me smile.
For what it's worth, I show and occasionally ride in a bit that looks somewhat like this with bit shorter of a shank and a bit higher of a port:
What do we ride when I don't use that? A halter, brideless or with a plain D-ring snaffle. So why do I ride with that kind of bit for shows? Because I don't have to move my hands at all. I can twist my wrist slightly, and the horse feels it. This way, a judge cannot tell that I am asking for anything. Now, I can control my horse completely using leg commands. I use a bit to set his head in a certain place, that's really all. I use neck command for any more 'refined' riding.
So yes, while some of those bits ARE cruel, not all of them are, and when used correctly are no harm.
My arab goes perfectly in a french link snaffle, nothing harsher because he wont tolerate it. Any why wont he tolerate it? Because when he was first trained (for reining) they used those harsh western bits and yanked on him. It took me months to gain his trust and for him to trust that I wouldnt yank and hurt him. He loves his french link and i've never ever had problems with him stopping or anything.
It just broke my heart to see him stop defensively and tuck his nose everytime I asked for a halt because he was afraid i'd pull and it would hurt. The fact that those trainers did that to him makes me so mad. But its all better now. And he's the poster child for downgrading your bit for a happier horse. Never ever had a problem stopping him in his current bit and he listens great.
Sixofdiamonds, I actually consider that a very mild curb bit. On all my broke horses, I use something almost identical to this:
And yes, it can be harsh if I am harsh with my hands. Like all other bits. However, most of those that I posted are harsh even with light hands because they are designed to be harsh to create the illusion of control. I believe that for a cowhorse, a bit similar to this or the one that you posted is the ultimate upgrade and they should never need anything harsher. My QH Denny has to be ridden in a non-leveraged bit because he is very hypersensitive. So, I stick him in a simple D-ring snaffle and he does great.
My jury is still out on the Rutledge bit though, I don't really know if it is as harsh as it looks or if it is milder because of it's design. If anyone else knows, you are more than welcome to enlighten me. :)
Most people don't want to accept that they're not as light as they THINK they are, OR, don't want to take the time to go slowly with their horse. I know a lady that went through literally dozens of bits on a horse that for me, never needed anything more than a ring snaffle, or a bosel.
I heard 'my horse is tossing his head - why does he do that?'
I would say - you're too hard with your hands. Lighten up, and go back to the round snaffle. Which was always immediately followed by 'oh no. I know I"m being very soft'. OK. This kept up until she had him rearing up. Then it was 'why is he doing that???' I said 'like it or not, you're too heavy handed. Put him in a hack or a bosel, and keep the hell out of his mouth if you can't lighten up'
Course, she wouldn't listen to that until she'd heard it 4 or 5 other times from other people. Leaves you thinkin' wth???
For the main part I mainly ride young inexperienced horses. Im always starting or fixing a horse it seems. Whenever I used to start a horse I used the standard "D" ring snaffle. After doing some research and talking to a few people I found a new bit that I like even more. I think Myler may have been the one to bring it to my attention. Anyways the thought behind it was that even a snaffle can pinch the tounge at the hinge. So the bit I now use is hinged twice and is alot softer and does not pinch.
It looks similar to this one but with short curved shanks
Smrobs - Argentine port? Or what bit is that? We also ride in an Argentine snaffle.
The pic of the bit that I use is listed on the website as a "training snaffle" though there is nothing snaffle about it. It is simply a swivel shank curb. It gives the option of a one rein correction if necessary.