I didn’t learn ‘english’ or ‘western’. I really hate this part of the horse culture in the US – it creates a really big divide between disciplines, and creates viewpoints like yours. Riding is riding, no matter what bit or saddle you may be using. Where I live, no one identifies as ‘english’ – We are all just riders!
I agree with that, the horse doesn't care if we are "english" or "western." I guess I just always put my experiences in the context that I ride western, because I have never really ridden english, and it is always the english style riders I see riding with a lot of contact. I was never taught to ride with contact, so I really don't understand the concept of always riding with contact. It seems like it would be really annoying for the horse.
Now, the great debate: Snaffle Vs. Curb. Personally, I choose to use a snaffle. Why? Because there are things I can do in a snaffle I can’t do in a curb, but there is nothing I can do in a curb I can’t do in a snaffle :]
That's fine, everyone has their favorite bits and equipment that they get good results with. I'm sure lots of people would agree with you.
By the way though, what can you do in a snaffle that you can't do in a curb? I have never found a curb bit to limit what I can do when I'm out riding.
^ The problem with this paragraph is you are essentially comparing a well trained horse in a curb, to a badly trained horse in a snaffle.
Sorry, I didn't mean it to sound that way. That wasn't my intent.
A well trained horse will respond like butter, and not have to be pulled, in any bit. A horse that isn’t well trained may have to be pulled on, no matter if it’s in a snaffle or a curb. It may LOOK harsher in a snaffle, visually, but the curb is actually far stronger and when pulled exerts much more pressure than the snaffle. A curb does not ‘magically’ create a trained horse who doesn’t need correction – Curbs are usually put on when the the horse has reached this stage. A horse who is started in a curb would need to be pulled/prodded as much, or more, than a horse started in a snaffle.
And again – A good rider is aware of the softness of the mouth in any bit. It isn’t a trait exclusive to a snaffle or curb. A good rider wont’ lose their feel and skill if they happen to put a snaffle in that day.
That's true, but the horse may have a different level of softness in a different bit. I could see perhaps someone who only uses a snaffle get into the habit of using more force than they would if they used a curb. Maybe it's just me and my horses. I know if I rode my Mustang in a snaffle day in and day out, I would have stronger hands and less finesse. For instance, if I let my Mustang get up to a good run, I can slow him back down a lot easier in a curb than I can a snaffle. I don't like having to pull my horse back down if I can help it. I would rather he got the cue from the curb and slowed himself down.
Okay, I feel like I need to explain something. Firstly, if you are achieving collection, the horse should never be backing off the bit, in a curb OR snaffle. That just means they are tucking their head, Collection is when they are reaching for the contact and stretching through the body – There is almost a circle of energy, that is being blocked from escaping at the front by the bit, and at the back by your leg and seat. If your horse is backing off the bit, the energy isn’t flowing through the horse and they lose collection.
I think I understand the concept but have a harder time explaining it. I guess I feel like collection is a horse with energy bubbling underneath you, wanting to go forward, but they can't because they respect the rider, so when they hit the wall (the bit) they kind of hover there with the back end coming under, and the front end respecting the wall you put in front of them. Maybe I am fuzzy on the whole "collection" thing. I think I know it when I feel it though.
I also want to say that while you don’t have a direct contact in a curb, you still have a similar amount of influence on the mouth. Lifting the hand an inch or two will actually produce much the same amount of pressure on the mouth as tightening the reins in a snaffle will. That is the point of the shanks – You still influence the mouth while on a loose rein.
I won’t comment on the use of nosebands etc. – As I don’t use them.
I also trail ride exclusively when I’m not competing due to not having an arena or anywhere to school. And I do it all in a snaffle. The majority of my trail rides are ridden on a rein just as loose as you would have your reins with a curb, but I don’t influence the bit at all because I have a snaffle. If you are truly touting a curb as the least obtrusive bit on the trail, I would say you are wrong, a snaffle on a loose rein is much less obtrusive as no slight movement of your hands will disturb the bit.
I'm not saying that a curb is a less obtrusive bit, the snaffle is obviously milder. But given a choice between barely using a curb and having to ride with a lot of contact with the snaffle, I just personally prefer the curb.
Basically the issue I have with your post is that you are comparing a good rider and trained horse in a curb, to a bad rider and badly trained horse in a snaffle. If you even the playing field, i.e. compare a good rider and a well trained, responsive horse in both a snaffle and a curb, you will find there is NO difference in the amount of pulling/pressure on the mouth. The snaffle looks visually like there is, but in truth, there isn’t a difference. Those slight movements of the hand used with a curb are magnified by the shanks – We need more exaggerated actions to get the same effect.
So maybe the curb is the bit for the lazier rider. I guess I could go along with that. I would rather have little contact with a curb than having to maintain lots of contact with the snaffle. Or pull on him lightly with a curb than pull on him more with a snaffle. The curb makes it clearer to my horses what I expect of them. If you can ride the snaffle and get the same results as the curb, then by all means do it, its a good bit for you and your horse. I look at it like the curb give the horse boundaries and I don't have to pull on him. He is more respectful and responsive and I can totally let go of his mouth and give him the freedom of no mouth contact nearly all the time.
There are as many people out there abusing curbs, actually I would venture to say more so due to mis-information on how they work, as there are abusing snaffles. Bad riding and bad training is abundant no matter what the discipline. You can compare drop nosebands (Whose actual purpose is to keep the bit still in the mouth) and martingales to gags/combination bits and tiedowns in the western world. No discipline is scot-free.
My horse rides in both a snaffle and a curb. I would welcome you to come have a look and a ride in both bits if you were in my country! He goes happily in a contact in the snaffle, on a loose rein in the snaffle, and on a loose rein in the curb. He doesn’t back off the contact in the snaffle, and he happily carries himself in the curb.