I feel I must speak to what I consider to be less than factual information about bits. Ported bits are not necessarily more severe than straight bar bits. Most straight bar bits put a lot of pressure on most horses' tongues. This makes them very uncomfortable if not downright severe. They cause most horses to open their mouths and many actually fight the bit.
*Emphasis added above. I should have qualified in my previous post that the ported bit is generally cosidered to be harsher, not suggest that they are definitely going to be harsher. My bad. I ought to know better than to make any kind of absolute statement regarding anything horse related.
That being said, it still comes down to the individual horse, his oral conformation, and his preferences, no? What is painful even at rest for one might be heaven to another, and vice versa. No bit is necessarily harsher than any other on it's own: ultimately, it comes down to the rider's hands every time.
In terms of tongue relief, though, and considering the bolded information in the paragraph below, would not some pressure on the tongue translate into less pressure on the sensitive bars, in a straight-mouth, rather than most/all pressure going to the bars, if none is transferred to the roof? Assuming the same pressure in both cases, if it is spread over more area, it feels like less? Or is my reasoning off here?
Obviously, the horse's reaction is going to demonstrate his comfort level and acceptance of the pressure distribution, whatever it may be and regardless of what reason says should be more comfortable.
Low to medium port bits never reach the roof of a horse's mouth. Only Very high ports like big spades, half-breeds and cathedral ports reach that high in a horse's mouth and they even don't if the purchase of the shank is long (distance from bit to top ring) and the curb strap is tight.
I defer to your expertise on the bolded, as I freely admit to only a general working knowledge of Western bits. Although as I sit here thinking about it and how little room there actually is in a relaxed horse's closed mouth, tongue filling the entire cavity rather than sucked down/back, it seems to me that there would have to be some roof-of-mouth contact? I'd be quite interested to hear/read more on the contact differences between low and high ports, if you'd be so kind as to explain where the clearance is coming from, and/or direct me toward some sources on the subject?
Snaffle bits are not less harsh than curb bits, especially if a curb bit is used correctly, but they allow a trainer to pull as hard as is necessary to get control. Snaffles should be used on green and unruly horses because a trainer can take more hold and 'muscle' a horse around if it is necessary. Spoiled horses come to mind first here. Any time I have gotten on a horse and it acted badly, the first thing I did was get a shank bit off of it and put a snaffle on it so I could do what was necessary to get control. You should never be in a position to have to pull hard on a curb bit. The horse is supposed to be trained well enough that he responds with a 'signal' of it rather than a pull.
I'd go so far as to say that almost no bit is harsh if it is used correctly, and a snaffle can certainly inflict pain every bit as much as a curb can. Bits are tools, they cannot be harsh themselves. Hands are harsh. I've seen horses with horribly hard mouths that had never seen a curb.
I absolutely and 100% agree with the usage of a snaffle to deal with a spoiled horse; that situation is no place for a curb, which by definition requires some degree of finesse from both horse and rider.
Billy Allen mouthpieces were a big improvement over the jointed mouth curbs that collapse on a horse's lower jaw. I do not know any good western trainers that still use them. They are pretty dated -- seen little use in the last 20 to 25 years. I cannot think of one reining trainer I know that even has one, now.
Sorry, but this paragraph confused me a bit... When you refer to outdated bits, are you referring to the Billy Allen or the traditional jointed curb? I think you're saying that the old jointed curbs are dated, "replaced" so to speak by Billy Allens, especially considering your later remarks on single jointed bits a couple of paragraphs down, but I just want to clarify a bit.
There is no such thing as an 'regulation reining saddle'. No such thing exists.
There is no such thing as an 'official reining bit'. There are only restrictions on shank length (8 inches) and diameter of mouthpiece and state that the mouthpiece must be smooth, not rough, sharp or wrapped with copper wire, etc. Curb straps and chains must be at least 1/2 inch wide and lay flat.
Didn't mean "regulation" and "official" to be taken quite that literally. Again, my bad. My understanding from the gal I spoke to regarding the outcome of that particular class was that riders were competing with tack designed for barrel racing or western pleasure rather than for reining. Meaning, this: 13.5" 14.5" 15.5" 16.5" Circle Y Just B Natural Tree Free Calgary Barrel 3912 *FREE SADDLE PAD OR CASH DISCOUNT!*
or this: 16" Tex Tan Temptation Show Saddle 08-1579-23u6
rather than this: STS Austin Reining Saddle
However, I am only reporting on the experience of another -- I unfortunately did not watch or participate in the class and cannot say exactly why the competitors were DQ'd... in all likelihood, knowing the way such things tend to go in the local area, most were probably riding their curbs with two hands and fudging up the pattern.
I do very much appreciate your input and critique of the information that I've gathered from a number of what I understand to be very reliable sources over the years. I'd be very interested to hear more especially about low vs. high port mechanics, as well as tongue relief (ported vs. straight bar) as "harsher" vs. "milder." You learn something new every day, eh?