I ride my mare in a kimberwick because it's what she likes. She doesn't like broken bits, and she prefers a nice port. Can I ride her successfully in a snaffle? Yes, but it's not the same. She's just not as happy or comfortable with it. But I certainly don't need the leverage, the reins are purely decorative. Granted, I haven't tried everything, just a few bits, and this is what she prefers as of now.
I have Gracie in a french link D ring. It's what she'll stay in until she's ready to move up. I put a lot of thought into what to start her in, because I had seen so often that people prefer to start in curbs. And now, I wouldn't think twice.
You are right, so many people over-bit their horse. Heck, I even am. But at least I have the hands for it to work, and I have a valid reason. You don't need your reins to stop a properly trained horse, and I don't need my kimberwick to stop mine.
I have a friend who has her horse in a very, very harsh bit. So harsh a bit that this mare has actually lacerated her tongue pretty severely. And it's all because she won't be patient enough to teach her mare how to respond in a nicer bit at a walk only. She wants to trot and canter and jump, instead of taking the time to just work with her. It makes me nauseous.
Just this past week was our local county fair, including the annual Wednesday night fun show for the 4-H saddle horse kids. Basically a gymkhana-type affair; poles, barrels, ride-a-buck, egg & spoon, etc.
One rider was a girl in my own 4-H club. She rides a tall sweetheart of a QH mare, still relatively young but older than the curb requirement for WP. She games in a snaffle, and does well; timing in the ribbons and with good control in a full-cheek every run.
Wednesday night the horse was hot, and ran through her bit. Zero turn, zero stop, thankfully no bucking. The girl got her stopped, and a slew of other gamers' parents ran up to her explaining how it was stupid to ride in a snaffle and she needed this bit and that bit and this wad of chain through the horse's mouth. Not one thing was said to her about simply giving this very forward mare a refresher course in brakes in the bit that she has once the mare had calmed down. :roll:
Personally, I ride my guy in a snaffle. He isn't introduced to a curb yet, but as a matter of giving him a full education I do plan to when he is ready. I look at gaming as I do foxhunting - a situation where I might overbit for the event as a matter of safety in chaos.
I have to agree. Snaffle's are the best bit to go with. I hate the fact that many show circuits have regulations as to what bit you must show in at what age. I think a snaffle should suffice no matter what the age be it 3 or 20. I have always been a snaffle user and never will go with anything else. I recently did change my mare's bit though from a normal D snaffle with copper to a double jointed full cheek with copper roll. Hoping she will do well with it. She seems to be rather resistant and flings her head quite a bit which leads me to believe she needs some tongue relief. No bit whether mild or harsh is going to control a horse or solve any problems. Only cover them up for a short period till the horse begins the same problem again.
I have always used a snaffle on my mare and I wouldn't change it. Occasionally she can get a bit excitable but never to the point where I completely lose control, and she can be stubborn when it comes to working in an outline when she doesn't want to. However, I know that these minor problems are what I need to focus on and her responsiveness is down to my signalling issues. No bit is going to change that.
In some cases I think this point extends to more than just the bit. I do see horses with flashes, martingales and all the bridle accessories that I suspect aren't even needed. Sometimes it makes me wonder if they are there purely for show, but that's just my two cents.