All curb bits are not created equal, and neither are all snaffles. The western riding world, unfortunately, has more than its fair share of hideous designs. Some from Statelinetack are shown below:
The bit below is one of their best selling bits...and I doubt there are all than many riders qualified to train and ride with a spade bit. Those that are qualified normally don't buy cheap bits, either:
So yes, there are some pretty ugly western bits, including some pretty ugly looking snaffles. Many western curbs probably shouldn't even be used by experts, and very few riders or horses have the training to use some of the high-end curbs.
But there are some very good western curbs - easy to use, easy to train, and apparently easy for some horses to respond well in. Mia is a low-end horse and I'm a low-end rider...so if it is possible for us, it is possible for others. The key is to care about your horse and watch how your horse responds and to adjust accordingly. That is true English or western, bits or bitless.
I just think that even riders like myself can consider using some of the bits smrobs recommends in her curb bit thread as options. The Internet almost frightened me away from ever trying a curb bit. There is a lot of Internet advice about how harsh curbs are. On a different horse forum, one I no longer frequent (nor am I welcome to frequent there any more
), folks argued that someone transitioning a horse from a snaffle to a curb was likely to have the horse rear and flip over them out of fear for those incredibly cruel bits!
But when I did try some with Mia, she responded extremely well. It was a night/day type of difference for her. I saw more improvement in her confidence and relaxation in a month than I had seen in the previous year. When you see a horse have such a positive response to a class of bits, it is easy to become a fan of them! Maybe too much so...