I ride green, bouncy horses that try things, and I end up with awful pinching. On the quieter ones it seems fine without, but I like the look and feel of half chaps, plus I often ride through brush, so they protect my lower legs.
I suppose riding through brush with half chaps (If you aren't wearing tall boots) can prevent lots of scrapes and cuts (Like you said). I've had to ride through tall burning weed and awful *****ly weeds before, but the plants were already up to my thighs, so my calf area wasn't my first priority by that point.
When I started riding, I, too, was skeptical of the need for half chaps, gloves, and breeches. Why not jeans and ankle boots? I asked. My instructors never forced me to wear any of those things until recently, when I was told very sternly by a trainer that I really did need to be in breeches when I rode seriously. Thing is, as you advance in riding skill, and the more green or loose horses you ride, you'll find your thighs get chapped in just jeans, your calves rub agains the leathers, your hands burn from the young horse jerking those reins away, and your seat is restricted by the stiffness of hot, sticky jeans.
Ultimately, it's up to you :)
I actually despise wearing jeans while riding <Insert laugh/crying face here>. I ride with legging-type pants, or if I'm going bareback all day, shorts. I know shorts are frowned upon, but it went up to 80-90 degrees (Fahrenheit) with killer humidity. I know it's no excuse to wear shorts, though. I'm sure others have had to deal with much
worse while showing down in California/Florida/Texas,ect. I can understand the gloves, as I've had one horse who nearly gave me blisters from trying to pull the reins out of my grasp. Eh. I hear the gelding has turned out to be a sweetheart with all the time he's been recently worked with.
Definitely depends on the person, the horse, the saddle what you're wearing, etc.. For instance, my saddle doesn't pinch me if I'm in breeches, does if I'm in jeans. It always pinches my boyfriend and he will get rubbed raw some times. My old saddle doesn't pinch me no matter what I wear.
I hope the English saddle I will be riding in doesn't rub my legs raw. If so, I will definitely be purchasing some half chaps or new breeches.
I ride with half chaps all the time and wouldn't go without them unless I had to. I find the leathers pinch more if I'm riding more 'seriously' but even when I'm trail riding and the leathers don't really pinch much, I find them helpful to protect from *****ly plants. And in the winter, every little bit of warmth helps!
As for grip... I actually had them be more harm than good once. I had my jumping saddle in to get the billets replaced and ended up borrowing an older Wintec AP (old enough that it was the smooth definitely-not-leather material on the flaps) for a schooling show. Between the very smooth flaps and my very polished half chaps, my leg was sliding all over the place. I'm fairly confident I would have been better off without the half chaps, but not really an option at a show! I've jumped a couple times at home with my leather saddle and riding tights w/o half chaps and didn't really notice a difference with regard to grip/slippage.
Hmm. Interesting to know! The show regulations must really stink at some point. I only know what I've read online/books/magazines, and it sounds like most people have to buy very expensive new equipment, or deal with uncomfortable attire to fit the rules. It still sounds worth it, though.
I always ride in half chaps or tall boots. At this point, it's habit. I wonder why you're so opposed to them?
I just didn't understand what the whole deal was with them. I thought it might kinda be like having a half pad (You know, it's popular). From all the responses, though, half chaps seem to serve much more of a purpose than I originally thought.