Les Vogt’s California Classics Elevator Bits

“People think I borrowed my elevator bits form an elephant trainer, but they’re really quite mild and can do magic things for a horse,” says California reinsman Les Vogt. He explains that the unusual snaffle bit was designed by the legendary horseman Jimmy Williams to establish and maintain an efficient working frame, without disturbing the horse’s momentum and balance.

Les gets technical: elevator bits have a neutral 1:1 leverage ratio because the mouthpiece is located equidistant between the headstall ring and the rein ring; but the shank’s overall length of about 8” helps a rider to lift his horse’s shoulder without “putting on the brakes.” An ordinary grazing bit has a leverage ratio of approximately 1:3, which means that for every unit of lift, you create three units of “whoa.” For a horse that drops his inside shoulder in turns or circles, trying to lift the shoulder with an ordinary bit causes a contradiction: the more you lift, the more the horse thinks you want him to slow down.

Les adjusts the elevator bit very low in the horse’s mouth, just missing the eye teeth. He says, “The lower you hang this bit, the more a horse will lengthen his topline as he stretches down toward the mouthpiece. Horses like to cradle a snaffle with their lips and tongue because it gives them security that they’ll feel a pull with their mouth before they get in big trouble, so I use elevators low to get horses to relax in their necks, shoulders and backs. If a horse braces against the bit, he’ll be stiff, hollow his back ad be harder to fix.”

Also, Les uses a very loose curb chain to allow the horse a long warning time before the chain contacts the chin. “This is a training it, so I want the horse to have a fair chance to pay attention and respond before the bit takes firm action.“

“I like elevator bits for nay horse and train with them almost everyday, because they act like a plain old snaffle---you can even thread your reins through the direct rein slot---until you need more sophisticated action. If I run into a shoulder or stiffness problem, I can help the horse right away,” said Vogt. “They may look a little unorthodox, but elevators bits are very humane because they help a horse to balance himself efficiently,” he added.