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Elevator bits/Need help getting horse's front end up to reduce stumbling...

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  • Elevator bits/Need help getting horse's front end up to reduce stumbling...

    I have a 6yo TB gelding off the track that I have been doing Dressage lessons on for about 6 months. He's a wonderful horse and fast learner but quite lazy. He's built low coming out of his shoulder and tends to hold his neck and head low to the ground or a lot like a western pleasure horse looks. He stumbles a lot on uneven ground and I'm looking for some support to get him to lift his head, be more alert and pay attention to his feet. (Done caviletti work but obviously not enough.) Once I wake him up he moves great.....at the trot or canter. Especially in an arena with sand footing. Take him out on the trail or in the bumpy/lumpy pasture where we leisurely walk and he turns into "stumbelina". Before you mention foot/hoof/long toes or any orthopedic issues....I have had him checked out and xray'd by multiple vets specializing in that field. He's fine, just lazy! I was recently at an Eventing show in GA and noticed a rider with a different looking bit I am not familiar with (I'm green still with English riding and tack but have mainly switched all the way and addicted! )... She told me it was an "elevator bit". It's the waterford 2-ring (can't find one for sale anywhere). She said that it keeps the horse from leaning on the bit and elevates the head and picks the front end up. Now....I'm not normally a person to try and solve a problem by changing bits...but if this 2 or 3 ring elevator bit will help my guy get his head off the ground, be more alert and pick his front end up, I'm willing to try it. I just don't want to have to start out a leisure ride by getting him fired up first at the trot or canter to get him moving. Trail riding is for our enjoyment and relaxation...Not a work out. A friend has offered to loan me her elevator but and her other suggestion is to sell him if he just doesn't offer more. I can't do that bc I didn't buy him to show or event but to be my main riding horse for many disciplines ranging from trail riding, Dressage lessons, a little jumping (I can't wait to start that as it looks like a blast!) and working cow clinics. He's extremely confidant/laid back and I can throw anything at him and he doesn't miss a beat or freak at ANYTHING! SO.....can anyone tell me if this is a bit worth trying or looking into for the purpose of lifting my horse up in the front end? He does tend to lean on the french link snaffle I use during our dressage lessons and I sponge my hands to keep waking him up.. I'll go back to more daily caviletti work as well. THANKS!

  • #2
    Youcould always try an old fashioned running gag: http://www.sustainabledressage.net/tack/bridle.php#gag

    Actually, I see from that these are sometimes also called elevator bits. In my experience they are very effective at teaching a horse to raise its head and lift its forehand - as long as you are also schooling in a snaffle and teaching hind quarter engagement. I've used them on horses who are basically well schooled but who bear down at gallop or gallop with noses down and out in front.

    You do need to be able to ride very balanced, not relying on your hands at all at any pace.

    See if you can borrow one for a few rides. If it works for your horse, it will work straight away.


    • #3
      I'd start by making sure there isn't a physical reason he isn't picking his feet up. Though my OTTB rushed under saddle, he was often generally quite lazy and clumsy in appearance, holding his head low and not picking up his feet. Turned out he has some severe back issues that were easily fixed by our vet who does chiropractic adjustment. It's very common in OTTBs.

      After those issues were fixed, we have started doing trail rides so that he has to pay attention to where his feet go. Lots of half halts keep him in check from laying on the bit and using me for balance. He just goes in a curved double jointed snaffle and is improving immensely.


      • #4
        I had a slightly similar issue a few years ago with a big, gangly young mare. She didn't really stumble, but could get bargy on her forehand, making the riding out I was doing to prepare her for the hunt field a little difficult. Along with good flatwork (lots of half halts and transitions to get her shift her weight back), I rode her in a Happy Mouth pelham. 99% of the time, I rode her with a big loop in the curb rein, using the snaffle rein exclusively. But the 1% of time I needed an additional "oompf" to remind her to look up, I had the option to pick up the curb. This worked very, very well for her and she only went in it for a short period of time (and not all the time).

        Of course, to use a pelham like I did, you'd have to be very comfortable and familiar using two reins. And I'm such an obnoxious purist that I feel you really need two reins, especially for this particular situation, on a ring bit.
        Last edited by yellowbritches; Apr. 16, 2013, 07:57 AM. Reason: Naughty spelling error!


        • #5
          Is he leaning on your hand, or is he just going low and on the forehand withut leaning?

          A waterford mouthpiece is a pretty strong bit on its own. If you are going to try a gag or elevator, I would frst try one with a more conventional mouthpiece.

          chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


          • #6
            I second yellowbritches' idea. I've used a pelham with two reins for a lot of things. It's nice to have an almost snaffle, but then you have the extra oopmh if you need it.

            It is a pain to ride with the double reins for hacking out though.
            Pisgah: 2000 AHHA (Holsteiner x TB) Mare (lower level eventing, with a focus on dressage)

            Darcy: 7? year old Border Collie x Rottweiler? Drama Queen extraordinaire, rescued from the pound in Jan 2010


            • #7
              A thought: if he is off the track and now in a place with a nice level arena he is perhaps simply not used to uneven or rough ground. Would it be possible to turn him out in a place with some ups and downs and roots and hollows so that he learns to pick up his feet all by himself without you having to put in the work?
              "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


              • #8
                A waterford mouthpiece alone is hardly harsh at all, as there is no real hinge action as you would have with a single or double-jointed snaffle.. Horses also tend to stay in a slightly lighter frame simply because they have no solid mouthpiece to lean on. I tend to find that elevators actually tend to cause a horse to ball up underneath themselves even more than they would with any other bit.


                • #9
                  Gosh, given what you've said above (OTTB/you're green to riding English) I would not be thinking about putting an elevator bit on this horse...or really anything much beyond a double jointed snaffle. Assuming you've ruled out anything physical here, my guess is he's still figuring out his balance and his feet, plus he's likely not very strong at carrying himself yet. You need to start from the hind end going forward, rather than thinking about pulling the front end up. I would be riding him forward into a light contact, and, if he starts to root down and/or get low, keep kicking him up and forward. Don't give him anything to hang on with your hand (it's all about little releases) but think about keeping the hind end stepping forward and through. That's how you'll bring him to a lighter way of going, rather than by starting with his mouth. It's not about getting him "fired up" but about making sure he is going forward from your leg at all times.


                  • #10
                    I had a lazy horse who stumbled frequently and even fell. He was terrible on the trail, nothing physical just didn't care. Waking him up did help, but I didn't like having to do that either when we were supposed to be relaxing! What worked for him was lateral work at the walk before, and here and there to increase awareness or lift him up during the trail/hack.

                    Have your dressage trainer teach you the correct way to do some turn on the forehand and haunches as well as some simple leg yield and shoulder-in, all at the walk is fine. Also practice going sideways from a standstill. Try going the length of a ground pole as you have him step sideways over it. Before going out do some of everything and walk over some poles. On the trail you can move his shoulders over for a few steps now and then to rebalance or do more if needed and keep him going forward.

                    During normal schooling put poles randomy around the arena and just go about your work as though they aren't there. Let him figure out how to organize himself to get over them as they come while doing his work.


                    • #11
                      Deleted. Double post.
                      Last edited by Win1; Apr. 16, 2013, 10:48 AM. Reason: Double post


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by GotSpots View Post
                        Assuming you've ruled out anything physical here, my guess is he's still figuring out his balance and his feet, plus he's likely not very strong at carrying himself yet. You need to start from the hind end going forward, rather than thinking about pulling the front end up. I would be riding him forward into a light contact, and, if he starts to root down and/or get low, keep kicking him up and forward.
                        This... Six months isn't a long time. Did you talk to your dressage coach about "upping" the bit strength? When they get on and ride your horse, does your horse improve?

                        Sending him forward from your leg, and then bring him back with half-halts (while reminding him to come up into your hand with your leg) will lighten him in the forehand. Do that every 9-10 strides (or as often as his TB brain will allow) and do small circles (10m) and lengthening/shortening stride with lots of upward and downward transitions added in.
                        A quick tutorial on interval training: Conditioning your horse for eventing


                        • #13
                          I kinda got a giggle when I read your post, as it seems very similar to some of the things I have been dealing with, with my Greenie and some of the same concerns.

                          I guess to start, I agree with some of the other posters on working on the flat and transitions, but in the same breathe... I also agree with the Waterford, which is a VERY mild bit and my horse loves it.

                          I flat my guy in a loose ring french link with a copper lozenge, though I am looking for an eggbutt since I think he likes a more stable bit. The waterford I was riding him in was a D ring and he loves it, but we only used it when we were jumping since I all but go his pulling resolved expect for our approach to the jump.

                          To start, getting him to stop pulling- was hard work, it definitely wasn’t easy- it still isn’t and we are still working on. It took A LOT of time in the saddle, a lot of transitions from walk to trot, trot to walk, walk to canter, canter to walk- EVERYTHING lots of circles, LOTS OF sitting trot to really help me work on his engine and getting him beneath himself so he stays balanced. The moment I felt his head start moving from the position I wanted it, I sat deep and really PUSHED him on, even if it meant his head come up higher then I wanted- least it wasn’t down.

                          I worked on the flat till I got a dang hole in my favorite pair of breeches, no joke. BUT it all paid off, this past weekend we went to our first 3 phase and NAILED our dressage test and got first!!! I was SOOOOO proud of him! And all the result of hours in the saddle working on the dressage and flat work- your real foundation.

                          NOW- the Waterford. After a LOT of research, I went with this bit because it is a very mild bit, it fits a lot of horses mouths since it is so moveable, and if a horse tries to lean on it, it basically collapses. We use it only for jumping since we are still working on the pulling right on the approach of the jump, and I’m sorry- this is not the time I want to “ fight” with my horse about his head- at the trot he was fine, but when we cantered a jump that had a longer approach- he got fidgety and would lean. The more you work with him on his head the less he was paying attention to the jump- not what I wanted, and I’m not in the position to let me horse fall and learn his lesson or something silly. Anyways, he did great in the Waterford, but I to wanted a little lift, something that I didn’t need to be hard with, I could ask nicely and lightly and he would respond. I decided to try the Neue Schule Waterford Universal, it was also the only one I could kind with the copper type mouth- LOVED LOVED LOVED IT. I have it on the top ring, but it was enough that he, we could focus on cantering the jump and if I felt his head get low, one tiny soft “balance” rein was all he needed to go nicely to the jump and not get strong.

                          Now I would never flat in this bit, as I don’t think that’s the purpose, but using it in the purpose I wanted, or needed was AWSOME, and it may not be the bit I need long term. Sometimes my guy does awesome jumping in a French link other times he gets really excited and will lean and the Waterford helps. It gave us the opportunity to help him sit back on his but at the approach and stay light in the front- it let him work on that rather than me up front “pulling”

                          Not everyone will agree with me and that’s fine, each person and horse is different for what works for them- and this really, really worked for us, and best of all – my horse is HAPPY with it. BUT if you’re looking for a bit to just flat with and work on his head coming up- its definitely not the right solution, at least not the elevator version. For you guys, time in the saddle is.
                          Posted with my Android smartphone.


                          • Original Poster

                            Sorry for delayed response! This site is a bear with login.. Thanks so much everyone! We do need more time in the saddle and working from moving off leg which he actually responds to! I guess even on the trail I can do some simple transitions and push him forward with my seat and legs. That's where my main concern is... His stumbling on uneven ground... He IS on constant pasture that's very bumpy and uneven and he carries himself fine without a rider. Get up on him and leisure walk... Its stumble stumble. Thanks Rosebudfor your suggestions!


                            • #15
                              I'd ride the him out of him on uneven ground then! Make him work though. No leisurely plodding around. A 6yo is still young, especially if you haven't done much with him yet.
                              My Arab was all kinds of a mess about uneven ground. Trail miles were
                              The only thing that fixed that. Now he's 8 (I got him as a 3yo) and is incredibly sure footed.

                              I'd also take a look at his feet. Track feet are not really conducive to...well, anything. They're not typically trimmed/shod in such a way that allows the horse natural movement. His feet may be making moving on uneven ground difficult.

                              I'd also look at chiro issues. That can also make a horse unable to handle uneven terrain well.

                              I'd work on more forward (not fired up, just forward and paying attention) before I switched bits this early in the game.


                              • #16
                                One other thing...double and triple check your saddle fit. My green OTTB was great in the sand ring but on uneven ground he would stumble, sometimes almost falling down completely. I tried a different saddle on him one day, and stumbling went away.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by batista12 View Post
                                  Sorry for delayed response! This site is a bear with login.. Thanks so much everyone! We do need more time in the saddle and working from moving off leg which he actually responds to! I guess even on the trail I can do some simple transitions and push him forward with my seat and legs. That's where my main concern is... His stumbling on uneven ground... He IS on constant pasture that's very bumpy and uneven and he carries himself fine without a rider. Get up on him and leisure walk... Its stumble stumble. Thanks Rosebudfor your suggestions!
                                  This is a rider/balance issue - what happens when you hop on him bareback in the pasture (use bridle etc)?

                                  Have you had a saddle fitter out? (you can also call out any local reps & try various saddles)

                                  How is his topline? have you asked your dressage coach for an assessment? do you do any work on the lunge line - as a rider? horse only?


                                  • Original Poster

                                    He has had regular Chiro. Feet are great finally. He had long, cracked brittle hooves when I bought him but they've had a year to grow out and I have a knowledgable farrier on TB's that keeps him nice and any extra toe off.

                                    Alto, you're probably right about rider/balance. BC we don't have this issue in an arena setting, I ride more relaxed and fluid with the horse. But.. I don't have an arena at the farm where I board. It's a small family owned place. I have three horses and in the city where I live...Big time farms are $600 plus a month for one horse. Anyway, we have a really big round pen where the sand is too thick on one side and hard on the other where it washes in the rain and a small arena sized pen that's hard ground. When I ride him at home, I'm stiff and tense waiting for the stumble or near fall from him so I can't make myself relax. I probably do need to relax and ride him with more leg and practice some lateral work and do things making him think and pay attention until he learns where his feet are. I did have my new saddle fitted to him but he's recently gained a lot of weight and filled out via the top line, shoulder and hip area. When I bought him, he was at least 250 underweight. My dressage trainer also agrees he's fine but lazy with no work ethic until we get him moving! I have done lunge line work and probably should put him back on side reins to help build his top line more as in muscle.....Great points!