Bit suggestions for an orally "disabled" horse?

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Bit suggestions for an orally "disabled" horse?

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  • Melanoma horse mouth
  • Bits for horses with melenomas

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    03-14-2011, 08:43 PM
Super Moderator
Bit suggestions for an orally "disabled" horse?

So, as some of you may know, Lacey has melanomas in the corners of her mouth rendering her completely incapable of feeling a bit "talking" to her through the corners of her mouth. Therefore, a snaffle terrifies her since she has absolutely no warning before her tongue is being pinched.

I've been riding her in an "Indian Bosal" (basically, the cheap person's verions of a crossunder bitles bridle) bitless bridle attachment and that's been going great, for me.
However, I also give lessons and the bitless attachment I have isn't so great for direct reining turns. It's great for stopping but to get a great turn with it, while direct reining, it takes some precision that the beginners I'm teaching just don't have.

So, I'm just wondering if anyone can think of a bit that isn't a curb (since these kids don't neck rein yet) that doesn't influence the corners of the mouth and is good for turning? I mean, I guess it can influence the corners of the mouth, but there must be some sort of other warning system too...

I've tried her in a french link and while that worked ok, better than a single jointed snaffle, it still wasn't great. I haven't tried her in any of those bits that are just a straight bar (mullen mouths, I think?)... But is there anything else someone can think of?

Hopefully this is enough info, I'll read over it later and try to add anything I think of...
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    03-14-2011, 08:56 PM
We have a horse here that has severe damage to his tongue from the track (and possibly injury as well) and has little feeling in his tongue. He LOVES a cyprium waterford bc he can feel it and since it's wider it is not severe on him (this is an exception - as a waterford does have a wraparound effect and can be rather severe esp on a more sensitive horse).

This is def an exception but he loves that he can actually feel the bit w/o pinching the scars on his tonge or needing something with more "grab" or "bite" in the mouthpiece.

You can also try a simple short shanked hackamore. They make them for english as well and you can direct rein with them. You can also try a mullen snaffle.

We tried a ton of bits on juan before we found one he actually would salivate and work with and that was the waterford. Good luck!
    03-14-2011, 09:29 PM
Super Moderator
I would try a short shanked hackamore, but she got really head shaky with me when I've tried leverage bits (and head shaking seems to be her signal for "tooooooo much pressure!!!") so I hesitate to try that, especially since the kids are so pressure challenged anyway. Haha
Of course, I am continuously working with them on that and showing them how gentler is better, but I don't want Lacey to suffer while they learn.

I'll look into a waterford! I didn't even consider that... These are little kids too (like ages 6-8 are the ones with the real issues, my older kids seem to have a better handle on the gentle turning thing) so I'd assume they wouldn't really have the strength to make the bit super severe?

I do plan on giving a mullen mouth a a try at some point, so far I haven't really been able to find one that isn't some sort of leverage bit, but I haven't been looking super hard either. I kind of think she might not enjoy it much though just from her reaction to other straight bar bits I've tried, while she as always pretty good (certainly much better than she is in a snaffle) she would get a little gape-y, which makes me think that there was too much pressure without relief across her tongue all at once, you know?

Also, her tongue itself is fine, it's just the corners of her mouth that are sensation-less.

Also, as far as I know, aside from the french link snaffle, the curb bit, and the bitless attachment thingy that I've tried, she's only ever been ridden in a single jointed snaffle.
    03-14-2011, 09:33 PM
My only idea would be either a mullen snaffle or a billy allen or myler type snaffle.

On the other hand, a simple sidepull might work just as well, especially since she is already accustomed to bitless.
    03-14-2011, 09:41 PM
Side Pull Attachment

That's what I have. It's just a sidepull attachment like your Indian Bosal, but you put a curb underneath, so it can be direct reined. Abby has a huge issue with bits and things in and around her mouth. Her previous owner just started riding her in a rope halter after a while. She gave it to me, but it slid around a lot, so I got this. She responds very well to it.
    03-15-2011, 02:04 PM
A sidepull, yes, is a thought, or one of the more sophisticated bitless bridles. Or if she'll tolerated it, a Little S hackamore with a cushioned noseband. But with melanomas in the mouth, is she not about ready for retirement anyway?
    03-15-2011, 02:17 PM
Why should she be retired? Yes, she has melanomas, no differently than 80% of the other gray horses in the world. Lacey is still healthy, happy, and shows no signs of discomfort on a normal day. As long as a horse can be ridden and worked comfortably, then they should be. The earlier a horse is retired, often that make their health go downhill faster than if they are kept in mild/moderate work.
    03-15-2011, 02:19 PM
Super Moderator
Originally Posted by bubba13    
But with melanomas in the mouth, is she not about ready for retirement anyway?
She's 26, but she doesn't believe in retirement. Haha She's one of those "gonna be going strong until she's about a billion years old" types of horses. I've tried slowly easing her out of real work, just to see if that's what she wanted to do, and she basically gets impossible to handle. So, in the interests of being able to handle her without a stud-chain involved, I'm keeping her in work. I really feel like she's going to be working, on her own accord, until the day she drops dead. She really doesn't want to stop!
Her field is currently pretty soggy so I'll go out there and there will be all these fresh muddy skid marks where she's been galloping around jumping things, and bucking, all by herself (she lives with two llamas). That is definitely not the activity of a horse that is close to/needs to be retired, at least imo.

And, most grey horses get melanomas in the mouth at some point, just most horses are very dead broke by that point so their owners have no idea (according to my vet, anyway). However, Lacey was pretty green broke until 3 years ago so she's still about a gazillion years away from being dead broke, and therefore, she still puts up a fuss when things aren't "perfect".

I didn't even think of a sidepull! Silly me! I will definitely look into those and give one a try, I bet they would do the trick.
    03-15-2011, 02:20 PM
I'll admit that I don't know the backstory, but I do know that melanomas on the face/head of grays are particularly malignant and have a very poor prognosis, often proving fatal within one year of diagnosis. This may not be the case here--I don't know. But it certainly seems that if the tumors are interfering with the bit, and lesson children are riding and grating said bit across the growths, that it simply can't be comfortable.
    03-15-2011, 04:04 PM
Super Moderator
Originally Posted by bubba13    
I'll admit that I don't know the backstory, but I do know that melanomas on the face/head of grays are particularly malignant and have a very poor prognosis, often proving fatal within one year of diagnosis. This may not be the case here--I don't know. But it certainly seems that if the tumors are interfering with the bit, and lesson children are riding and grating said bit across the growths, that it simply can't be comfortable.
I really appreciate your concern. :) She's doing fine and she was diagnosed with those tumors over a year ago (and had had them for years before they were diagnosed). I think perhaps you're envisioning real tumor-like tumors? These are basically just a slightly lumpy, hardening of the corners of her mouth. There's nothing protruding into her mouth/out of her mouth. You'd never know she had them unless you felt inside the corners of her mouth.
They aren't actually interfering with the bit themselves, it's just that they've covered over the nerves in the corners of her mouth, so she has no feeling in the corners of her mouth, if that makes sense?

I just posted this to see what my options are, not because I'm actually going to follow each suggestion for a prolonged period "just to see". And, I know my mare very well and I'm not going to put her in anything that makes her uncomfortable at all, ie why I need a different bridle setup for lessons. And, it's not like I'm not going to test out her reaction to every possible scenario myself in any bit/bridle setup I might try, BEFORE I let a child ride in that bit.

Thank you for posting. I often forget how I know what my plan is but everyone on the interwebs cannot necessarily read my mind/or know me well enough to understand that I'm generally smart with how I treat my horse. :)

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