Ideas for a bit for a horse with lip melanomas?

Hello! Looking to see if there is anyone out there with some experience on this.

My horse has a whole bunch of little melanomas on the inside of his lips; unfortunately, they do seem to be growing.

He is still comfortable with his current bit, which is a simple loose ring single joint snaffle. But he does have one particular bump that at the rate its growing, it will begin to interfere or at least start becoming uncomfortable. Eventually we will have to go bitless, but I’m wondering if there is a bit that might work between now and then?

His snaffle has worked for so long I havent really experimented with much else so not sure what else exists that would work. I know I’ve tried some double jointed ones before but it was so long ago I’d try them again, he was just very busy in the mouth with them.

Where is the suspect melanoma and what part of the bit will it be interfering with?

There are multiple little ones, they are along the inner lips both sides, bottom and top lips. There are none right at the corners of the mouth or where the bit rests, but the biggest one (its about the size of a dime, flat ish) is under the top lip beside where the bit rests. This one worries me the most.

Ok, heres a really bad drawing to sort of get an idea. They are on inside of the lips, not outside. Both sides.

IF you are not looking for a show legal bit I do sort of have a suggestion.

The Pee Wee bit. It has a really, really small iron Mullen mouth shape. It is probably thin enough to avoid the melanomas for a little while.

I have used the Pee Wee bit on two horses with really sensitive mouths and I did not have any problems with contact. I got all three sizes of this bit, I do not ride in it normally right now, but if I ever need it I have it. The horses I ride seemed to consider it a gentle bit on my normal (ie. rather light) contact.

Even when I had to set my hands HARD on one of these horses who was really reluctant to halt one day (was he trying to run-away at a walk?) I did not get any hysterical objections to this bit though the horse gaped a little (I was determined that he would finally HALT, and this bit was the gentles bit I could find to make my point.)

It might be your best choice just because it does not take up much room in the horse’s mouth.

And it might get you an extra few months/years for using a bit while you ride. This horse I just described reacted better to this bit than to the two or three bitless systems I tried on him.

What makes you think they will become uncomfortable?

My 25 yo mare has two, roughly golf ball sized, but not that round, one on each corner of her lips. RIGHT where the bit rests. The bit doesn’t seem to bother the melanomas at all. I can push and poke and pinch the melanomas with no response.

I have been riding her mostly in a bitless bridle, because it bothers ME. But when I put the bit back on, it didn’t bother her at all.

I have found she goes best in a plain mullen mouth bit (used to ride her in a French Link), but I do not think that has anything to do with the melanomas.


I spent a year riding a mare with multiple large melanomas on the insides of her lips & cheeks. She had a slight preference for a double-jointed bit over a single joint, but she was not good in the contact regardless. One day I stuck my hand in her mouth to see if she had sharp points and instead found melanomas. We moved directly to various bitless setups and she was immediately both easier to ride and visibly happier.

Miss Mare was primarily a jumper and usually rocked a short-shanked English hackamore, but she also hacked happily in a halter, and if her bridle was MIA (lesson barn) we could borrow a rope sidepull or a mechanical hackamore out of the western tack room and get the same results. As long as it wasn’t in her mouth, she didn’t care.

You know your guy. When he starts telling you the current setup doesn’t work, you can head toward a narrower bit or a mouthpiece that hangs away from them… Or direct to bitless.

I dont know if/when they would become uncomfortable, but I imagine having a bunch of lumps in the mouth getting possibly irritated by a metal bit might become ouchy.

But every horse is different!

I like being extremely prepared and having a few ideas on what the next steps could be before I need them. Could be never, could be a few years from now. But I guess it will be like finding a nee bit (or bitless system) he likes all over again! Trial and error.

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My mare with with corners of the mouth melanomas cannot tolerate a bit at all, but goes really well in the Dr Cook type bitless bridle. It was hard to steer her at first, so had to learn to steer with more leg and now I love riding bitless. There is no bit to clean, which is nice and no freezing bit in the winter to warm up.
I also picked up a beautiful used Miklem Rambo bridle which I have not tried yet, because I have not had time to figure out how to use either of the bitless accessories. You can also use a bit with it.

Yes my vet likes to check melanomas regularly because if they’re a certain size, it will feel a little weird to the horse. They can remove them pretty easily too, takes around 45 minutes! Then it’s about a week or two depending on the horse before we can go back to normal.
I personally have the vet remove necessary ones because in my specific situation, it changes the bit/bridle fit because this specific horse has a very large head so bridle/bit fit is already extremely difficult haha.