Old Injury + Melanoma in Young Horse - Invest in training or what to do?

When my Arabian cross filly was just over a year old (last summer), she sustained an injury to her hind left leg (pastern area). The vet said there was a good chance that she would get an infection and would have to be put down and if she didn’t get an infection, she would have about a 5% chance of not being lame. (Note: I have used this vet for years and trust his judgement. He never encouraged me to put her down.) We decided to rehab my filly and I am so glad that we did. She seems to have made a full recovery! Now on to this summer - she is just over two years old and the vet has found two spots of melanoma on her (one on her chest and one on her ear). Since they are not big and do no seem to be bothering her, he just wants to monitor them and will keep them in check. He said they are common in grey horses, and from what I read, Arabians are also highly susceptible. We are very close to UGA and the vet mentioned they have an experimental vaccine for melanoma, but its $2500 and out of the question. He could eventually cut the spot off her chest, but there’s not much to do about the one on her ear.

Here are my questions: I had planned on sending her off to be started/trained this fall (cost: around $2000) , but is it a good investment to do so? She is not registered and I just bought her to be a trail horse (nothing fancy and I never planned to show her). What options would you be looking at if she were your horse?

  1. I am worried that if melanoma is already present, her lifespan will not be as long and 2) I have a gut feeling that her leg will end up bothering her once she gets started in a training program (she has never limped/favored that leg since it has healed and vet doesn’t think there are any lingering affects - just a feeling I have).

Yes, I would start her under tack and see what you have. It seems pretty possible she will be sound and healthy enough to trail ride for a number of years.

Grey horse melanoma generally starts about or after ten.

As our vet used to say, those horses would probably most die from something else than the melanoma, even if they lived into advances ages.

The two I know that it started when young had a bad outcome, but it may be the place the melanomas started, several under the tail, that became huge and the colt had a poor quality of life from them.
The other one had several on the neck, that caused a constriction in important vessels there and he was found dead one morning.

I would see if the veterinary university that is conducting those vaccine studies may want to add her to their test subjects and maybe that would give her a better chance than waiting to see what happens?

I had a grey pony with melanoma that were mostly internal (the earliest visible ones were under his tail). He lived to be almost 30. You’ll never know about the leg until you try putting her to work if there’s nothing on exam that the vet is worried about.

Thank you for your responses!

Jingles !

I’m guessing she’s homozygous gray, and very grayed out already? That would make more sense with melanoma at this young age.

My guess is also that if she’s started with the melanoma this early, then they might well be the death of her later, as opposed to those who develop them later and usually die of something else.

That said, you could still have 10+ years with her, and if something were to happen and you could no longer keep her, the more training and, starting next year, the more wet saddle blanket hours she has, the better chance she has of finding a good home until…

I would put her into training as well, but I’d be sure that she is with a trainer who will work to get her fit slowly, so as to not stress the leg too quickly.

I am riding a smallish Arab gelding that was injured in his left hind as a foal (across the front of his hock, which apparently went to the joint and also cut a tendon on the leg) and was removed from the mare too young. He was bought by someone who wanted to do right by the poor fellow. He was put under saddle as a 3 year old. W,t,c and some trail miles. Then was turned out as a pasture ornament as she was older and had two other horses already to ride. He is 8 now, and the owner wants him to get back into being ridden. Mainly I think to be sure he has a chance at a home in the future (she is 74).

He started into work in Nov, with some time off due to weather. In Nov, you could tell he didn’t move quite right, but we kept it easy. Walking only in the ring first, then in a sloping pasture. Once he was going better, we added some trot and a few canters. He is now going out on 2 hour trail rides, mostly walking, with some trotting here and there. We will work up to cantering later. There is no rush and we want to be sure he will stay sound.

So just a long story of a young horse injured badly, with thoughts that he might never be riding sound, and he’s doing great as a trail horse.

Jingles for your mare.

I would invest he money in vaccine, and give her another year to continue growing. Horses do not mature until 4-5, and this would also give more time for the damage at the site of her injury to strengthen.

Continue to handle and do ground work.

I ride an 18year old mare whose melanomas first appeared when she was 9. It’s not a date sentence and varies in prognosis a great deal. Most likely the horse will die with it, not from it.

I would be extremely concerned with melanomas with one so young. Yes lots of greys have them and die with them. But the ones that go white young and have melanomas young? My own experience, and the experiences of others, shows that they do not generally have long lives. My pony was pure white at 4, I bought her at 5, at 5.5 she had 7 melanomas under her tail, I put her down due to them when she’d just turned 8.

If I were you, I’d let her grow up more, so she can get more skeletally mature, then see where the melanomas are and decide then whether it will be worth it to spend the money on training. If she’s just still got the two? Maybe you’re okay. If she’s got a whole lot more… my experience would tell me not to bother spending the money on training.