Would you buy a horse with melanomas?

This is true. I have been asked for help by horses and not been in a position to intervene. Two of them later died, from long term issues. It still haunts me, I have no idea if that would have been reversible. I knew they were asking for help, though they weren’t in a terrible living situation. These two were both mares. I feel like mares ask me more often.

I can’t explain rationally how I knew they were asking for help. Well, I can describe how they approached me, etc. But it’s more a feeling. They offer to put themselves in your hands.


One of the ways I rate a stable, if it has any Arabians, is if the Arabian comes up to me and “asks” me to save him (so far it has been geldings.)

If I do not save them then the next time I see the horse it is sort of “what good are you” as the horse scowls at me and does not want to have anything to do with me.

But GOOD stables’ Arabian horses just ignore me, they are polite and nice if I get to meet them, but they are not trying to get me to take them AWAY (from stables where they are well fed, the water is cleaned daily and the horse looks like it is bursting with good health.)

When I found my riding lesson stable she had around 6 pure Arabs there, including the marvelous gelding she put me up on. As we were driving home my husband looked at me “Do we have to save him?” and I said no, the gelding was perfectly happy at that stable.

That gelding’s regular rider had gotten her own horse. This Arab gelding did not suffer fools gladly, and if a rider was not prepared to take extra tender care of his mouth that rider was a FOOL!!! (and he would bolt.) But he was perfectly happy living at Debbie’s stable.

I do think he had sent out a request to the Universe for a suitable lesson rider and I showed up. Debbie was going to put me on a 30+ yr. old blind Appy mare, her go to horse for doubtful riders. After talking to me she put me up on the Arab gelding, he was happy, took very good care of me, and I was ecstatic, I had never ridden such a GOOD horse, one of those you get on–“where to, how fast, got it” and the horse gets down to the job willingly.

All he wanted was a rider who would treat his tender mouth with consideration, even in an emergency. The type of horse that if your life depended on getting out of an area, well that horse would get you out of there, just hang on and don’t hurt the horse. So long as my contact was gentle and consistent he forgave me my horrible balance, weakness, lack of a proprioceptive sense, and in-coordination. That gelding took care of me.

Later that gelding decided he wanted to go back to the barn where he was born (he wanted to be Debbie’s personal horse but she was too busy then.) Lo an behold around a year later his breeder had tracked him down to Debbie’s stable and offered to take him back. He got to go HOME.


You know, when I first met her she put her head on my chest and held it there quietly while I stroked her ears. I was so touched, as I’ve never had a new to me horse do this before. Maybe she just knew.

Yesterday she put her head in the halter for me.

Today was a big day for Rani. The large tumor was removed via laser and I got to watch! It’s an open wound but should heal uneventfully. She has a lump on her head that the surgeon says is another melanoma — this is inoperable and we will try the Oncept on it. He wasn’t too concerned with it, but we definitely do not want it to grow any more, so here’s hoping the vaccine will help.

She has a few other lumps — shoulder, neck, and one on her dock that will be removed in the winter.

Had her teeth done too. Massive vampire fang hooks, they couldn’t even file them completely down today, so that will be finished when she comes back in December for the smaller tumors. No ulcers.

No masses felt internally, and as soon as the bum heals up enough we got the clear to start her under saddle. She is staying at the hospital until next week for coggins, vaccines, and keeping an eye on the surgical site. She is in great shape otherwise and everyone was impressed with her attitude.

GRAPHIC pics below, be warned.

Head tumor (behind the hollow):

Bum tumor before:


Teeth, including blurry pic of one of the points:


Thanks for sharing this story, OP. I wish all the best for you and your new mare. I’m an Arab lover, too and also have a grey with melanomas, so this is close to my heart. Keeping you and Rani in my thoughts :heart:


Well done, @ratchet and Rani! :heart:


Jackie_Cochran, that is an incredibly beautiful and eloquent post. And an insightful one.




See, she KNEW you would take care of her and try to fix her problems.

Arabians KNOW people, they actually like most people (except cruel, harsh braggarts), they can have a goal in their minds, and they wait for you to appear.

I was raised to keep silent on horseback. But when I started riding Debbie’s Russian Arab gelding she told me that one thing he did.not.like was people talking while up on his back.

That wouldn’t do for me. My riding teacher was not educated in Forward Seat Theory and I often expounded on what I was doing and why I was doing it this way. My riding teacher was already GOOD but was not familiar with how the Forward Seat system of schooling and riding and schooling Forward Seat is different from modern hunt seat show riding.

So I asked Debbie’s permission, and I started telling the gelding out loud what I was asking for, why I was asking for it in this particular way, what I hoped his response would be, what the ideal response could be, all backed up by theory from Vladimir Littauer’s “Common Sense Horsemanship” and other Forward Seat authors.

This gelding was fascinated. He never misbehaved when I explained SERIOUS stuff to him, he was just sick and tired of inane giggling jabber. Riding theory however, well that was just fascinating to him.

He got to the point that one time as I was describing to Debbie how I was going to use my hand and leg aids to ask the horse to do something new, he did the movement while I was describing the whole deal to her, turn in place, pick up the appropriate hoof and put it down in the right place, and I was holding the reins on the buckle and I had my legs OFF of him on purpose. He did not wait for me to tell him “now Glow, this is what I want.” He just went ahead and did it without any overt aids, and then stood there with a smug look on his pretty face (“hee hee, you thought I did not understand you at all when you speak.”)

Talk to your mare. Tell her what is going to happen. Before you start training her sit down and give her a description of exactly you are going to do and why. Then repeat the explanation WHILE you are giving the aids.

Arabs can learn to understand English. They can learn to understand Equestrian English. Arabian horses are smart (of course some are smarter than others), which means that you can end up with an equine genius who is willing to work WITH you since you explained everything to them.

Just understand that you are HER HUMAN. She “owns” you, not the other way around. She called, you came, good girl.

You are going to have all sorts of fun to make up for all your valid worries. At least I have had lots of fun with Arabians. They can be SPECIAL and they know they are.


I am crossing my fingers and toes that this is all gonna work out. She is a beautiful mare, seems kind and sensible, and I think you will have a truly nice horse after she heals.

If the vet wants to talk to someone about Oncept, have him/her call Dr. Teresa Burns at Ohio State. While Mr Ay-rab was patient #1, she has overseen about 50 (I think) Oncept horses now. She’s a great person and super helpful.


Big hugs to you and Rani and keep us posted!

PS Those teeth were actually more horrifying to me than the melanoma!

PSS: Just for fun, patient #1:


@Jackie_Cochran I’m not familiar with those authors, or Forward Seat theory. I will definitely check them out. I have a tendency to talk to my mount while riding (my coach says it’s not technically allowed during tests, so I try to keep it down haha :wink: ), but I constantly talk to all of our companion creatures regardless. I’m not surprised to hear that your Arab partner was able to demonstrate that he understood you so clearly. Rani was already sedated and being led into surgery when I got there, but I will try to narrate things more with her going forward.

Rani and the circumstances around her, including knowing the friend and trainer who helped me haul her yesterday, are products of a long and interesting set of falling dominos that I can only now recognize in retrospect.

We have three Arabians at home already, all retired now. It wasn’t really by design. I mean, I adore the breed, but they all sorta, showed up when they needed us. And happened to be Arabs. My mom’s mare, the first of our herd, is the only one we went and bought and got the PPE and all of that after seeing her ad, like what normally happens. Even she had an old wither injury sustained as a foal that has limited her, but to be honest we did not realize that until much later while some lameness was investigated.

I think Rani could’ve been any other breed on the planet and I still would’ve done this. But, again, another Arab joins our family. I think you are on to something, though. And after almost 15 years with Arabians (I am a new re-rider due to a lot of circumstances but have considerable experience with horses on the ground), I will say that they are definitely special.

Please keep the conversation going, I love reading your replies!

@oldernewbie so we are on the West Coast and were thinking of asking the small vet school at the university here, or UCLA or UC Davis. The docs at the hospital she is at currently were not incredibly helpful, but did say if we could source the vaccine and equipment and the other side was willing to work with them, it was a go. I will have our doc call Dr. Burns ASAP, thank you a ton for that info!! Heck, I might even reach out to her myself. Maybe she has connections out here.

I love Mr. Ay-rab, what a wonderful looking boy. The fangs were definitely shocking and among the worst the vet had seen. Miraculously her cheeks were ok, save for an old small scar.


I love this. I love that you can do this. I hope she can be beloved member of your family for many years. She looks like a sweetheart, no question there.


I love that you’re able to do this for her. You’re definitely a good person and I hope she’s a member of your family for years to come.


What a great story! I almost believe Arabs can understand what’s going on and what you’re saying. My friend has an Arab gelding and we were at a little eventing camp earlier this year. She had a perfectly awful ride the first day, he was just acting up and being a total butt. When it was quiet in the stable area, I went over and had a little talk with him; that she needed him to be on his best behavior and be a good boy that we know he can be. The next two days he was the perfect gentleman, jumped everything no problem, dressage was stellar and everyone ended on a happy note. Guess he just needed a pep talk. I had another talk with him when she was competing in a recognized HT two weeks later. She came away with 7th and a berth at the Area VII Eventing Championships.


@Spudsmyguy, I love you had these chats with him!


Visited her today — apparently she is not a good patient as far as shots and wound cleaning are concerned, but can you really blame her?

Having some issues sourcing Oncept but am talking to a vet at UC Davis about it, who seems interested in her case and is reviewing some photos of the head mass. Also planning on contacting Dr. Burns!

We sat with her for a while, talking to her and brushing her, and found her supreme itchy spot. She is not a fan of apples but rather likes molasses cookies.

My mom scritching her withers. Rani couldn’t get enough and was practically falling over to keep asking for them.

Wound is in its prime ugly stage. She’s on banamine until Monday.



The wound doesn’t look too bad.

My grey mare had a smaller melanoma removed from her dock…right where the tail meets the butt when she was 2. They stitched it but told me they would pull out…and when they did to hose the wound 2x/day :astonished:. Oh yeah, stick a hose under a 2 yo’s tail! She loved it…it must have felt really good. Once I started that, the wound healed up to a fine scar within 10 days.

She looks like a very sweet mare and lovely to boot. Thank you for giving her a nice place to land.



I hope she does well, she was lucky to have you come along!


While the Oncept sounds like a good bet, here’s something else to consider. (my first attempt at a hyperlink!)
I had my gray TB on this. While it didn’t shrink the melanoma by his parotid gland, a small one near the girth disappeared. He never had the type of melanomas that broke open and oozed.

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@OTTBs interesting. I have been researching possible
supplements and how best to support her immune system holistically. There seem to be “equine” versions of this product, would feeding just the regular Livestock version be much different?

Thank you for the recc!

I thought the Livestock was the one I had, I’ll try to remember to check. (Still have it despite that horse dying in 2013!) When I went to their website, I couldn’t find anything in large containers and I thought they weren’t making them anymore, then I Googled exactly what was on my bucket. (I was going to suggest it on another thread sometime recently, that was why I was looking for it.)

While the melanoma on the bum looked most worrisome, I would really suggest getting the facial one removed ASAP.
I knew a grey horse who had a similar one and the vets didn’t feel it was a big deal, it wasn’t growing. Well, turned out it was cancerous and it ate into the skull. The horse only lived a year or two more before dying of the cancer. Super sad as it was a tweens riding horse and she loved that horse like nothing else.

After that, the ones on the bum, ears, etc never concerned me as much as ones near bone.