I have a kid interested in doing 4H with my old mare. I'm good with this except the mare isn't terribly interested in wearing a bit these days.
Background: Mare was bred in Argentina and shipped here for polo. She played high goal polo up and down the east coast until she decided to become a runaway. Then she got donated to a university's polo program where she did lessons and played arena polo for several years until the club broke up and the horses got sold off. She went to a h/j lesson facility where she ultimately started throwing people and wound up on Craigslist. Mare always had a rearing problem if people yanked on her face too much. They were trying to "slow her down" (she does NOT and never will move like a traditional hunter). I saw her, recognized her and grabbed her. She's a great mare and was the favorite horse of a friend of mine who died in a car accident before she got sold from the club. She's been at a friend's barn giving jumping lessons to kids for the last 6mo. She loves to jump and seems to love the kids.
The problem? She's been going bitless with the kids in a "jumping hackamore". Its a wide rolled leather noseband that basically makes an English bridle a sidepull. The kids can balance on it and she really doesn't care. Its the perfect solution for what she does these days.
There is one kid who isn't handsy and can stay out of her face that the mare absolutely adores. She is NOT a cuddly mare and she follows this kid around like a puppy. The girl desperately wants to show her 4H. However, she will need to wear a shanked bit for this. Mare isn't a big fan of bits because, at some point in time her tongue was nearly severed in half (not sure how/when), but will tolerate them if someone stays out of her face.
So, my question is, what would stay off the deep scar in her tongue? Or at least be reasonably soft on it? She will tolerate-ish a French link snaffle. I'm getting her a rubber mullen snaffle to see if she likes that better than the French link for the English stuff. However, I'm not incredibly familiar with western bits. What should I try?
You can get western bits with a mullen mouth to give good clearance to the tongue. Keep the shanks short. If the kid has really good hands, the horse might like a correction bit. They are jointed on each side of the port and where the mouth attaches to the shank. When they're not being pulled on, the horse can hold the bit in exactly the shape it prefers, but in rough hands they're pretty nasty, as a hard pull results in a nutcracker effect on the bars and the port going into the palate.
You could always (if it's worth it to you) get the mouthpiece that the mare tolerates best and a short shanked western bit and have someone who can do metal work replace the mouthpiece.
Western bits do come with a completely arced mouthpiece, which would keep pressure off tongue by putting it on the bars.
Would 4-H allow a 'hardship' and allow the jumping hackamore for English and a bosal for western? Maybe if you could get pictures of the mare's tongue?