So what's the absolutely mildest bit there is? My mom loves him to death and obviously wouldn't ever jerk on his face on purpose, but she is learning and isn't very balanced, and my main concern about her riding him was the fact that she could potentially hit him in the mouth.
Your horse is a saint, but you ride him in a twisted snaffle, pizza cutter spurs, and carry a dressage whip.
I would just switch him to a eggbut with a french-link. Thick can be nicer, until you reach a point where it's uncomfortable for him. The trainer should keep her from bonking him too hard. And hackamores aren't more gentle.
Since you have him in a full cheek...I'd would use a full cheek or D-ring double jointed snaffle. If he likes thin bits, you don't need to go too fat. And add a neck strap for you mom. Her hands should be in it at all times for a while.
** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **
My coming-back-down-the-ranks mare sounds a bit similar.....well, you don't say whether he's the "dead" type or not, but my mare is. She can lug and lean like no other, but she will pack around the kid and adult I let ride her like no other I have 3 bits of choice for that scenario (beginner-type rider):
1. For a rider with decent balance I have her go in her D-ring, low port Myler (MB43LP). This keeps her nicely balanced but doesn't bother her if the rider bumps her a little bit here or there. (this is actually the bit I showed her in for 90% of her show career, just with a curb chain added at shows).
2. For a rider with "okay" balance, but more prone to balancing off of hands, I'll use my french link D-ring.
3. When I put my 4yo daughter up, I use my 2-ring happy mouth gag bit with a rein only on the snaffle ring. So essentially a loose ring, french link, happy mouth bit. She can bounce around all she wants without bothering my mare, but it would be a poor choice for a rider really wanting to "ride."
I would not use a hackamore as a substitute. I think hackamores are great and have their place, but they carry a fair amount of leverage and I would rather have a rider bump the horse with a soft snaffle bit than in a hackamore. If you wanted to go the bitless route and your horse was well behaved enough for it, I might try a side pull.
__________________________________ Forever exiled in the NW.
Would he go in a 'jumping hackamore'? My old mare loves hers. It's a thick rolled leather noseband that the reins attach to making the bridle a sidepull. It's basically like riding in a halter. She played polo in a gag with draw reins, but will calmly pack a kid around a hunter course bitless.
It's basically impossible to hurt her with that. And she's one to toss people in protest if something is uncomfortable/unfair. She was at a different barn and started rearing and flinging people. Turned out they were putting her in a series of increasingly harsh bits for uneducated hands. I'd throw people too. Moved her, put her in the jumping hackamore and she went back to being the packer saint and quickly became the barn favorite.