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Buy a horse w melanoma? Would you?

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    It is a no for me. But then again, you just never know. A close friend lost her lovely palomino and white mare to a large melanoma that was cutting on her stomach. It had also metastasized to her kidneys and liver, just not as bad. We thought she was having colic episodes since she would have issues when she would eat. We discovered the tumor on necropsy.


      We always had grey horses and many didn't have tumors, some did.
      Some of the tumors were where they didn't do harm.
      When some did, it was heartbreaking, horse was euthanized, not tried keep it going as so many do today.
      Then, their horses, their choices for them, not anyone else's business.

      One gray broodmare at 17 came up from the pasture with a broken shoulder.
      Vet said it was from melanomas in that area affecting the bone.
      She had never shown any obvious melanomas, so you never know.

      With today's melanoma vaccine, where it works, it can give gray horses more years with a good quality of life.
      That may change the answers to the question if to buy a horse with melanomas.


        He is probably fine for now, but by the time he is in his 20’s he may have serious problems. My grey TB is 22 and has recently had more issues which the vet strongly suspects are due to melanomas. If he is wonderful and exactly what you need, buy him, but be prepared to give him a comfortable retirement later on. An older horse with many visible lumps will have absolutely no resale value.
        It's 2020. Do you know where your old horse is?


          I didn’t answer your poll. I don’t know. My current horse (yes, grey) was coming two when I bought her. Guess what I found under her tail that summer...a big flat melanoma. Big enough that over the summer it got all macerated and gooey with black goo from all the tail swishing. I had it removed that fall. It never that spot. I said if I had known it was there, I wouldn’t have bought her. I was present for the vet check and none of us saw it. It was up where the tail joins the body and you didn’t see it unless you cranked her tail clear up over her back. OMG, she is going to be covered by the time she is 10.

          Fast forward to now...she is 18. She has about 8 small ones under tail and a couple baby pea sized ones on her vulva. Those probably started appearing about the time she was 10-12? I haven’t looked into any treatment yet. None are irritated or oozing. The largest one about the size of a small marshmallow and all the others pea sized.

          She is a very nice ride. All I could have hoped for, for what I wanted (ammy dressage rider who wanted a sane, trainable easy to sit horse). There are better treatments now but they are big $$$.

          Now I had a free lease of a grey horse way back when. He had one solitary melanoma about marshmallow size under his tail. He was put down at 29 because of laminitis.

          It is something else for routine surveillance but not necessarily anything that needs action BUT, it might. So I don’t know. I don’t think I would buy another grey horse but if one ticked all the boxes I don’t know if I would pass. So there is my very wishy-washy answer.



            Originally posted by Xanthoria View Post
            Hm, with about 10% of the general horse population being gray, and 80% of those having melanoma at some time, I guess in my 35 years around horses I can't understand why it hasn't been brought to my attention earlier that melanoma is a hard no (well, 79% of current poll respondents say no)

            Perhaps it's like PSSM - once you have had a horse with a case that was unmanageable and career ending, you'll never go near another. But some horses can be managed with it, to a degree?

            Well this certainly warrants more thought, research and discussion with the vet.
            I have a grey with melanomas AND PSSM.

            I would never buy another with PSSM and will test anything with the bloodlines that might carry it. That's a hard no for me from now on. (I did not know my mare had it when I bought her.)

            Melanomas on the tail or around the anus (on a grey) would not phase me unless they are huge in size or number. Melanomas anywhere else on a grey would be a dealbreaker for me. I would never think to ask for a discount for melanomas on a grey--to me that's like asking for a discount on a motorcycle because they are known to be riskier than cars.

            I watched a grey pony suffer through surgeries for melanomas on his eyelids, sheath, and in his guttural pouch. The latter are what killed him.


              Some day, maybe when I win the PowerBall and can fund a huge melanoma study, we'll have more insight into melanoma. If you're trying to make a decision to buy, here are my thoughts: if it's a young horse (like under 8 maybe?) with active melanoma growth, that's a hard no. I believe there is such a thing as early onset melanoma in grays and it is something to be avoided. (Ask me how I know!)

              Smallish melanomas on a 10+ year old horse - probably not an issue, but they have been known to take off and cause problems later on. Guttural pouch, penile, eye, and maybe mouth - hard no.

              Oncept is a huge help and I've found it's given my horse almost 7 years that he might not have had, but it is not a silver bullet. This is especially true considering it only helps about 50% of the horses that receive it. Further proof, in my mind, that there is more than one type of melanoma in grays. Just to complicate things, you won't know until you try it whether your horse is part of the 50% of the population where it works.

              Apparent melanoma in non-grays - I don't think so. I recently fielded a question about what appeared to be an ocular melanoma in a non gray horse that showed up in a PPE - told person to run away. Or ask the owner for an in depth study by a board certified ophthalmologist to confirm exactly what was going on. Considering the price tag for the horse, I think I would have passed in any case.

              I'll let you know when I win the PowerBall! :-)


                Original Poster

                oldernewbie hah - yes the powerball winnings are key!

                This horse is 9, so right in the middle of your range. As far as I can see, one melanoma. Heartening to read people say it's not often what kills them, but I could see management being a pain. If the horse vets otherwise I will probably buy, even tho price is not small.

                ecileh melanoma and PSSM? Come on universe! That's unfair Shockingly I don't intend to test this horse for PSSM despite my past experiences because he's in full work with no symptoms at age 9... hopefully that doesn't come back to bite me in the butt.


                  Short answer, no. In fact, when I horse shop in the future, one of my non-negotiables will be any color but gray, specifically because of the melanoma risk.

                  I get that in most cases they are benign and don't cause significant trouble, but as the owner of a white-faced blue-eyed paint with history of squamous cell carcinomas in both eyes requiring surgery/treatment, careful daily management (sun exposure), and annual checkups at a university vet center, knowingly buying a horse that will likely develop tumors- benign or not- is just not on my list of wants or will deal withs anymore. I love my horse, will own him until he dies, but never again will I buy a horse with a higher than normal cancer risk. JMO.


                    NO. Lost my gray mare to melanomas 2 years after they started growing/spreading. The ones you see externally may be the tip of the iceberg compared to what may be growing inside...


                      Melanoma is common, especially in grey horses, and most of the time don't cause issues. They can be removed but it's futile to remove them for the most part as they come right back. I've been around several who have had them and have never seen an issue with them. Not even the bit OTTB mare that had one on the side of her neck the size of a softball. She could be ridden lightly and was a pleasure to be around.
                      I’d rather ride on a Mustang, than in one.

                      BaileyAnn Neal


                        Grey horse with melanoma, no problem. My now deceased gelding had one on the underside of his tail. It never grew or changed in the decade plus I owned him. Other colors, no


                          It depends. What do you want to do with the horse, how special is it, how old is the horse now?

                          I bought a grey horse at age 26 with melanomas. It hasn't been any particular maintenance issue. I worry about them a little but he's in his 30's now and still pretty happy. We monitor them, and vet just says, keep the fly spray coming, and make sure he's able to pee and poop.

                          In a young horse already showing melanoma I would discuss with my vet and I would be more likely to pass.
                          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                            The poll doesn't say what color the horse is.

                            If it is grey, yes, no problem.

                            Any other color, no way.

                            ETA that I have 2 greys, one with melanomas, one without.
                            Last edited by Janet; Sep. 6, 2020, 06:49 PM.

                            chief feeder and mucker for Music, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now). Spy is gone. April 15, 1982 to Jan 10, 2019.


                              Like other posters have said, hard no if the horse is not a gray. If the horse is gray it goes with the territory.

                              My first horse was gray and had several that required no special management. He lived into his early 30's and was PTS due to non-melanoma-related cancer.
                              My heart horse is my semi-retired oldenburg mare. She's gray and 19yo this year. Not a single melanoma visible anywhere on her body. But, she has one in her eye. It has led to gradual reduction of vision in that eye, however never impacted her performance. She showed at 3'-3'6 for a few years after that diagnosis and she's still jumping around 2'6 occasionally now. Other than being a little more spooky on that side, it doesn't affect her at all.

                              so for the right horse that is sound and suitable in other regards, I'd absolutely buy another gray horse, even if melanomas are present.
                              A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's does that...



                                No. This is one of the reason I don't even look at greys. I have known multiple grey horses (including 1 friend that had 3 in a row) which had premature & sometimes ugly deaths due to melanomas. My view of it is that horses come with enough causes for heartbreak & expensive problems, I am going to avoid the ones which are avoidable. It's hard enough to guess what's going on inside without also having to wonder if there are growths I can't see (I mean, that's always possible, but much more likely with greys).

                                I might feel a little different if I had a lot more money than I do, but the thought of another reason for a vet bill or treatment, nope, that is a risk I can't afford to assume.
                                Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                                Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                                We Are Flying Solo


                                  Hard no for me.
                                  Have had one with bad melanomas and won't go through that again.
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                                    My grey had several melanomas. Unfortunately at age 23 he had a horrendous colic which was believed to have been caused by an internal melanoma. I had purchased him as a weanling. He was probably the best horse I ever owned. Did the hunters with him and then was successful in dressage.

                                    My friend's grey also had several melanomas around his tail. She finally had to put him down at age 33.


                                      Hard no for me and I wouldn't even take the chance of breeding a grey again. Had 1 grey TB I bred, awesome horse, but he had a couple of melanomas, 1 on his neck and a couple under his tail. Lost him to colic at 18. I don't know what caused the colic, the melanomas were a possibility. My friend currently has a grey Welsh/Morgan cross with melanoma that are growing under her tail and she is only 13 or 14, also a homebred.


                                        Not a chance. After a horse with lymphoma, I've had all the cancer I care to deal with. Why would I invite that problem back into my life?

                                        Daryl Kinney lost Union Station, an advanced event horse, to aggressive melanoma.


                                          A lifelong cowboy friend once told me "Grey is not a color in horses, it's a disease."