Horse Teeth

By Patty Wilber

I get the horse’s teeth checked every year in the spring.

The young horses are losing teeth and the old horses have hooks and ramps, and every once in while there is some other odd thing that needs attention.

Horses have teeth that grow throughout their lives.  This works because they are grazers and their jaws move in a back and forth motion to grind their grassy diet.  The grinding wears down their teeth. But, since the teeth continue to grow, they are not reduced to nubs.

If the teeth do not articulate perfectly, all surfaces do not wear down evenly and hooks and ramps result where the ever-growing tooth is not ground off. This can cause problems with the bit, laceration of the cheeks, and poor utilization of feed.

Penny, Mojo and Cometa and LT all had some hooks and ramps.

Cometa has a wave, too (see  picture above) and as he is 20, one of his molars is “smooth” meaning it is actually smooth, and also about out of growth.

Indy has “big” wolf teeth, which are tiny teeth in front of the first premolar.  That is labelled in the picture above, but I can’t quite figure out how the hook got in front of the wolf tooth in that drawing.  In any case, on the advice of my vet, I did not have those pulled, as I have done in all my other horses, because they should not interfere with the bit and will likely fall out eventually on their own.

Andy had some retained baby teeth, which made his grinding surface very uneven.  He also was fussy with the bit, possibly, in part, because he couldn’t shut his mouth properly (and partly because he is just learning what the bit is for, anyway).  He will need a follow-up exam in six months.

Andy’s uneven teeth!

Here is how you get horse teeth photos!

In order to even out the teeth, a grinding tool is used, and the horses are sedated.

Dr. Stacie at work grinding. Andy is sedated, and handling it fine.

Rinsing to cool the teeth because too much heat can kill them.

Sedated horses are kind of silly…

Andy: my tongue won’t stay in my mouth!

my legs don’t work either!

Mojo: the rail is holding me up…

Indy: uhhhh…


About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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