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Why our horses' teeth need checking for green living safety and health

Green living safety equine dentist annual checkup
Brigadeiro having her annual teeth checkup for our green living safety and her health

Did you know that horses’ teeth also require regular annual check-ups? Our own horses were a little overdue this year and Equine Dentist Roann, had six patients today.

It is always a pleasure to watch an excellent equine dentist at work. As you can imagine, a horse doesn’t take too kindly to having a mouth speculum fitted, or someone rasping its teeth. Horses are large animals so dentists need to be firm yet fair, calmly moving with the horse as it changes position; somewhat like watching Strictly Come Dancing!

Green living safety equine dentist working
Dance of the dentist as Enigma shakes her head or moves away

Horses chew from side to side in a circular motion, grinding their food. Their upper jaw is wider than the lower one, causing the outside edges of the top teeth and the inside edges of the lower teeth to wear down differently. Sharp enamel points develop which can make it difficult for horses to chew their food correctly.

This is especially noticeable when a horse "quids" the food, which means that food, particularly roughage, is rolled into balls rather than being properly masticated. These food balls fall out of the horse's mouth onto the ground (known as quidding), or feed drops out the side of the mouth, resulting in weight loss.

Some dental issues are easy to identify on your horse. Look for signs of discomfort, weight loss, quidding and indents or swelling of the jaw.

A regular dental checkup includes checking for sharp edges and filing them down, which is called “floating”. More serious issues need sedation and require the vet and the equine dentist to work simultaneously. This practice incurs additional costs as any professional travelling to the farm requires compensation for travel expenses.

Check out the slides below for images showing the fitted mouth speculum and other equipment used during the process.

Riding issues caused by issues with teeth could include rearing, refusal to work, and head tossing. Particularly when riding in a remote location, simple living naturally must include careful consideration of our safety and making sure our riding horses' teeth are checked annually is essential. Youngsters' teeth should be checked before they get backed so they don't associate sore teeth with the bit.

I have a personal relationship with horses’ teeth, having been bitten on the arm a few years ago; but that’s a story for another day. Getting injured somewhere in the veld, and then getting to the hospital isn't as easy as getting hurt in town.

There is a full skeleton of a horse called Silhouette on the farm, which the dogs and I like visiting from time to time. The gallery below shows the jaw and teeth.

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Lee-Ann Gradwell
Lee-Ann Gradwell

Love the information and the humour in articles

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