If you’re having any kind of resistance issues with your horse the first thing to do is get your horse’s mouth and teeth checked says Dennis Moreland Tack. Dental care is imperative for top performance as well as the health and comfort of your horse. Horses need routine dental care every 6 months. More frequently if an issue arises. It goes without saying that a horse with pain in its mouth is likely to have resistance issues.
Randy Riedinger, Certified Equine Dentist and owner of Equine Dental Consultants of Weatherford, TX uses horse skulls to show us why the premolars and molars (cheek teeth) need to be floated regularly. He also introduces us to the anatomy of the mouth and explains where a bit works inside the mouth. Follow along on the video to watch this fascinating demonstration.
Horses have what are known as hypsodont teeth. These teeth have very long crowns (the body of the tooth) and short roots. Most of the crown (about 4 inches when a horse is a 4 year old) of each cheek tooth is embedded in the jaw bones. The visible part of a cheek tooth is about ½ inch long.
The cheek teeth erupt slowly (they don’t actually grow) over the horse’s lifetime. They erupt at about the same rate as the visible part of the tooth gets worn down by chewing hay and grass. When a horse gets old there will be almost no tooth left. The small stub may just fall out.
The bottom of the horse’s jaw is narrower than the top. This causes the lower cheek teeth to sit inside the upper cheek teeth. The upper teeth form a ledge over the lower teeth. When a horse chews it moves its bottom jaws from side to side to grind the roughage it’s eating. The grinding helps to cause the insides of the bottom rows of cheek teeth and the outsides of the top rows of cheek teeth to develop sharp edges or points. The sharp edges need to be filed or floated at regular intervals to keep the horse healthy and comfortable. Since the teeth continually erupt the edges will need to be filed approximately every 6 months. If you notice your horse is chewing oddly, dribbling feed, not flexing, fighting the bit or hackamore or throwing its head it’s a good indication its teeth may need to be worked on.
Young horses have baby teeth called caps. The caps are shed when the permanent teeth erupt. This starts to occur when they’re about 2.5 years old. A fairly common dental problem in these younger horses occurs when a cap(s) doesn’t come off as the permanent tooth grows in. It may cause pain and the cap may to be removed. Of course it’s just as important to keep the young horse’s teeth well maintained with regular dentistry as the older horses. Even in a hackamore the young horse may have resistance issues if it has mouth pain.
To get top performance from your horse be sure to have regular dental care performed. This is an important step in maintaining his health so he can give you his best!