Most horse riders have a common yet confusing question: How do we take care of our horse’s teeth? Dental health is often an overlooked part of grooming; however, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t at least have a look at their mouths now and then.
Like people, horses suffer from poor dental health—however, they often don’t show signs of discomfort. “Horses suffer in silence, and for this reason, most dental problems are not recognized by the horse owners,” Dr. Carsten Vogt of Veterinary Clinic Ottersberg says. “The horse will eat even though it has developed sharp enamel edges which cut in the cheeks. It’s the same even with severe problems like apical abscesses.”
A regular culprit of these tooth diseases? The food they eat over long periods of time. Case in point: Giving them a sugar cube. While Dr. Vogt clarifies that there’s no harm in occasionally giving this treat, he emphasizes the need to provide your horse a lot of roughage every day to maintain its gut and dental health.
“The less roughage they get, the faster it takes to develop sharp enamel points which can injure the cheeks,” he points out.
The most common complaints that he encounters with horse owners are shaking or restless heads, reluctance (maybe on one hand), open mouths, blood in the oral cavity, or rearing horses. A good measure to check if they’re experiencing any of these problems is through an easy ride without attaching their bridle.
If you suspect that members of your string are having dental issues or just, in general, want to secure their overall tooth health, he offers some sound advice you can follow. Read on!
1. “Give your horse an annual dental check-up by your vet or specialized horse dentist! Sometimes, it’s necessary to shorten this period (e.g., in younger horses with milk teeth or irregular cases with severe malformations); sometimes, it’s better to extend this period (e.g., in old horses with regular conditions).”
2. “Take it seriously when you recognize signs of discomfort in your horse. As a horse won’t show you its pain, it’s essential to recognize these subtle hints.”
3. “Give a horse the food it needs. Nearly no horse needs hundreds of supplements, but it really needs roughage of good quality every day—cheap, simple and important!”
4. “It’s really important to assess if your horse is well or poorly nourished, which can be an important sign for dental problems.”
5. “Every owner should keep in mind that they have powerful weapons in their hands: the snaffle. Use them carefully. If you recognize abnormal riding behavior in your sport horse, call your vet to check the mouth.”
In the end, there’s just one thing you have to remember: to keep your horses from smiling, remember to take them to the vet for a dental check-up every six to twelve months.
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Mariel Abanes is the Managing Editor of POLO LADY Magazine.
Pámela Piedad is a journalist, author, designer, and the Editor-in-Chief of POLO LADY Magazine.