Store Horse Feed Properly

horse eating grainWe all know how sensitive equine digestive systems are. It’s important that we only put quality feed into our horses, and that all begins with how we store the feed once it enters our barns. Take a look at these tips for storing horse feed to make sure that you’re doing things right when it comes to storing horse feed!

Create Heavy-Duty Rodent-Proof Bins

Rodents are naturally attracted to your feed room, so it’s important to take measures to protect your feed from them. Create heavy-duty rodent-proof feed bins which securely close to keep the feed protected from rodents, bugs, moisture, and dust. Metal or heavy-duty plastic trash cans with securely closing lids can work, though you may need a larger type of bin if you have a large barn.

Clearly Label Everything

Next, make sure that everything in your feed room is clearly labeled. From different types of feeds to supplements, knowing what is in each container and which horse receives it is important to equine safety.

Keep Supplements Tightly Closed

If you’re working with supplement buckets and tubs, make sure that each container is tightly closed after each use! It’s a good idea to store supplements up on a shelf or in a cupboard to help deter rodents.

Store Unopened Feed Bags on Pallets

When you are storing unopened feed bags, always store them up on a pallet. Feed bags should never sit on the ground, where they are at risk of absorbing too much moisture and may be exposed to grain mites.

Rotate the Feed

Whenever you receive a delivery of horse feed, make sure that you rotate the feed out with any remaining bags that you’re storing. Remove the older bags, store the newer bags on the bottom of the pile, and replace the older bags so that they are used soonest. This method helps to avoid storing expired feed or having feed go bad while in your care.

Check Expiration Dates

Always check the expiration date on any bag of feed that you are opening. Expired feed may be moldy, which can put a horse’s health at risk.

In addition to checking the expiration dates on the feed bags themselves, you should visually inspect the feed in the feed bins. It’s important to make sure that the barn lighting in your feed room is bright enough so that you can easily see into the feed bins and supplement containers. Good light allows you to spot moldy or spoiled feed and to dispose of it before it’s ever fed to horses.

When you make an effort to store feed properly, you are helping to ensure your horse’s safety while also ensuring that the feed you buy doesn’t expire or go bad while in your possession.

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Avoiding the Sun this Summer

horse with sun umbrellaWith summer now officially here, you know it makes good sense for you to be careful in the sun with adequate coverage and sunscreen. But it’s also important to check your horse for signs of sunburn and learn how to avoid problems.

Sunburn occurs from too much exposure to the sun without proper covering or protection. It can be caused by a side effect to some drugs, like tetracycline, that cause photosensitivity. Light-colored horses and horses with white markings can get quite badly sunburned without proper care. This occurs especially on the muzzle and around the eyes. Dark-coated, dark-skinned horses usually are not as prone to sunburn, but can experience a certain amount of bleaching of their coat. The most common is that a black coat suddenly turns red.

Since it’s always easier to prevent something than to treat it, here are some suggestions to safeguard your horse against sunburn.

  • Covering your horse with a fly sheet not only protect against flies, but also from the harmful rays of the sun.  The fly sheet has tiny holes that allow air to circulate so he doesn’t get too warm.
  • Use a fly mask, especially one that covers both his ears and all the way down to the tip of the muzzle.  Many horses have white blazes and snips – anywhere the coat is white with a pinkish tint showing is susceptible to burning.
  • Use a sun screen product on your horse.  While it is best to use sunscreen products especially made for horses, it is also possible to use sunscreen for humans on your horse.  To be safe, use the ones designed for sensitive skin.
  • Apply sunscreen ½ hour before going in the run and reapply any sun screen products every two hours to maintain its strength.  There are some colored sunscreens that will help you see if the product needs to be reapplied.  For example, if your horse has been grazing on wet grass, the sunscreen on his nose can easily be washed away.
  • You can also use fly spray that contains sunscreen to prevent sunburn as well as control pests.
  • Use shampoos and conditioners with sun screen as well.
  • Limit your horse’s time in the sun, especially 12-3pm when the sun is typically strongest. 
  • Offer shade for your horse to get out of the sun, e.g. trees, a run in shed, etc. 
  • If you’re going on a trail ride, select a shady route.
  • Turn out your horse at night and keep him out of the sun during the day.

Remember that sun burn can occur even on cloudy days so take the same precautions even when the sun isn’t shining.  If your horse does become sunburned, protect it from further sun exposure and try to keep the area as clean to prevent infection.  You can use sunburn relief products like aloe to help reduce pain and keep the skin moist to avoid peeling.  Antiseptic ointments also work to protect and help heal.  If blisters or some other skin condition develops, it’s best to check with your vet to make sure there’s not some other problem at work.

Watching out for harmful sun rays is important for both you and your horse!

Photo credit: Tuesday's Horse

 

Easy Ways To Keep Your Horse Cool During Summer Rides

evening or morning riding CLEARSPANSummer is the best time to own a horse, but we have been getting some real scorchers these last few years.  Here are some tips on keeping your horse cool this summer.

  • Ride early in the morning or in the evening.  It is usually hottest from about 1pm – 5pm so before or after is better, even if it means changing your regular ride time.
  • Ride under cover when possible.  If you must ride in the heat of the day, ride in the covered arena.  Without the sun beating down on you and your horse, you are apt to keep several degrees cooler.  However, if it’s before or after the heat, you may find a nice breeze if you ride out-of-doors.
  • Consider “cool places” to ride – on a shady trail or on the beach.
  • Dark colored horses – like dark-colored clothes – will absorb more of the sun’s rays and be hotter.  So be extra vigilant with dark skin animals.
  • On the other hand, light-colored horses or horses with any white markings are more susceptible to sunburn.  Make sure you put a light coat of sunscreen on the tip of your horse’s ears, on his nose and any other white spots exposed to the sun.
  • Look for high-tech fabrics in saddle pads.  Many pads are textured or made of fabrics designed to keep your horse cool under the saddle.  Remember that dark colors absorb heat, so think white saddle pads.  Or, if you feel comfortable, ride bareback.
  • Keep your workouts short.  Do just enough to keep your horse in shape and his mind sharp. 
  • Even though it’s hot out, it’s still important to warm your horse up before tackling any serious riding.  Walks on a loose rein with transitions or changes of direction are usually enough.
  • Of course, you must cool your horse down after riding.  Because it’s hot out, don’t expect to get your horse down to no sweating.  Just give muscles time to relax.  If you can get off and hand walk him, so much the better.
  • Periodically offer short water breaks while cooling him off. Hold off on the deep drink until after he’s relatively cool.
  • A post workout shower is always appreciated but, again, wait until he’s pretty well cooled off.  Your initial inclination may be to turn on the cold water, but warm going gradually to cool is less of a shock to his system.  Though it may be warm at shower time, it may get cool later in the evening so consider if your horse will need a light cooler if he’s still wet.
  • Finally, know the symptoms for heat exhaustion of your horse and how to treat it.  Left untreated, it can lead to the more severe heat stroke.

Follow these tips and have a great summer!

too-hot-to-ride.jpg

Photo credits: Equestrians Rock, ClearSpan

Decoding Military Horse Statues

horse statueHorses have faithfully served our country through countless battles, becoming an integral part of America’s military history. Top leaders are often depicted in statues, and they’re frequently mounted on horses. It’s long been said that military horse statues follow a certain “code” – but is it true?

The Military Statue Code

According to legend, and some ill-informed tourism guides, you can tell how the rider depicted in a statue died according to how many of his mount’s hooves are in the air. According to this code, if a horse has one hooves raised, the rider was wounded in a battle. A horse with two hooves raised means that the rider died in battle. If a horse has all four hooves on the ground, then the rider survived all of the battles.

It is possible that the code originated with the military horse statues in Gettysburg depicting the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, since most of those statues do hold true to the code. It is also possible that the code is the result of a hypothesis run wild – after noticing the consistencies amongst the statues in Gettysburg, word of the supposed code may have spread.

The Truth Behind the Code

So does the code hold true? Not exactly. While Gettysburg statues largely adhere to the code, other statues don’t follow the code at all. That the military horse statue code was invented and followed by sculptors is doubtful, given the number of statues, both modern and historical, that don’t follow the code.

In Washington D.C., America’s hub of history, many statues stray from the code. The statue of General Andrew Jackson, located in Lafayette Park of Washington D.C., was created in 1853. Jackson is depicted on a horse with both front legs raised, which, according to the code, should signify that Jackson died in battle. In fact, Jackson did not die in battle – he later died of tuberculosis.

One has to consider the physical limitations and practicality of adhering to the code, too. Sculpting knowledge and talent has certainly advanced, so sculpting a rider on a rearing horse would be no problem today. But 19th century sculptors faced different limitations and had different resources available to them, so sculpting a rearing horse would have presented far more of a challenge.

The code, while a romantic idea, can’t be relied upon. However, that doesn’t reduce the huge influence that horses have had on the military. After all, top military figures are depicted on top of a horse – the ultimate sign of nobility, honor, and power.

If you are taking a vacation this year to any of America’s historical sites, chances are you’ll see a horse statue.  Now you can be the “statue expert.”

Prepare For Fireworks on the 4th

4th of july pic NETPOSSEThe 4th of July holiday is a wonderful opportunity to remember all that is great about America.  Across the country, we celebrate it with parades, speeches, picnics – and fireworks.  Some horses are literally “bombproof” around loud noises, but others can become stressed.  Here are some ideas on how to help your horse cope.

A SAFE PLACE

Inside or outside?  This is a decision only you can make about your horse.  Many feel that horses are safest and most comfortable in the safety of an enclosed 12 x 12 stall.  Others feel that since horses are “flight animals”, keeping them enclosed is scary and prefer to turn their horses out.  Whichever you choose, make sure that the area is safe of all hazards – loose nails, broken fences, holes, etc. 

FRIENDS AND FOOD

If your horse is sensitive to noise, you may want to stable them or turn them out with a calm friend.  Finding an extra special food treat during fireworks can also help keep their mind off the noise.  If you horse usually gets local hay, try a flake or two of yummy alfalfa.  Put hay in a hay bag or slow feeder so that it takes longer for them to eat. Add an empty milk jug with a section cut out and horse cookies inside.  Your horse will soon be more interested in bumping the jug to get the cookies out than any bright flashes.

NOISE

While the bright lights of fireworks are scary, it’s the loud “booms” that frighten horses most.  Many people keep a radio turned on during the explosions.  Choose a station that can help drown out the sound.  Another option is a white noise machine or even a white noise CD.  These usually consist of ocean sounds or other repetitive sounds.  It’s been found that dogs actually respond more to “pink noise” (yes there are colors of noise) so find out what works best for your horse.  Finally, there are ear plugs you can buy for your horse that dampen the noise.

SEDATION

There are many ways you can de-stress your horse.  You can try something holistic like aromatherapy or pheromones.  Some over-the-counter non-drug calming paste can work for those mildly stressed.  But for those truly terrified, talk to your vet about sedation.  There are different drugs for different levels of relaxation.  These may be in paste form or administered intramuscularly.  Make sure you have what you need and administer it BEFORE the excitement begin.

RETURN TO SENDER

Most horse owners agree that horses in stalls should not have halters left on.  But leaving a breakaway halter on that has your name and emergency contact on it can help someone catch your horse and return him to you in case he escapes the stable.  Or braid your emergency information into your horse’s mane or write your phone number on his hoof.

Finally, if you can’t be at the barn during the 4th, be sure that someone you trust and who has horse experience is there until after the fireworks are over and can let you know if there’ a problem with you horse.

Photo credit: Netposse

Barn Necessities: A Wash Bay

wash bayAn indoor wash bay is a necessity for any well-planned barn.  They are typically the same size as a stall.  They can be used for many other tasks as well – grooming, tacking up, shoeing and vet visits. 

One of the main things you’ll need for your wash bay is access to water.  While cold water is often sufficient, installing a tankless water heater for instant hot water will make your barn a big favorite with anyone who boards there.  There is nothing that says that a wash bay must be inside the barn.  In fact, in places with mild winters, most bathing is done in outside wash racks.  But whether you are indoors or outdoors, there are still some things you must consider.  If you are the handy do-it-yourselfer, much of the construction and plumbing can be done by you.  But it’s best to have a building contractor look at your plans first – once you get started, it’s much more difficult to correct any mistakes.

When creating the overall design for your barn, think ahead of time where you want to put your wash bays.  Since a quick rinse is often done on hot summer days after riding, the bay might be positioned near the tack room.  Or to help it dry out more quickly, you may want to put the bay at either ends of the stable.  One place NOT to put a wash bay is somewhere that is either too high traffic or too isolated.  When bathing your horse, you are basically tying him into a 12 x 12 dark, wet area and that can be intimidating for some areas.  Good lighting, which we’ll discuss later, is very important.

Once you’ve identified the space, now it’s time to make it as water resistant as possible.  Using metal or water resistant wood or wood-like paneling will help keep the area dry between baths.  Other options are concrete blocks painted with a waterproof sealant or some sort of fiberglass panel.

A non-slip floor with a drain is an absolute necessity.  If you are making a wash rack outdoors, this can easily be done by putting several layers of crushed gravel down and allow the water to simply seep down through the layers and away.  However, for an indoor wash bay, there are more options.  While mats and concrete are the two most often used, both have their down sides.  Concrete is hard on a horse’s legs and can become slippery when wet.  Scoring the concrete with grooves will make it less slippery and direct the water more easily to the drain.  Stall mats in wash bays should be removed periodically and both the mats and the floor underneath be allowed to dry after cleaning with a disinfectant to eliminate mold or mildew and remove any mud or manure that may have collected there. Another option is to use rubber pavers in the wash bay

When putting in the flooring, make sure that the bay slopes to help keep your horse from standing in water.  A general rule of thumb is one inch of slope for every six feet of stall.  There are several places to install your drain.  One of the most common is right in the middle of the wash bay.  But some horses can be spooky and not want to step on that “thing” in the middle of the floor.  Be sure you add a removable trap for cleaning.  Another option is to put the drains near the back of the bay and use a removable grate.

Lights and radiant-heaters are great additions to your wash bay.  Infrared heaters can be added to help take the chill off a wet horse in cool conditions. While heaters work best when installed directly over where the horse will be standing, lights should be installed on either side of the stall ceiling or on the side walls to prevent shadows that could spook a horse. Add shelves or cabinets for common grooming supplies like brushes and shampoo and/or medical supplies.  Look for cabinets made of plastic or metal – wood or laminate can fall apart too easily.

Hoses are a necessary part of any bath, but are often the most aggravating part of the process.  Some people coil them up after use; others leave them strewn around so your horse has to step over them to get into the bay.  The best solution is an “over-the-top washer.”  The wash unit keeps the hose above the animal’s head and off the floor, making it easy to move quietly and quickly through the bathing process.

Check out our web site for more wash bay ideas and accessories.

Fire – Part 2: Evacuation Action Plan

Thorse evacuation voiceofthehorsehis is Part 2 of our two-part week on barn fires.  Tuesday offered suggestions on how to lower your risk for a barn fire.  But sometimes no matter how careful you are, a fire may develop in your area.  What do you do now to prepare?
Have an evacuation plan. Don’t THINK about having a plan – HAVE A PLAN! And implement it as soon as law enforcement issues a RECOMMENDED evacuation for your area.  Do NOT wait until evacuation is required – by then it can be too late and you can get caught in the fire yourself.  Leaving early can also help avoid road congestion, making it easier for emergency vehicles to get in and out.
In your emergency plan, be sure to answer all these questions. And then make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what.  This is critical.
? Who will do what, where will horses go, what about hay and feed, how will you i.d. your horses later?
? How will you monitor the situation – TV, radio, social media? Who is most likely to have the most up to date information? Social media is great, but they may not have all the information such as road closures, evacuation centers, etc.
                                                                                    
? Who is responsible for relaying the information to horse owners or others associated with your barn? How will you communicate this?                    
 
? Will owners be required to come in and take care of their own horses or will the barn manager take responsibility as the lead on decisions.
 
? What are the options for evacuation? A barn fire may just necessitate moving horses to a faraway pasture. Larger disasters may mean moving several miles away. Is everyone going together? Who decides who goes where?
 
? Who has trailers, how many horses can each haul, how is most likely to be able to get to the barn quickly, can others haul someone’s trailer if the owner is not available?
 
? Will you take feed and supplies for all horses or are owners responsible for getting their own feed. What about medications
 
? Will someone be responsible for taking tack, water/feed buckets, etc?
 
? Do you have an emergency supply of halters and lead ropes stored somewhere for easy access. Even if you normally keep your horse’s halter close by, in all the chaos of evacuation you may find your halter/lead missing.
                                                                                                                                                             
If your horse isn’t routinely trailered, practice, practice, and practice so that he loads easily and quickly. A fire isn’t the time to learn your horse isn’t a good loader.
 
Look at the tough decisions. What will you do if you can’t take your horses? It may be better to put on a break-away halter with your i.d. and turn them loose. They will do their best to survive. Don’t tie them up or leave them in a stall and hope someone will come and rescue them.
 
There are several ways you can keep your horse i.d. to be returned to you. I use an engraveable dog tag from the pet store – many are now engraveable on both sides. I put all my contact information and attach it to my horse’s halter. Or write your phone number in indelible ink or paint on your horse’s hooves. Or, write your contact information and seal in a waterproof bag. Braid or tie it into your horse’s mane.
Once all your horses are out, if there is still time and you can safely do so, doing these tasks can help keep the fire from spreading throughout your barn:
  • Close all windows and doors around your home to prevent sparks from blowing inside.
  • Close all doors within the house to slow fire spread inside the house.
  • Turn on the lights in all rooms of your house, on the porch, and in the yard. Your home will be more visible through the smoke or darkness.
  • Move furniture away from windows and sliding glass doors to avoid ignition from the radiant heat of the fire.
HAVE A PLAN ~ EVACUATE WHEN RECOMMENDED (DON’T WAIT UNTIL MANDATORY)

Fire – Part 1: Prevention For Your Barn

horse sacrifice area HorsesForCleanWaterA few months ago, we asked our readers what topics they’d be most interest in learning more about in our “Barn Bits” enewsletter and our blog. The overwhelming leading concern for horse owners was – fire.  Every year, thousands of acres of land are burned and hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed. However, every once in awhile a miracle happens – a lone house remains standing, untouched, while the area around it is completely destroyed. Here are some tips on how you can help better the odds that your barn becomes one of the survivors.

Look at building material options
While we all love the look of wood barns, but if you live in a high fire danger area, you may want to consider a non-wood barn. They come in the same variety of styles as traditional wood barns, but are made out of steel or out of masonry material, such as brick, concrete block, poured cement, and stone. At the very least, consider a metal roof on your barn. Many wildfires start from flying embers landing on roofs and a metal roof can help minimize this. The interior barn stalls can also be made with fire-resistant materials such as mesh or steel. Use steel, woven wire or electric fencing rather than wood for paddocks, turnout areas and arenas. A few months ago, we asked our readers what topics they’d be most interest in learning more about in our “Barn Bits” enewsletter and our blog. The overwhelming leading concern for horse owners was – fire.  Every year, thousands of acres of land are burned and hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed. However, every once in awhile a miracle happens – a lone house remains standing, untouched, while the area around it is completely destroyed. Here are some tips on how you can help better the odds that your barn becomes one of the survivors.

Create a defensible space with fire resistant landscaping.
Establish a “defensible space” of at least 50 feet around your barn. This is the area where potential fire-spreading fuel has been modified, reduced or cleared to create a barrier and slow the spread of fire. It also is a space where firefighters can battle the fire safely and efficiently.

Remove wooden picnic tables or patio  furniture, dead/dry leaves, plants, grass and weeds and any dead branches.

Replace vegetation with fire resistant plants – NOTE: FIRE RESISTANT DOES NOT MEAN FIREPROOF! Fire resistant plants do not readily ignite from a flame. While the plant can be damaged or killed by fire, they do not significantly contribute to a fire’s intensity. Some fire resistant plants, shrubs and trees include: yarrow, coreopsis, coneflower, lavender, salvia, Russian sage, dwarf burning bush, roses (rosa species), Ponderosa pine, and alder, redbud and flowering dogwood trees. Most of these are not only fire resistant, but also drought tolerant and animal safe.

If you are considering using wood mulch around your landscaping, consider using less flammable types of mulch, such as gravel or decorative rock or a combination of wood mulch and decorative rock (surround islands of bark mulch around plants by larger areas of gravel or rocks).

Remember the basics of fire prevention:
No smoking EVER on the premises.
Keep hay and shavings storage as far away from the barn as possible.
Have electrical wiring regularly checked.
Have several fire extinguishers located throughout the barn and make sure all staff and boarders know how to use them.
Have a fire evacuation plan – if there’s a wildfire, just putting the horses in a paddock away from the barn won’t work. Line up people with trailers who can move the horses to a safe area.
Have the number for the fire department (and other emergency numbers) located right next to the phone.
While most emergency departments have technology that can get them to your farm, consider writing out the address and directions from the closest fire station and tacking them next to the phone. May horse owners have forgotten their own phone numbers when calling in an emergency to their vet.
BE PREPARED AND BE SAFE!

 

 

Packing For Your Child’s Riding Camp

kids riding camp Forrestel Riding CampYou’ve decided on the perfect summer riding camp for your child, and the camp has sent you a list of suggested items to pack. Great! But, before you start squeezing items into duffle bags, go over the list yourself to see what you have, need and should take.  While some camps are wonderfully thorough in the packing lists they provide, others might miss some essential supplies that your young rider will really need to have.

Riding Equipment

Regardless of what is on the camp’s list, you should send your child with a helmet, boots, riding clothes, and riding gloves. It’s generally best to send along a lightweight, well-ventilated helmet for your child to use during the hot summer months. If your child wears tall boots, be sure to send along a pair of paddock boots for use when doing barn chores.

If your child will be participating in horse shows during the camp, find out what types of outfits are required ahead of time. Some camps take a more casual approach, allowing riders to show in breeches, tall boots, and polo shirts. Other camps may participate in more competitive shows and require the traditional show outfit. Be sure that your child has the necessary helmet that he or she will need. You’ll also want to send your daughter with any hair accessories that she needs for shows.

Sunscreen

Always send your child to camp with sunscreen. Look for a sunscreen with a high SPF rating – your child will be spending many hours in the saddle and might not have frequent chances to reapply. You might want to send your child with sunscreen in stick form – it’s easier to apply and less messy when your child is at the barn.

Rain Gear

Include a rain jacket (breathable and waterproof is best) for those inevitable rainy or windy days.

Bug Spray

Bug spray is another necessity that your camper will need. Bugs are all too common at camps and barns; your child will be grateful for the spray.

Water Bottle

Pack a good-sized water bottle for your child to bring along to the barn to have on hand during lessons. An insulated bottle is best, keeping the water cool even in the heat. Make sure that the top is designed so your child can open it with his or her teeth while wearing gloves.

The Horse

If your child will be bringing his or her own horse with them to camp, your packing list will more than double in length. When packing for the horse, you will want to send along all of the horse’s feed, supplies, and equipment.

Horse Treats

Regardless of whether your child brings their own horse to camp or not, send along a package of horse treats. Your child will appreciate being able to reward the horses at camp.

Paperwork

Be sure you have signed all the appropriate paperwork for insurance and medical information.  Including a riders medical armband or bracelet affords extra important information in case of an accident.

Your child will definitely need these essentials when attending a summer horse camp – be sure to add them to your packing list.

Photo credit: Forrestel Riding Camp

Inside Your Horse’s Mouth

dentistvisitWhen someone says, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” they are talking about the custom of telling a horse’s age by looking at his teeth.  It is possible to estimate the age of a young horse by observing the pattern of teeth in the mouth, based on which teeth have erupted.  A horse’s incisors, premolars, and molars, once fully developed, continue to erupt as the grinding surface is worn down through chewing. A young adult horse’s teeth are typically 4.5–5 inches long, but the majority of the crown remaining below the gum line in the dental socket. The rest of the tooth slowly emerges from the jaw, erupting about 1/8″ each year, as the horse ages. When the animal reaches old age, the crowns of the teeth are very short and the teeth are often lost altogether.  Differences between breeds and individual horses, however, can make precise dating impossible. 

Horses are both heterodontous and diphyodontous, which means that they have teeth in more than one shape (there are up to five shapes of tooth in a horse’s mouth), and have two successive sets of teeth, the deciduous (“baby teeth”) and permanent sets.  By the time a horse is fully developed, usually at around five years of age, it will have between 36 and 44 teeth – mares have 40 permanent teeth and males have 42 permanent teeth.  The difference is that males have 2 canine teeth that the female does not have.

All horses have twelve incisors at the front of the mouth, used primarily for cutting food, most often grass, while grazing. They are also used as part of a horse’s attack or defense against predators, or as part of establishing social hierarchy within the herd.  Behind the front incisors is the interdental space, where no teeth grow from the gums. This is where the bit is placed when horses are ridden.  Behind the interdental space, all horses also have twelve premolars and twelve molars, also known as cheek teeth or jaw teeth. These teeth chew food bitten off by incisors, prior to swallowing.

Equine teeth are designed to wear against the tooth above or below as the horse chews, thus preventing excess growth. The upper jaw is wider than the lower one. In some cases, sharp edges can occur on the outside of the upper molars and the inside of the lower molars, as they are unopposed by an opposite grinding surface. These sharp edges can reduce chewing efficiency of the teeth, interfere with jaw motion, and in extreme cases can cut the tongue or cheek, making eating and riding painful.

In the wild, a horse’s food supply allowed their teeth to wear evenly.  But with domesticated horses grazing on lush, soft forage and a large number being fed grain or other concentrated feed, natural wear may be reduced.  Equine dentistry can be undertaken by a vet or by a trained specialist such as an equine dental technician, or in some cases is performed by lay persons, including owners or trainers.  Regular checks by a professional are normally recommended every six months or at least annually. 

Many horses require floating (or rasping) of teeth once every 12 months, although this, too, is variable and dependent on the individual horse. The first four or five years of a horse’s life are when the most growth-related changes occur and hence frequent checkups may prevent problems from developing. Equine teeth get harder as the horse gets older and may not have rapid changes during the prime adult years of life, but as horses become aged, particularly from the late teens on, additional changes in incisor angle and other molar growth patterns often necessitate frequent care. Once a horse is in its late 20s or early 30s, molar loss becomes a concern. Floating involves a veterinarian wearing down the surface of the teeth, usually to remove sharp points or to balance out the mouth. 

Problems with dentition for horses in work can result in poor performance or behavioral issues.  However, good dental care can not only eliminate these problems, but can help your horse lead a longer, healthier life.