Things to Consider Before “Dashing Through the Snow”

riding-in-snow-katie-peeryThis year, nearly all of the country is being hit with some sort of snowfall. Riding in the snow is one of winter’s joys and is a nice change for your horse. However, there are several things to consider. First, how will your horse react to snow?  It’s a different surface for him.  It looks different, it feels different – this can be spooky to some horses. If it’s merely a dusting of snow, this might not be an issue. But once it gets up around his knees, it becomes a whole new experience. Introduce him to it the say you’d do for any new experience.

Depending on where you live – or how long the snow has been around – there are two kinds of snow: soft and fluffy or packed and icy. Just as skiers and snowboarders love the soft, fluffy snow, this “powder” is ideal for riding due to its even smoothness on trails. However, it can take more effort for your horse to push his legs through it.  It’s just as important to give your horse a thorough warmup before riding in snow. This can help prevent sore muscles later.  Know where you are riding as powdery snow can also cover hazards such as large rocks or tree stumps.  The good news? It provides for a softer landing if you and your horse “disconnect.”

Packed snow is what you get when you are following a trail made by someone else – another horse, a skier, a snowmobile.  It takes less energy for your horse to walk through it, but packed snow can also turn icy so be aware of the possibility of your horse slipping. Due to the sun and shade provided by trees or other structures, a trail can have stretches of powder AND patches of ice that can come up unexpectedly.

horse-with-ice-balls-in-hoofThis wetter, icier snow is a prime cause of “ice balls” in your horse’s hoofs.  When your horse walks on snow, the heat of his hoof can warm up the snow while it touching the metal horseshoe can make it freeze again, causing a buildup.  After a while, this turns into an uneven mass that can cause your horse discomfort when walking and even real damage to tendons and joints.  There are several ways to help prevent this problem.  They include letting your horse go barefoot, using hoof boots or adding anti-snowball pads. 

Finally, make sure both you and your horse are dressed for the weather.  If you have snow, the temperature is probably already near or below freezing. And riding outside means no blocks from the wind, making it even colder. Consider a quarter sheet for your horse’s hindquarters to keep those big muscles warm. And dress in layers yourself. 

It looks like a long winter ahead so make the most of it with a fun, safe ride in the snow.

Photo credit:  Hidden Fox Farm

Will The Real Santa Please Stand Up?

Before there was Santa Claus, there were Saint Nicholas and Sinterklaas.  And, before there were reindeer, these holiday gift-givers rode horses.

sleipner-christmas-horsePrior to Christianity, people celebrated a midwinter event called Yule (the Winter Solstice). During this period, supernatural and ghostly occurrences were increased, such the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky. The leader of the wild hunt is usually the god Odin, usually seen with a long white beard. He is also known by the Old Norse names Jólnir, meaning “yule figure” and the name Langbarðr, meaning “long-beard.”  Odin rode his gray “horse” (the eight-footed steed called Sleipnir) on nightly rides and visiting people with gifts.  Years later, Odin’s white beard became part of the new Santa Claus, his blue robe was changed to red, and his eight-footed grey horse became eight reindeer!

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Santa Claus is called “Sinterklaas” and the holiday for giving gifts is December 6th. He traditionally rides the rooftops on a white horse, known by various names.  Sinterklass is an elderly, stately and serious man (unlike our jolly Santa Clause) but does have the traditional white hair and a long, full beard. Also like Santa, he wears a long red cape and a red hat, but holds a long, gold-colored ceremonial shepherd’s staff with a fancy curled top. sinterklass

To keep track of who should receive presents, Sinterklass notes writes on all the children in a book – the start of the legend of Santa’s list of who was naughty or nice. Sinterklass’ was a friend to all, especially the poor.  His solution to helping the poor was by putting money in their shoes – this later evolved with Santa Claus into giving presents.

After going into hiding for a few centuries during the Reformation when public celebrations were banned, Sinterklass returned to ride over roof tops and deliver presents through chimneys to good girls and boys – but now his horse was grey.  Either people realized that whites often turned grey as they age or riding over all those roof tops turned the horse darker, but you’ll either hear Sinterklass has a white or gray horse.  Children leave a carrot, apple and/or hay as a treat for Sinterklaas’ horse.

The first known written account of reindeer in association with the legend of Santa Claus occurred in 1821 by William Gilley.  According to Mr. Gilley, the area where Santa Clause lived was far north near the Arctic.  There a series of animals exist that have hooves and antlers and otherwise resemble reindeer.  These animals are feared and honored.  Mr. Gilley claimed that his mother, an Indian from the area, told him when he was young that these animals could fly.

So to be sure you get what you want for Christmas, make sure you write to Santa Claus AND Saint Nicholas and Sinterklaas – just to cover all the bases.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Classic Equine Equipment!

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Warm Up Your Horse To Prevent Winter Injuries

stretchingfront-prachorsemanWhether you’re a competitive rider or just go out for the occasional trail ride, warming up your horse before riding can help prevent injuries later.  Pre-ride safety can start even before you get on.  If you are working in an arena, check the area for holes that need to be filled or big rocks that can cause your horse to stumble.  When grooming your horse, make sure there are no cuts or loose shoes or other indications that your horse isn’t 100%.  Finally, when tacking up, make sure that your tack doesn’t have any weak areas, such as stirrup leathers or the throatlatch that can break while you’re riding.

Once you’re on your horse, you’re probably like many riders who don’t really have a warm up plan but just amble around the arena.  Or you’re eager to get on the trail and figure you’ll warm up as you go.  But to really make sure your horse is warmed up on both sides, at all gaits and is listening to you, you should take a systematic approach to your warm-up to ensure that your horse is really ready to go.

Warm up gradually and thoroughly, making sure you stretch and supple your horse on both sides.  Check that your horse is listening to you and your aids.  Keeping him moving will help not only help warm him up, but will help keep his focus on you as you start asking more or take off down the trail. With a systematized warm-up, you’ll know when your horse is ready to go, while if you just wander around, you can never be sure.

Start with five minutes of walking and put your horse on a 20m circle.  Always work your horse’s easier side (and they all have one) first.  Make sure he is bending around your leg to make a true circle.  While you are walking, do some stretching of your own and/or check your riding position.  You can change direction through the circle (making a figure 8) to work the other side.  Make sure you do the same sequence at the walk on each side.

Move on to 10 minutes of trotting.  Always start with a posting trot to let your horse’s back warm up as well.  At first, use the whole arena and encourage your horse to trot out down the long side or across the arena.  Later, you can put him on a 20 meter circle and start asking for him to come on the bit.  You can also start adding some canter work once your horse is on the bit, relaxed and listening to you.  Once you are cantering smoothly, work on transitions – canter to trot, trot to walk, walk to canter, etc.  Change rein often to make sure you are working both sides of your horse. 

shoulder-in-prachorsemanFinally, add in some additional bending exercises like leg yields and shoulder in.  This is a great test to see if you and your horse have it all together.  By the end of this warm-up, you should be able to feel your horse moving from behind, that he is relaxed through the back and soft in both reins.

At the end of your ride, don’t forget to cool down your horse as well.  Most of this can be done riding at the walk on a long rein.  But you may also want to add some easy bending exercises like let yielding to stretch out those muscles after a hard workout.  As always, make sure your horse is no longer sweating before you finish your ride.

Like athletes or dancers who stretch both before and after a workout, warming up/cooling down your horse each time you ride is essential to his well being.

Photo credit: Practical Horseman

 

A Few of My Favorite (Winter) Things

horse-and-barn-in-snow_stablemanagementIf you own or manage a barn, over the years you’ve come up against some challenges in doing so in winter.  Me, too.  I’ve put together a list of some of the things I’ve discovered over the years that have made my job a bit easier.

Stall mats – My favorite multi-use tool.  However, in the winter, in addition to keeping your horse off a cold concrete floor, these are great to as anti-slip walkways to the barn.  They are also indispensable for helping to keep mud from forming around barn or stall door openings.  Outdoor water troughs often become churned up and muddy -when the mud freezes, it becomes a landmine for your horse to walk over.  This helps protect him from taking a bad step on frozen mud.

Water heaters – Horses need about 10 gallons of water daily. While the optimal temperature for adequate water consumption is between 45 and 650 F, most times it more of mater of just having water instead of ice!  Heated water buckets can help with that.  Classic Equine has automatic water options for both inside and outside use.  Both come with a heater option.

 For those of you without an automatic water system, there are heated water buckets that work great.  Plug them in and the heated coils in the partitioned bottom of the bucket keep water ice-free.    If your horses use a stock tank for water, a stock tank deicer is another great option to eliminate ice.  While neither may bring the temperature up to “warm,” both are excellent at keeping ice from forming. For those bigger warm water jobs, there are portable hot water heaters. 

white-horse-with-feederAutomatic Feeders – Unpredictable winter weather can sometimes make it difficult to get to the barn at exact times to feed.  And you know what your horses can do to your stall doors if the grain isn’t delivered on time!  If you aren’t able (or don’t want to) get out to the barn to grain your horse, this may be an option. The iFeed system is an automatic grain feeding system that allows you to set up one or several stalls on whatever schedule you want to deliver grain. 

wash-bay-heaterWash Bay Heaters – this went from being a luxury to a necessity when the winters started getting colder and snowier over the last few years.  Great for both clipped and unclipped horses.  If you don’t clip, the heated lights can help dry out your sweaty horse before blanketing.  If you clip, the heated lights can keep your horse warm during the time between grooming and putting on his blanket.  Also great for riders, trainers or spectators who are frozen from too long in the arena.

Auto lights – Let’s face it: even though you know every inch of your barn, there’s still something scary about going into a totally dark barn before you hit the lights.  I like the old-fashioned automatic lights that go on an off at set times and illuminate my way to the horses.  Or you can go high tech with new smart products like Amazon’s Echo.  With Echo, you plug your lights into a special socket and then you program your phone to not only tell it when to turn the lights on or off, but you can check to see if you actually remembered to turn them off.

Good winter clothes – no one knows cold like the people who live in Maine.  There are a lot of good winter apparel companies, some specifically for horse people (though most of them are geared for riding), but by far L.L.Bean has the best assortment of warm weather clothes – from undergarments to hats rain/snow boots.  And they are all guaranteed with easy return.  Wear it all winter.  Didn’t like how it performed?  LL Bean will take it back for an exchange or refund.  For any reason.   During winter months, water should be kept between 45 to 65°F to maximize consumption. 

Please note that, except for Classic Equine Equipment, we don’t promote the listed brands of equipment.  They are only the ones I have used with success.

With Christmas still more than a week away, there’s still time for you to ask Santa for one of these winter helpers. It can help you get the best present of all – more time riding!

Celebrating Veterans – Sgt. Reckless

american-flagWhile Veterans Day traditionally remembers the men and women who served in our Armed Forces, there are some four-legged heroes that deserve recognition as well. One of them was a horse named Reckless. 

A mare born in approximately 1948, Flame (as she was originally known) was out of a Seoul, Korea race horse dam with some Mongolian breeding. In October of 1952, during the Korean War, the United States Marine Corps were in Seoul when Lt. Eric Pederson met a Korean stable boy, Kim Huk, who needed money to buy an artificial leg for his sister. At the same time, the Marines were looking for a way to carry ammunition to the front lines for the 75mm Recoilless Rifle, Anti-Tank Company of the 5th Marines Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Pederson gave the boy $250 of his own money and purchased the horse for the unit. 

She was renamed “Reckless” by the Marines as a combination short-hand name of the Recoilless rifle and the bravery of those who used them. The small chestnut with a blaze and four white socks was closest to her primary trainer Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Latham and to Private First Class Monroe Coleman, her primary caretaker.  The horse was initially kept in a pasture near the encampment.  But Reckless had a gentle disposition and soon developed such a rapport with the troops that she was allowed to freely roam about the camp and entered tents at will, sometimes sleeping inside with the troops, and even lying down next to Latham’s warm tent stove on cold nights.sgt-reckless-live

Like most new recruits, Reckless went through a version of boot camp – or “hoof camp” as it was known for her.  Reckless quickly learned the battle survival skills and, after several trips carrying supplies and ammunition, she learned the route and was able to deliver supplies to the troops without the benefit of a handler.  She was also used to evacuate the wounded. Enemy soldiers could see her as she made her way over dangerous terrain and up the steep mountain trails to the firing sites.  “It’s difficult to describe the elation and the boost in morale that little white-faced mare gave Marines as she outfoxed the enemy bringing vitally needed ammunition up the mountain, “Sgt. Maj. James E. Bobbitt recalled. Bobbitt recalled.

Reckless served in the military for more than nine months. She was the first horse in the Marine Corps to have made an amphibious landing. She was wounded twice in combat and given the rank first of battlefield corporal in 1953, and then a battle field promotion to sergeant in 1954.  Following the war, she was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and was included in her unit’s Presidential Unit Citations.  She received other military honors as well.

Even though she was revered as a war hero, Reckless was favored by the Marines for another reason – her quirky personality. She hated to be ignored or hungry.  She ate any food she could get her lips around – cake, Hershey bars, Coca Cola – and to be sure the Marines got the point, she ate poker chips, blankets and hats as well.

sgt reckless statue camp pendleton.pngShe was retired and brought to the United States after the war.  In 1959 the Commandant of the Marine Corps officially promoted to the rank of   She gave birth to four foals in America and died in May 1968. A plaque and photo were dedicated in her honor at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton stables and a statue of her was dedicated on July 26, 2013 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. A memorial statue, recently created to honor Sergeant Reckless at Camp Pendleton, was dedicated on October 26, 2016.

Packing For Your First Event

horse-show-packing

If you are going to your first event, it’s not easy to figure out what to bring and what you can leave behind. Eventing is like three horse shows in one – different saddles, different bits.  And if it’s held over more than one day, you might need a rain sheet one day and a fly sheet for another.  Just so you don’t think you’re alone in this conundrum, here is my experience with packing for my first event.

Ode to Eventing Show Packing

Bell boots are on, hay nets to fill

Bandages and air vest – in case there’s a spill.

Studs and stud wrench this time aren’t forgotten

Take ice packs, vet wrap and plenty of sheet cotton.

Grab bridles and bits – oops, remember liniment gel!

I need a saddle for jumping and for dressage as well.

Shampoo, mane comb and scissors (don’t run)

Fly spray with high SPF for riding in the sun.

A clean anti-sweat sheet with tack cleaner nearby

And for things that need fixing, duct tape on standby.

Plenty of hoof picks with lead ropes to spare.

Did I forget anything? Oh yes, load my mare…

Thanks goodness the US Eventing Association produced these handy checklists that you can print off to help figure out what you need (and don’t).  Click HERE.

The best thing about Eventing people?  They are always willing to  lend you whatever you forgot to bring.

usea-logo

Horse Tales: Myth and Magic

halloweenhorse1With Halloween just around the corner, we’re sharing some of the tales of magic and horses.  Horses have figured into lore and legend for literally thousands of years – starting somewhere in the 5th or 6th century B.C. with the Greeks.  The Greek Gods “owned” some of the most famous horses.  Probably the best known is Pegasus, the immortal winged white horse. Bellerophone wanted to ride him, but didn’t know how to capture him.   He dreamed of a golden bridle and when he awoke, it was beside him.  He put it on Pegasus while the horse drank from a fountain and successfully rode the winged horse into battle.  But as often happens with Gods, Bellerophon fell out of favor and Pegasus returned to Mt. Olympus alone, where he was welcomed.  He was then given the job of carrying thunderbolts and today is a constellation in the spring sky.

The Greek sun god Helios also had immortal horses and used four to pull his chariot.  Not to be outdone, Poiseidon, the god of the sea, had eight horses to pull his chariot.  Ares, the god of war, had fire-breathing steeds.  And, of course, Zeus, the king of all the gods, not only had 4 horses pulling his chariot, but these horses were actually the four winds as well.

rhiannonWhile the Greek gods used their horses as beasts of burden during their mythical undertakings, the Celts recognized the horse as more of a spiritual being itself.  Epona, the Celtic goddess of fertility, is the protector of horses, mules and donkeys.  She is also the goddess of horse breeding.  She is most often pictured riding a white horse. Her horses also were used to guide souls of the deceased and provide safe passage to the afterlife.

Horses, especially white horses, figure in many other religions as well.  In Hindu, a white horse is believed to be the last incarnation of Vishnu. As a Native American symbol, the Horse combines the grounded power of the earth with the whispers of wisdom found in the spirit winds.  In most religions, the horse symbolizes power, grace, beauty, nobility, strength and freedom.

Horses also have their place in magic and superstitions.  Perfect to share on Halloween, here are some:

  • The tail of a horse was plaited with ribbons to keep it safe from witches.
  • In most of Europe protective horseshoes are placed in a downward facing position, but in some parts of Ireland and Britain people believe that the shoes must be turned upward or “the luck will run out.” A horseshoe found along the side of a road was particularly powerful, and was known to provide protection against disease.
  • The “Nail Test” is supposed to predict what sex foal a mare is carrying. You take a hair from the mare’s tail, and tie a nail to it. Then you hold it above the mare’s hips… and if it doesn’t swing, she’s not pregnant. If it swings in a circle, she’s carrying a filly; if it swings straight, a colt.
  • Horses standing with their backs to a hedge mean it’s going to rain.
  • If you break a mirror the misfortune can be averted if you lead a horse through the house. Same applies if you spill salt in the kitchen.
  • Gray horses and horses with four white feet are considered unlucky in racing.
  • A horse’s tail, if placed in water, will turn into a snake.
  • Copper pennies in a tank will prevent moody behavior in mares.
  • It was once thought that whooping-cough could be cured by going to the stables and inhaling the breath of a horse.
  • The deeper a horse dips his nostrils while drinking, the better sire he will be.
  • It was thought that warts could be cured by circling them in horse hair.
  • Horses disturbed and restless in the morning and with their manes and tails tangled and twisted are supposed, according to old English legend, to have been ridden in the night by the pixies.pixie-and-horse

 

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Feeding Your Horse With Less Hay

 

hay-balesThe most basic of feeds for your horse (forage) is sometimes the hardest to find available.  Recent high temperatures and little rain, sometimes followed by too much rain, play havoc with farmers and their crops.  These crops especially include corn, oats and, most importantly, hay.  When a tough growing season hits, horse owners can expect hay prices to rise and continue rising over the next year.  Hay may also become scarce and of lower quality.

Forage hay and pasture is necessary to provide fiber to help keep the horse’s gut health intact. Forage should represent 1.5% to 2% of a horse’s bodyweight in roughage.  If hay becomes scarce, a fiber alternative such as beet pulp can be used.  Bridgett McIntosh, PhD, assistant professor and horse extension specialist at the University of Tennessee, says beet pulp is widely available and nutritious. “The nutrient content of beet pulp is similar to good quality forage and one pound of beet pulp has the same amount of calories as one pound of oats.”

McIntosh also feels that soybean hulls are another option. A soybean processing by-product, soybean hull pellets have a similar nutrient composition as good quality hay and can be used to replace up to 75% of hay in a horse’s diet.  She goes on to caution that any changes to your horse’s diet should be made gradually.forage-cubes

Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, associate professor in the Rutgers University Department of Animal Sciences, suggests that horse owners also consider hay-based cubes as an alternate source of forage.

To ensure that your horse is receiving all his daily nutrients that he may have normally obtained from hay or pasture, Carey Williams, PhD, extension specialist in equine management at Rutgers University recommends adding a grain supplement with concentrated levels of protein, vitamins, and minerals.  Some “complete feeds” are meant to be fed WITH forage so be sure to check the labels and find one that is a “stand alone” product.

Remember, too, this winter that horses, especially older horses who may not move around as much, use the digestion of hay to help them keep warm.  You may want to consider blanketing this winter if forage is in short supply.

In addition, if you keep your horses on pasture, be sure to use good pasture management practices.  Routine mowing and harrowing of the pastures to keep pastures nutritious and parasite free are important.  Using rotational grazing (moving horses from pasture to pasture when the grass gets overgrazed) will also keep your pastures healthy.  Remember to set up a sacrifice area this winter to keep horses from trampling your pasture when it is wet.  Hoofs can do a lot of damage to wet ground and next spring you may end up with more weeds than pasture.

Finally, if you find that the quality of hay in your area isn’t what your horse is used to, you may want to consider having your veterinarian do a dental exam and possible teeth floating on your horse.  If you end up having to feed your horse more “stemmy” hay, your horse may have difficulty chewing and digesting it and this can lead to colic.hay-storage

If you find a good supply of hay in your area and have room to store it, it’s not too early to start stockpiling hay for winter feeding.  One of the best ways to avoid worrying about having enough hay is to plan ahead.

 

The Pre-Purchase Exam

AHC Time To RideYour eyes meet across the barn aisle.  Your heart beats a little faster. “There’s the one I’ve been looking for, “ you think.  And, suddenly, you’re in love. But before you ride off happily together into the sunset, consider a pre-purchase exam.

One of the best investments you can make BEFORE buying a horse is to have a pre-purchase exam done by a veterinarian* of your choice. While it’s tempting to forgo the cost of another vet visit, it is in your best interest to have the checkup done by a vet that you know and trust.  It is insurance for you, the buyer, that you are protected and are getting exactly the horse you were promised.

Talk with your vet before the exam about how you plan to use your new horse.  A pre-purchase exam for a broodmare may be a bit different than one for a Grand Prix show jumper.  At the exam, the vet will want the horse to be presented right out of the stall, if possible.  Ideally, the horse will not have been recently shod.  A horse that is warmed up before the vet comes may have lameness issues that won’t be seen.  Lameness issues can also be attributed to the new shoes.

temple-vet-clinic-prepurchase-examThe vet will go over the basics of the horse – check the temperature, respiration and pulse, look at the eyes, teeth, ears, nose and many, many more places, including those specific to mares, stallions and geldings.  .The vet will also do a flexion test for soundness on all four limbs and will check hoofs with hoof testers.  She will want to see the horse move at liberty, best done by free lunging the horse, in both directions.  Afterwards, the vet may want to reexamine the horse’s vital signs or flexion.  If there are any questions, the vet may ask the owner’s permission to draw blood or take x-rays.  While some buyers routinely have x-rays done, it may not be necessary and can help keep the pre-purchase exam costs down.  Again, communicating with your vet about how you plan to use the horse is essential.

It is best if you can be present during the pre-purchase exam.   The vet will give you her findings as she goes and you can ask questions or request further investigation.  You will also be provided with a written report.  .Remember that no horse is perfect.  Any limitations noted, whether large of small, are to help the buyer find the horse most suitable for the job intended.  Remember, too, that the vet is looking at the horse as he is right now.  She can’t see into the future and cannot foretell how a particular horse will perform in years to come.  Vets don’t give horses a “pass/fail” determination, but will provide you with all the information, good and bad, about the horse’s physical condition so you can make an informed decision

The videos below offer an overview on the pre-purchase exam.

PrePurchase exam (part 1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhBI1gx1sVw

Pre-purchase exam (part 2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuHJTndLdew

*while we know there are many fabulous male veterinarians out there, for purposes of this article we are referring to veterinarians as “she.”

Photo credit:

American Horse Clinic

Templeton Vet Clinic

Your Horse’s Mouth

horse teeth slohorsenews.netWhen 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, whilst 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,dr johnson dental 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.