A Tooth Matter
When horses have problems with their teeth, especially when horses get older, you’ll find they can’t masticate their food well enough to get the nutrients they need. The first thing we do when we see a horse that is unable to hold their weight or gain weight is check their teeth. Usually it is a tooth matter. Some signs are horses that dunk their hay in the water trough, or you will see some balled up moist hay left on the ground that they weren’t able to chew and digest.
Horses in the wild, when their teeth start going bad and they can’t hold their weight, lives are shortened, especially going into winter. On the range, a 22-24 year old is not that common in more challenging habitats. At the sanctuary we have horses living into their late 20s and 30s. We find with good management we are able to extend the senior’s lives by at least 5-7 years.
On July 31, 2018, Steve Sampson, equine dentist with 50 years of experience working with horses visited Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary to attend to our beloved sanctuary residents. Sampson utilizes the Gnathology Method from Dale Jeffrey, founder of the horse dentistry school, Equine Gnathological Training Institute in Idaho, which emphasizes harmonious simple methods individualized to the horse’s needs.
Sampson says, “In general, horses should have their teeth floated twice a year when they are young because their teeth are soft and they grow fast, which could lead to dental problems. Once a horse is older, their teeth should be floated about once a year. Floating teeth helps to improve the overall quality of life for a horse and allow them to eat better. The main tool used when floating a horse’s teeth is called a float, which is a long and sharp filing tool that is used to file down the sharp edges on a horse’s teeth. Extraction equipment may also be used to remove teeth when necessary.”
Sutter, 33-year-old palomino stallion, had some sharp points on his lower teeth, so filing them off should help him eat better. It is especially difficult to remove the points on older horse’s teeth without loosening them.
Sun, 27-year-old bay gelding, had a lot of hooks and ramps that needed to be filed off. The removal of the hooks and ramps should allow him to grind his food better.
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