The Development and Care of Horse Teeth … What you need to know about your horses’ teeth and how to care for them.
Firstly, to really appreciate the characteristics of horse teeth we must note that the horse evolved as a grazing animal.
The difference between stabled & grazing horse’s
Pastured grazing horses usually eat for 10-12 hours a day in short sessions that last between 30 and 180 minutes.
The stabled or confined horse will usually be fed grain or hard pelleted feed and the horse will usually eat this rapidly.
Rapid eating will finish the food quickly and then leave your horse bored for long periods of time.
So your modern domesticated horse lives under quite different conditions to those found in the wild and three artificially induced conditions significantly impact the welfare of your horses teeth and mouth :
- Severely limited Grazing when living inside a relatively small fenced area
- Eating a restricted diet with little variety, made up of processed feeds (grain and hay)
- The inability to graze happily for twelve hours or more each and every day
Stabled horses’ eating mainly grain or pelleted diets have less jaw movement while chewing compared to a horse on grass or hay.
Stabled horses’ appear to have more problems with sharp enamel points on the outside of the upper cheek teeth and the inside of the lower cheek teeth.
Stabled horses’ do not have the opportunity to use their incisors for shearing grass and do not wear down their incisors as much as grazing horses.
The way you as a horse owner, manage your horse has a great influence on the development of any dental problems your horse may have; and usually the grazing horse will develop less dental problems than the stabled horse.
This can lead to excessive length of incisors which can then decrease the grinding effectiveness of the cheek teeth.
Over time this can result in failure of you horses incisors to keep pace with the wear in the cheek teeth.
Your horses incisors can become so long that they partially or totally prevent the cheek teeth from touching. This may make it impossible for your horse to chew food properly.
Horse Teeth Development …
A horse’s incisors and cheek teeth continue to erupt until the horse is over 20 years old.
This is good as your horse can replace worn or broken teeth, but bad when a tooth or part of a tooth is not opposed (has no opposite grinding tooth).
An unopposed tooth or part of a tooth will continue to erupt, getting taller or longer and causing problems with both the horse’s eating and performance.
Horse teeth restrictions and imperfections can result from your horses inability to chew or grind food properly and these can include :
Temporo-mandibular pain :
Causing your horse to be difficult or unsteady on the bit.
Snaggletooth or wavy mouth
This can cause uneven chewing pressure and the development of sharp hooks at the fore and aft ends of the cheek tooth batteries.
Hooks can eventually become so long that they gouge your horses gum, creating abscesses and pain which can then cause your horse to stiffen
its neck or cock its head when ridden.
Sharp points on the inner and outer edges of the cheek teeth.
Points cause cheek and tongue abrasions and a tendency to fight the bit.
Failure to properly grind food.
This results in a significant waste of food and can increase the frequency of colic.
Your horse needs to absorb water and nutrients in the gut and a mass of chopped grass and roughage must be present for a horse to do this properly and efficiently. Long unchewed stems will ball up in the gut and this can induce colic.