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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.
Stabled & Grazing Horse's
Pastured grazing horses usually eat for 10-12 hours a day in short sessions lasting 30-180 minutes.
But stabled or confined horses usually eat grain or pelleted feed and they do so rapidly.
Rapid eating will 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 artificial conditions significantly impact the welfare of your horses mouth :
- Limited Grazing when living inside a fenced area
- Eating a restricted diet made up of processed feeds (grain and hay)
- The inability to graze 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 horse's 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 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 off teeth, but bad when a tooth or part of a tooth is not opposed (no opposite grinding tooth).
The unopposed tooth or part of a tooth will continue to erupt, getting taller/longer and causing problems with both 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.
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