Is Your Horse’s Mouth Ready For Show Season?

Is your horse’s mouth ready for show season?

You spent the winter keeping your horse in shape, the truck oil is changed, the trailer is cleaned and tire pressure checked, the horses all have new shoes…But what about your horses’ teeth? Don’t let a dental issue rear its ugly head in the show ring! As horse owners we quickly suspect dental disease when our horse is losing weight, not eating normally, or dropping feed. However, dental issues can also be implicated in performance problems such as head tossing, reluctance to turn, bend or flex at the poll, and general soreness. This time of year is perfect to combine your spring vaccines with a general wellness exam including a thorough oral evaluation.

The way horses eat has changed through domestication as we have replaced 24 hour grazing with scattered meals of grain and hay. This has also changed the way horses “wear” their teeth. As a result, horses develop sharp enamel points, ramps, and hooks of the teeth that can often cause pain, ulceration, and malocclusion. These sharp angles can make the normally fluid movements of the jaw challenging. Problems with the last few molars at the back of the horse’s mouth are most frequently associated with pain and reluctance to perform many bending and flexing exercises. A thorough oral exam under light sedation allows the veterinarian to visualize and access these important teeth while minimizing stress to the equine patient. With an oral speculum, equine dental mirror, and dental
explorer the veterinarian can individually evaluate each tooth and the surrounding gums to diagnose disease and identify current or potential problem areas. The next step is traditional “teeth floating”, now termed dental equilibration which involves bringing the horses teeth back into normal occlusion while eliminating problem points and hooks. With the use of advanced power dentistry equipment it is possible to precisely and efficiently correct the problem areas while leaving the patient with maximal chewing surface. Advances in power floating tools, coupled with a bright light and an experienced hand, allow access to the most significant problem areas of the mouth in a minimally invasive manner. In more mouths with more pathology, some patients may need more advanced diagnostics or procedures such as radiographs or extractions.

Routine care and management of horses’ mouths can prevent problems down the road including performance issues in the ring! Be sure to schedule an oral exam for your horse at least once a year with Dr. Megan Hays (New Jersey and surrounding areas) or Dr. Emily Olson (Long Island area).

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