As with humans, a healthy horse begins with a healthy mouth. Why do we need an equine dentist?
Soon after birth, a horse's teeth start and unlike our teeth they continue to grow all through the life of the horse as they are worn down, which means that there can be dental problems at any age. Horses are of course vegetarians and as they eat vegetation, the surface of the teeth is worn away with the grinding of their food. Problems arise when the edges of the teeth become sharp from not being worn off if the teeth do not meet perfectly or if a tooth is damaged or lost, the opposite tooth continues to grow and has no other tooth to wear it down. The aim of equine dentistry is to allow free movement of both jaws to create a grinding action.
Indications that a horse is having dental problems include head tossing, turning the head sideways when chewing, feed being dropped while chewing leading to weight loss, resisting the bit or fighting bit placement, reluctance to work or move in one direction, mouthing the bit excessively, excessive salivation, bad breath, nasal discharge, grain undigested in manure and in extreme cases, colic.
This was why when our new horse came to join the Cabalgatas Canoa team, we knew straight away that we needed to make a call to the horse dentist. Poor Zingal was having a lot of trouble with his mouth and dropped a great deal of food. He also had bad breath and was losing weight. The vet found that Zingal had a fractured molar which had to be removed and very uneven biting surfaces on his teeth as you can see on the photo. This was preventing him from grinding his teeth together unless he twisted his jaw somewhat. Following a mild sedative and an hours worth of filing and tooth extraction, he was a much healthier boy. He needs to put on the weight that he lost due to his dental problems and then he will be joining us on our beach rides.