I have an eight-year-old pleasantly plump mare. She’s never had her teeth floated. Should I wait until she starts dropping feed and losing weight, or should I have them tended to before that happens? Her teeth were checked in the spring and I was told that they were not bad but that I should consider getting them done. What’s the right course?
It is best to be proactive with dental care, as dental abnormalities can occur at any age. Keeping in front of tooth problems will ensure your mare does not have to withstand unnecessary discomfort and helps guarantee that she will get the most out of her diet.
Mature horses should have a dental exam and float every year as routine maintenance. A thorough dental examination involves the use of a mouth speculum and can be conducted by a veterinarian or equine dentist. Without the use of the speculum, an apparatus that keeps a horse’s jaws spread open, only one-third of the horse’s teeth are visible.
Because a horse’s teeth continuously erupt, some dental abnormalities occur frequently, including development of sharp points, hooks, and uneven chewing surface. If these go unaddressed, they lead to pain, often evidenced by quidding or dropping feed. Quidding is a behavior in which a horse grasps forage, rolls it around in its mouth, and then spits it out, never swallowing it. Other effects of poor dental care include weight loss and resistance to the bit while being ridden.
Even if your mare is not showing signs of dental problems, it would be best to have her examined. The fact that your mare is able to maintain a pleasantly plump figure may be related more to her breed genetics than her dental health. Your veterinarian or local horse community should be able to recommend a qualified dental caregiver.
Kentucky Equine Research (KER) offers free nutrition consultation services. Begin a conversation with a nutrition advisors today.
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