Feed Digestibility Improved by Dental CorrectionBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · February 14, 2012
A recent study conducted in Germany was designed to find out whether horses digested their feed and hay better after correction of minor dental abnormalities. The nine adult Warmblood horses selected for the study had no obvious dental problems such as difficulty in chewing or dropped food.
On examination, all the horses had mild or moderate enamel points on their molars and premolars. These points usually result from normal wear and are caused by the natural alignment of the equine jaw in which upper and lower teeth do not meet squarely.
The researchers evaluated intake of hay, nutrient digestibility, and fecal particle size for each horse before and after dental correction. Results showed no change in hay intake or fecal particle size, but digestibility of dry matter, energy, and crude fiber increased. The increase in digestibility was greater for concentrates than for forage.
Drawing some conclusions from the study, researchers pointed out that horses turned out on pasture might not show obvious signs of dental problems such as weight loss as quickly as stalled horses that are on a program of concentrated feed and regular exercise. However, dental corrections are made most easily when they are minor, so all mature horses should have their teeth floated (filed to remove points) at least once a year before the problems become severe. Correcting dental abnormalities allow a horse to get the most nutritive value from its grain, helping to keep the horse healthy and possibly saving the owner some money.