Monday, December 8, 2008

Equine Dentistry

I just had my Equine dentist out to work on our horses. We try to have him out once a year, sometimes twice if we have a new horse who needs work done. I especially was concerned this time for a 6 year old Clyde gelding, who I didn't think was gaining weight like he should. Also I had seen him 'quid' his hay a few times, and it seemed he just swallowed food, with minimal chewing. Now part of this was being a draft..I swear they can just inhale food. But add that to the slow weight gain, and I just felt he needed special attention.

As it turns out, I was right. His teeth were in terrible shape, very sharp, and so grown out of alignment he was having a lot of trouble chewing. He must have been in pain, but never showed any sign. Happily accepted the bit, no trouble in any way, just as we would say in the past, 'unthrifty' or a 'hard keeper.'

It really got me thinking. How often in the past, before Equine Dentistry became more mainstream, did I have horses I considered hard keepers, or difficult to bridle, that were actually in pain from dental issues? I can remember paying so much money for massive amounts of feed, trying supplements, oil, etc to get the weight on. Also the multiple training methods and tricks I used to know on how to bridle a difficult horse. Now I have horses on diets, who lower their heads and open their mouths for the bit.

I remember going to a show clinic about some years ago, where an Equine Dentist came to talk about dental care for horses. Not a person at this clinic had ever had their horse done. No one thought they had to. I will say after his talk, and a demo, most of the people there had their horse looked at. He did a booming business, and sent out a lot of dedicated horse people to spread the word. I have had my horses done regularly ever since.

You would think everyone knows now you have to have dental work done every year. It's in all the magazines, literature, etc. But many people don't even see a human dentist regularly, so it's not as much of a given as you would think.

Every horse I have bought in the last few years, has had terrible dental care, so I know the problem still exists. It's just like regular worming. Yes, it costs money now, but saves it in the long run. Every horse I have is on a diet. They just get a bit of low protein feed and their coat supplement, and hay. Yet I still see people riding horses that are thin, who buy alfalfa hay, and expensive grain and supplements, but won't worm regularly or get the dentist out because it's "too expensive." Here is an eye opener: I go through about 1.5 bags of grain a month per horse. That's say $20 a month/$240 a year. Plus I worm every 8 weeks, $4 each/$24 year (shop online and sales, wormer is cheap)and have the dentist out once a year at $70. So per horse I put out $334 per year for feed, outside hay/grass costs). Now some folks near me worm occasionally, and who knows about the dentist, go through a bag of grain a week, plus supplements. Not even counting supplements, that's $52 a month, $624 a year. Almost double the grain costs, because their horse can't chew properly, and probably had a high parasite load.

My Equine Dentist is knowledgeable, certified, and just the best. My horses love him, and even the 18h draft lowered his head so his teeth could be worked on (I know this was his first time). After I turned the draftie out, he stood at the water tub for 15 minutes, running his tongue in and out in the water, and playing with his new smooth teeth. I have watched horses turn their heads so the dentist can get at teeth that need to be worked on.

On the one hand, I do feel guilty for all the horses in the past I swore at for being such 'hard keepers' or 'difficult to bridle.' I didn't know any better then. But there is no excuse now for a horse to have either issue because of tooth pain.

Put it this way, for those who don't think it's necessary. How well would you eat, if every time you chewed, you cut your own cheek or gums? If every bite caused throbbing pain?

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