...Or maybe you should? Not sure where that saying came from, but I have always thought it was odd.
I have been training barrel horses for 20 years, and have ridden horses for just about all of my life. During this time, I have seen and experienced many different kinds of problems because of a horse’s teeth.
Horses have 24 molars and 12 incisors in each jaw. Their teeth are unique in that they grow throughout their entire life and require regular attention. I believe the teeth of a horse were designed for constant grazing on sparse vegetation. In a natural state, this would wear them down. In a domestic situation, a horse eats much better food and his teeth are not constantly being worn down. If a horse does not get the proper care, the owner or rider will begin having health and/or training problems with his or her horse.
When a horse comes to our ranch, one of the first places I check is the horse’s mouth. I look to see if the horse has any sharp points on his teeth, wolf teeth or caps. If the horse has sharp points on his teeth, he needs to have them floated. This consists of usually a veterinarian or equine dentist running a float blade over the horse’s teeth to make them level. A horse needs his teeth looked at by a professional at least once a year.
Next, I check for wolf teeth. Wolf teeth are the small, extra teeth that emerge in front of the molars. Wolf teeth have very short roots and very sensitive nerves. If a horse is being trained or ridden with a bit in his mouth, the bit is continuously hitting those teeth. Over a period of time, his mouth will become very sore. I have had horses sent to me because the owner was having problems with their horse being stiff in one direction, shaking his head, etc., all due to wolf teeth. Our feelings are that wolf teeth should be removed on all horses that have them.
The last thing that I make sure of is that the horse does not have any caps. Caps are found only on young horses, and horses usually lose them on their own, like children lose “baby teeth.” There have been several times where one will not fall off and needs help.
If your horse starts having problems losing weight, shaking his head or any refusal to cooperate when a bit is in his mouth, first check his teeth. Also, to ensure proper chewing and good digestion, level teeth are important so the grinding process is perfectly efficient.
And don’t ever think that riding your horse without a bit in his mouth is the solution. Or that she or he is not being ridden, so why worry about teeth? The horse still has to eat. And a hackamore still presses on the sides of the horse’s cheeks. This runs the soft tissue right into his or her teeth. So please have your horse’s teeth looked at by someone qualified to do so.
Until next month, God Bless and enjoy the ride.