A trip to the dentist is not usually on people’s lists of favourite things to do, but most people recognise the importance of good dental hygiene, and the same goes for our horses’ teeth – although the dentist tends to come to us.
In all honesty, it’s not always an easy thing to watch, and the full mouth speculum that holds open the horse’s mouth looks like a prop from a Gothic horror show, but trust me; every horse should be seen by a dentist at least once a year to check for any hidden problems. This is especially important in hot countries like Cyprus where lush, green fields are but a dream, not to mention every horse owner’s favourite fantasy.
The main problem for horses here is that on a regular diet of hard feed and hay the horse’s jaw works differently from the circular motion employed while grazing, whereby the outer edges of the top molars and the inner edges of the lower molars make regular contact and wear down the teeth. Therefore, with no self-filing system to protect the soft tissue of the horse’s mouth our equine friends need help to smooth the sharp enamel edges that can lead to ulcerations and considerable pain. Compounding this problem, we then put a bit in our horse’s mouth and expect them to accept it! So, this is where the dentist comes in.
Using the speculum to hold open the jaw, dental overgrowths and sharp edges are rasped either manually or with power tools to smooth sharp edges. Sometimes a sedative will be used – depending on the horse and the dentist – and by and large the treatment is usually over within 30 minutes. And the end result can be priceless.
Last year, we welcomed a new horse to our stables – the beautiful Irish cob Penny. From the offset, this sweet girl showed a natural elegance and power to her movements, but she also had a habit of snatching the reins and throwing her head in the air as she was ridden, which hinted to either bad manners or a health problem that needed addressing. As Penny’s back and overall attitude appeared sound, we called in the dentist and his verdict was that Penny’s teeth “were shocking”. Quite clearly, the poor mare was in pain. Thankfully, it was a pain we could easily fix and in all my years of riding, I have never seen such a dramatic transformation in a horse as when we fixed Penny’s teeth. Almost immediately after dental work, Penny proved herself to be not only a very capable riding horse, but also a much happier mare who really started to enjoy her work.
In other news, it was with a very real sadness that we wished farewell to Pegasus this week. After a month of training, in which this quiet, former racehorse surprised us all with his willingness to learn and listen, his owner has taken the reins. We wish Pegasus every happiness and success in his new home.