With the lighter evenings and the occasional sunshine most of us are finding a little more time to spend with our youngsters. Noticably the winter coats are falling out and the summer coats coming through . So too are the baby teeth falling out as the permanent teeth push through into the mouth.
I receive many calls from worried owners finding what looks like a broken tooth in the stable/yard, or that the youngster looks like it has just walked in to a wall, teeth first. Don’t panic this is normal. Between the age of 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 the young horse will shed 24 baby teeth, pushed out by permanent teeth.
Six months prior to the young horse shedding baby teeth, hard bony lumps will appear to the undersides of the horses lower jaw. These are commonly known as dental lumps. Again no need to panic as these are permanent teeth (pre-molars) forming in the jaw waiting to push through in to the mouth. If all goes to plan these lumps will disappear 6 months after the shedding process.
These lumps are more noticeable in horses with more defined heads, or in the summer when the coat is smoother. The same thing is also happening in the upper jaw but not usually noticeable to the naked eye.
Pressure from over tight nosebands should be avoided.
The wild horse would probably have an easier time shedding baby teeth having full time access to gorse type bushes to pull on to and of course no bit to contend with.
However the domesticated youngster will often be seen rubbing the side of its face on a stable door or chewing a lead rope.
Many horses today are turned out in purpose designed horse friendly paddocks with access to grass and water only secured by electric fencing which is sometimes frustrating for the teething youngster. Ok so that’s life! We all have to go through the teething process! Unfortunately for the young horse, smack bang in the middle of this process we want to put a bit in the horses mouth so as we can communicate hand to mouth.
If, however, the youngster is feeling discomfort in the mouth then this communication can feel some what fuzzy leading on to what we think are behavioural problems. One of the biggest problems I come across in young horses are root silvers. These are tiny sharp root fragments left stuck in the gum from the shedding of a cap (baby tooth). These very often go unnoticed and are regularly found in adult horses.
I know these root fragments are very painful as I often get a sigh of relief from the horse as I remove them, and the feedback from clients commenting on the change of attitude of the horse.
Inside cheek lacerations are also common in horses of all ages.
Every horse has its own individual character and deals with things in its own way. I meet many horses with horrendous mouths that carry on regardless, yet another horse with a minor problem will throw its toys out the pram.
The male horse tends to have a slightly harder time with the teething process than the filly’s do, having 4 extra teeth known as the canine teeth these are always the last to push through the soft tissue, and can sometimes take up to the age of 6 to fully erupt. Not to be mistaken for wolf teeth (more on wolf teeth another time).
So when is the best time to introduce a bit to the young horse. My personal preference would be at 2 years old because the youngster has a nice set of baby teeth. If the youngster is already familiar with the bit before the shedding process starts at 2 1/2 then hopefully the youngster will not associate this with the bit.
It is always a good time to have an equine dentist look at the young horse before any bridle work begins, even if it is just the experience of meeting the dentist.
BILL LOMAS, EQ,DT – www.horsedentistry.biz