Now there’s a fact I’ll bet few of you knew.
I stopped writing these horse info posts a while ago, when I discovered the huge differences between US and UK terminology and other issues, which involved spending too much time on research.
Then again, I thought I might do a few like this one, that aren’t going to run into major differences.
After all, a horse, is a horse, is a horse. Or at least I hope that’s so 😉
Although horses have the same start in life as we do, with milk teeth, later replaced by adult teeth, unlike us, their adult teeth never stop growing.
That’s essential, because they use them for hours and hours a day, to grind down the hard cellulose of grass (in the wild), which continually wears the teeth down. If those teeth didn’t keep on growing, they’d pretty soon wear them right out!
They use the front incisors in a pinching manner, to nip off the grass stalks, and then transfer the food to the back of the mouth for side-to-side grinding with those big teeth. Just look at the size of those jaw bones, and then imagine the muscles over the top! That’s power, people.
So powerful, they are continually wearing away layers of teeth.
Problems come when, as you can imagine if you look at the way the top teeth overlap the lower set, they don’t wear evenly. Then they end up with sharp edges, which can lacerate the inside of the cheeks. This problem is compounded by the unnatural diets we feed to stabled horses, requiring that we have their teeth regularly ‘rasped’, to remove those sharp edges. If not done, this can result in major behavioural issues when we put a bit inside the mouth and try to ride them – can you imagine the potential for pain?
So here we have the inspiration for today’s blog – this morning’s visit by the equine dentist!
The apparent torture-implement holding Charger’s mouth open, is called a gag, but there’s no force or pain involved – it just keeps his mouth from closing on the dentist’s hand or his rasp. You can also see, no one is holding him (and that’s one big horse, believe me), as this is a routine they really are not fussed by, thank goodness!
We now have a yard full of horses with comfortable mouths 🙂
Do those teeth really never stop growing?
Well, they do have a finite length. Eventually, in very old horses, there is no more tooth to grow down, and in the wild they would probably starve to death. We have, of course, developed soft alternatives that can be gummed instead of chewed, for the senior citizens in our stables, but first, you have to persuade them to eat it!
Was this a new fact for you?