The Importance of Equine Dentistry


The whole premise of using a slow feeder, is to return the horse to his natural way of eating. Ihave discussed this at length, in other articles in the Hay Wisdom Section of theHay Wise Feeders website.  In this article, I will address the importance of proper mechanics in the horse’s mouth, for a successful slow feeding experience.  

When the horse has a well balanced mouth, good float work, with correct incisor length, the mandible (lower jaw) is able to slide in all four directions evenly,.  Left to right, right to left, while the horse is chewing.  Then, forward (down), when he lowers his head, and back (up) when he raises it.  

Dental problems can cause an array of issues beyond poor body condition and dropping grain while eating.  They become reactive in the bridle, exhibit ‘phantom’ or non-specific lameness in the hindquarters, back and TMJpain, difficulty traveling in one direction, colic, chronicallywatery stools, and an intractable attitude. 

I have done physical therapy and rehabilitation for animals for more than 25 years, now.  The first thing I check is their mouths, when I do my initial evaluation.  It’s that important.  Once we get the mouth balanced, the rest of the healing process becomes much easier, and we see much more permanent results.  

For the sake of time, I am limiting my discussion to teeth and how they influence the grazing ability of the horse.  

When the head is down, at ground level, the incisors clip the grass, the tongue rotates it back to the molar arcades, where it is ground thoroughly before swallowing.  One of the beautiful things about Hay Wise Feeders, is that this process is not disrupted.  Head and neck positioning is correct, and as the jaw slides forward, the incisors are in the correct position to begin the natural grazing process.  Eating through our grates does not interfere in any way.  

However, if the incisors haven’t had proper care, and are too long, the mechanics between the lips and teeth are not synchronized, and the horse attempts to bite the forage, rather than gather it. 

If the molars have been floated, but with no incisor reduction, the molars don’t meet.  And all that has been accomplished is to remove the available grinding surface!  The result is a frustrated horse, that basically has to roll the hay around into a ‘wad’, (called quitting), get enough saliva involved, to swallow it. These are the ones that chew like dogs, or have hay packed in their cheeks while they roll it. Put your front teeth together.  Your molars don’t meet.  If you had to eat this way, you would have indigestion, andprobably never need to diet! 
If there are high points on the molars, a wave mouth, or hooks that don’t allow the jaw to slide forward, the incisors might not meet, at all.  In this case, they have very little success with slow feeding, unless the openings of the grate (ormetalgrids, grill,etc., in other feeder on the market) are so large that they defeat the purpose of slow feeding all together.  

Think of the mouth as a three legged stool, if all of the legs are even,  molar arcades and the incisors; things work just fine. If one is longer than the others, not so much. 

So, if your horse is struggling to ‘figure out’ slow feeding, or if you are experiencing excessive grate wear, or teeth marks on the grates, grills, grids, etc. — or worse— wear on the horses’ incisor enamel, chances are that it’s not the feeder at all.  It’s your dental work.  

Hay Wise Feeders grates are made from a specially formulated food grade plastic that reduces the possibility of injury to the tooth enamel.  They are the wear item, not the horse’s teeth.  

Another wise reason to choose to use Hay Wise Feeders.