Saturday, April 23, 2011

Made the skyline look like crooked teeth

We had an equine dentist out to work on the boys on Wednesday. Here is Sovey, above, giving me the listening ear on our ride Thursday. Sovereign was a happy boy on our ride - I think mostly in part to his new ability to chew correctly and relax his facial muscles.  

My Sovey is not always a happy camper. I have been using clicker training with him to work on "happy faces" (I call it Ears Up Mother Brodie) when on a lead or getting tacked up, and he is super quick to understand that "trick" but in the pastures, at liberty, he still carries his ears back.  That tells me that something might hurt. I have learned that before you call in massage or chiropractic help, it is important to make sure that a horse has proper jaw alignment. Kate over at A Year With Horses did an exceptional post back in December of last year about how a natural balance equine dentist can assess lateral alignment and front to back movement. Kate's post was well written and informative and I've referred to it many times since. I phoned her dentist, Mike Fragale, and he gave me the name of a natural balance equine dentist, Rick Samuels, whom Mike recommended to visit my horses in Pennsylvania. Rick doesn't have a website, but his email is: 

Kate's post describes how natural balance equine dentistry is different from traditional floating. I do not want to try to restate what she has already said so definitely check it out here to understand the different approach.

I had the boys in their stalls when Rick arrived. They were very calm and continued to munch hay happily when Rick came into the barn. We talked about Sovereign at length and then Rick went around to each horse and introduced himself and he watched and felt their jaw and face and teeth. Rick explained that the upper and lower jaws on a horse are supposed to grind and chew in an oval motion, moving around freely. If the teeth grow enamel on the outside edges that aren't used properly due to previous improper floating, that growth is like little "hooks" that latch the jaws and stop the correct oval-shaped grinding movement. In addition, as the horse puts his head down to graze, the jaws are to move forward freely, but the sharp hooks can prevent that too. Rick said that Sovereign had very little movement laterally and practically none when he put his head down. A horse is supposed to have relaxed muscles while resting with his head dropped. When hooks prevent the jaws from aligning correctly, the horse has to use his muscles (constantly) to hold them in the unnatural position.  This puts strain on the temporomandibular (TMJ) joints and can cause pain and stress down through the neck and back.

Rick is wonderful with the horses and worked gently and quietly and completely won their trust. He will sedate the horse if necessary, but surprisingly, all three of my boys were willing to have Rick work on them without sedation. I would not have believed this if I hadn't seen it. Rick said that Sovereign seemed to be aware of the help that he was offering, and he leaned into Rick allowing him to work easier. Pie had "wild" eyes and Rick was sure he would have to sedate him, but when his turn came, Pie cooperated fully. Poor little Foggy had no lateral movement at all to the one side. He was so good that I was able to get my hands in there and feel the points before and after removal.

I can honestly say that the horses acted unusual (in a good way) after Rick was there. They seemed relieved and shocked and  a little unsure of their new movement.  Rick said that sometimes they will "quid" or ball up hay and grass for a week after because their jaws and muscles need time to get used to the new movement.  My boys started chewing well straightaway. In fact, Sovereign always had a problem taking treats from a flat hand and would inadvertently pinch your hand. Sadly, I think someone in his past punished him for this when he could not help it. As I took him out to the pasture after his dentist work, I palmed him a round carrot chip and he took it like a normal horse. I was so shocked, I kept feeding him more!

I worked for a large animal veterinarian for many years and held countless horse tongues while Doc filed away points with a huge metal rasp. Doc was careful to check with his fingers each tooth, but I don't think the science at the time realized the correct angles of the molars and incisors and how they fit like a puzzle.

This year, when we were in Florida, there was an article in the St. Petersburg Times about a local equine dentist going "high tech". He had a shiny new van equipped with thousands of dollars in power tools to grind and buff and file horse teeth. Unfortunately, power tools can often overfloat a horse's teeth and take away the perfect meeting of upper and lower teeth for necessary grinding.

I am so grateful that I read Kate's post and called Rick. Another testament to these blogs. I am certain my horses are more comfortable now. Foggy is grazing like a lawn mower now and he needs the extra weight!

The rain continues to pour down on us, yesterday and today. I just asked Brian where Noodlebug was and he said, "Up on her throne." Here she is...the princess on her throne, sleeping away the rainy day.


  1. I'm glad MIke was able to find you a good dentist in your area - Mike's coming to see our horses on May 4 and I'm sure I'll report on that - my Pie's not in bad shape (he'd never had any dental work before Mike worked on him last fall) but still has molars coming in, and I wouldn't be surprised if Drifter's got some dental issues, and Dawn always needs some work - she's always got some dental problems usually from using her teeth on solid objects like her stall wall and gates/fences, and we'll also get him to take a good look at her tongue, which I think has some damage from her incident last winter.

    Mike does sedate our horses to work on them - it's nice yours didn't have to be sedated.

  2. Good post. I don't believe in reincarnation, but if I did I would come back as a cat.


  3. Interesting!
    I have missed so much! Fog is home with you now? For good?

  4. Interesting information. Thanks for the links!

  5. Equine dentistry makes such a difference. We have our horses done regularly by a really great guy too. Brett took Flash to a first aid for horses clinic where Flash was a demonstration horse. The vet looked in his mouth to talk about something and said someone had done awesome work on his teeth. Made us feel great!

  6. Ha - I called Mike as well after reading Kate's post, and he got me in touch with a fabulous dentist who came down just last week.

    We had a similar experience with our horses seeming to know how helpful the procedure would be, and requiring minimal sedation. Our dentist mentioned that often the horses think she's lost her mind as she starts work on the incisors (to facilitate the lateral motion), which they've likely never had happen before. It only took a few minutes for Val to get with the program - and he loved Kristin.

    So glad you had a good experience too Juliette, and thanks again to Kate!!

  7. Wow so interesting and often not thought of as how important proper dental work really is!!!
    I'm going to re read Kate's post again too
    Glad the 3 ponyteers didn't have to be sedated and are happily using their loose jaws now :)

  8. Juliette, That is wonderful that you found such a great equine dentist and that he did so well with your three horses. I hope Sovey feels much better with his new, balanced mouth now! I, too, regularly get my horse's teeth looked at and floated. It is a good practice. And what a kitty-throne Noodlebug has LOL!

  9. Oh my goodness! Your cat is the envy of all cats. She looks adored and loved. What a princess! lol!

    Great post. Good to read that your ponies are feeling better now...and no more grouchy faces, too. Yay!

    Apache used to quid and had to drink water while eating when I first bought her. Her previous owner told me Apache had reared on her, too. But she was using a Tom Thumb bit and just used a tie-down instead of trying to figure out what was wrong or have a vet o dentist out to see Apache.

    Then I had my vet/equine dentist over after she came her and he showed me her 2" long hook on the right front and all the waves, hooks, and steps that she was suffering from.
    No wonder she had reared and no wonder she had to drink water to help her properly chew, and why she still quidding with her hay.
    Poor girl.

    It took her a while after her float to realize she could eat properly and didn't need water, but within a few days she finally stopped quidding and didn't need a drink of water for every bite of hay.


  10. Thanks for posting this great info! I think I might contact your dentist to see if he can recommend someone down here. The good thing about living in horse country - tons of options for vets, farriers, tack stores etc. The bad thing - so many horses that many services become "git her done" type of things. I've been mostly happy with my dental work since moving to Orlando, but I like the attention to detail you describe and I'm not sure that Tiny's been receiving that level of attention.

  11. First of all, the throne reminds me so much of the throne Aislinn makes on her bed every morning for her cat Beatrice. :-)

    I did not know there was natural balance floating. I just discovered my natural balance farrier last year, and I LOVE her.

    Our tooth floating person is very gentle, but I would have to ask her about natural balance.

    Glad it all went so beautifully~! :-)

  12. Awesome Jules.
    That certainly sounds like your ponies will feel better..and Foggy may just gain that weight! It's amazing what thoughtfull, correct dentistry can accomplish. Love that you may feed Sovey from your palm now!
    Wa always uses her lips...never her teeth, it's kinda cute.

    We found out in March that Pantz had a broken tooth, when we took her and Wa in. It broke my heart to see how much pain she was in...she's always been a picky, weird eater..but this time, heer weight loss, it was for other reasons! For me, it was testimony for keeping the horses-up to date-on the dentistry. She was floated last Year, and is 2 0.

    Very cool~ that they did not need sedation! Neat find, through Kate!

  13. I'm back for the Dentistry link...after much thought and some reading, I would love to use less sedation for the horses-if possible!
    Thanks for posting this Jules~

    And NOODLEBUG's throne...too cute...I have thought of the picture ever since I viewed it the first time and forgot to comment on how lovely it was!

  14. too yout time that far is 9:30 AM here and my post says 12:29 PM 3 hour diff..may be true!


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