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Our horses no longer eat the way nature intended

22 Feb 2013


Many people may be surprised that it is common for horses to have problems with their teeth. 

This was the key message from a talk by equine dental technician, Jess Bradshaw, to an audience of horse owners and enthusiasts attending an event organised by the Lancashire committee of The British Horse Society.

The BHS event was held at Guy’s Thatched Hamlet near Garstang and many attended, including a number in the audience from nearby Myerscough College.

When a horse is unable to chew due to pain and discomfort from poor teeth, the suffering may not be noticeable or can show in unexpected ways. A badly behaved horse or a horse with tightness and discomfort in the body may be due to poor teeth. Yearly dental checks are vital and at all other times horse owners must be vigilant.

If dental problems are left untreated there is a serious risk to the horse’s health, with an increased chance of conditions such as choke and, worse still, the painful abdominal condition of equine colic.

Horses have up to 44 teeth and the talk gave a fascinating insight into the common disorders such as sharp edges from horses grinding side to side, hooks, steps and ridges. Poor teeth can be due to breeding, an issue typically not thought about by horse owners when cross breeding. 

The talk also covered the benefits of extraction of wolf teeth, which with evolution no longer have a function, yet removal is the subject of much debate.

Dental treatment for horses now involves the use of modern equipment, which is more precise and has developed far beyond the manual rasps of the past. The talk encouraged all horse owners to use professionally qualified equine dentists, such as equine dental technicians who are members of the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) and who have passed the government approved exam of the British Equine Veterinary Association.

There are not many fully qualified equine dental technicians in the UK. The supply of these experts is a concern going forward because of the recent withdrawal of the UK’s only higher education programme.

There are other routes to qualification through apprenticeships and training overseas, as well as veterinary surgeons who can perform dental procedures. 

Shelly Mee, Chairman of BHS Lancashire, said: “Given the number of horses now used in this country, both professionally and for pleasure, the future supply of qualified equine dental technicians has to be a real concern for all those that care about the welfare of horses.”

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