Taking good care of a horse or pony's teeth from an early age will help to keep it in the best of health.
As a horse's teeth continue to grow throughout its life regular examination and dental checkups are essential to check that the teeth are growing and wearing evenly
Teeth which become rough or develop hooks make eating feed difficult for a horse. It may drop large amounts of feed as it eats (this is known as quidding).
Uneven or sharp teeth can also cause problems when the horse is ridden making it uncomfortable in the mouth and unwilling to happily accept the bit.
A horse or pony that it happy in its mouth will be healthier, better to ride and do better in competitions.
A horse's teeth can be checked by your vet or an equine dentist or dental technician.
Until the horse is four years old the teeth should be examined twice a year to make sure that the milk teethare not getting in the way of the permanent teeth.
After the age of four the horse's teeth should be examined once or twice a year for sharp edges and hooks and to check the the teeth are wearing evenly.
If a horse's teeth wear more on one side than the other it can end up with a "crooked smile"
To examine a horse or pony's molar teeth, it is easier to use a gag as the horse has sufficient power to damage a finger should the grip on the tongue be lost.
Care must be taken not to get the horse alarmed or excited.
Sharp edges on both the top and bottom molars of a hores or pony need to be rasped off with a long-handled tooth rasp.
Most horses do not mind this operation, which can be done by an experienced operator or horse dentist instead of the vet, provided that the correct equipment is available, that reasonable care is taken and that the operator makes sure that the desired result is achieved.
If the horse does become nervous and difficult to handle while its teeth are being rasped it may need to be sedated by a vet.
Rasping is usually a two-person job. But a sympathetic horse dentist may gain the confidence and trust of a nervous horse or pony and be able to do this by himself.
The horse, in a head collar, is backed into a corner to face the light, and the assistant, standing on the opposite side to the person doing the rasping, steadies the head and may be required to hold the tongue.
During the rasping of a horse's teeth the rasp must be dipped into water at regular intervals to keep the cutting edges clean.