So what does it mean to float a horse's teeth? I'm sure you've heard this a time or two (if you haven't, sooner or later you will from another horse owner or from your vet), and if you're like me, you imagined for longest time what this could possibly mean and wondered what it involved.
To float a horse's teeth certainly sounds funny, too.
Floating means to smooth or contour your horse's teeth with a file (called a "float"). Unlike your own teeth, your horse's teeth keep growing. At times, your horse's teeth may develop sharp edges, making it difficult for her to chew food, hold a bit, or simply have pain and discomfort inside her mouth.
An adult horse may have between 36-44 permanent teeth. And just like humans, your horse gets two sets of teeth in her lifetime. Your horse starts out with temporary baby teeth and by age five, will most likely have her full set of permanent teeth.
The horse's front teeth cut hay and grass, while top and bottom cheek teeth grind forage between flat surfaces in a sideways motion. This grinding action breaks down food into a pulp before swallowing which helps it to be digested better. If your horse is unable to grind down food all way due to uneven teeth surfaces, unchewed food will not be digested as well.
Most often, points develop on upper cheek teeth toward outside of mouth next to your horse's cheek. And on bottom cheek teeth toward inside of mouth next to your horse's tongue. These points can then cut into cheek and tongue making your horse uncomfortable.
Though it may seem tedious and like a burden, you know having routine dentist check-ups contribute to overall good health of your own teeth. Well, your horse is no different and deserves some of same attention to her teeth as you give to yours. Confined horses or those that do not have ability to graze all day are more prone to teeth overgrowth, as they are not naturally grinding their teeth all day to keep them smooth. Also, just like you, your horse can have other dental problems. A horse can have excessively worn teeth, loose or broken teeth, or infected gums.
One sign that your horse's teeth may need to be floated is if she is consistently dropping food from her mouth and you start seeing signs of weight loss. Your horse may also exhibit behavior like head-tossing or opening her mouth frequently.
Possible horse dental problem indicators:
- Drops food from her mouth
- Exhibits difficulty in chewing
- Excessive salivation
- Loss of weight
- Undigested food particles in manure
- Excessive bit chewing
- Resisting having bridle put on
- Difficult handling while riding
- Mouth odor
- Blood in mouth
- Face swelling
- Nasal discharge