I was teaching a clinic in outback Australia and some people brought a coming four-year-old horse to the clinic. They had competed with the horse a competition called Camp Drafting which consisted of a lot of contact and speed chasing a cow.

They had a successful three-year-old year with this horse but apparently by the end of the season they ran into a serious problem. The horse got stiff on his right turn and they couldn’t turn with a cow on that side. They were hoping I could do something to help them in the Horsemanship department.

I knew these people were pretty good hands and I was pretty sure it wasn’t bad horsemanship that got them there. I put my hand in the horse’s mouth and could tell that the lower number 7 molar had penetrated the socket of the upper 7, probably because the top cap had delayed shedding. This would cause the TMJ to lock when pressure was applied by the bit and could do neurological damage. In other words, his teeth locked up which locked his jaw was causing pain.

There were no dentistry tools but I rigged a piece of a horseshoe rasp on the end of an iron rod to make a float. I put a block of wood between the molars on the opposite side to keep his jaw open. With the help of a tranquilizer, I got in and filed the tooth down level with the rest of the table.

After the tranquilizer wore off, I was excited to see if we were on the right track. They took him in the pen with some cattle. He braced really hard the first time he turned to the right but they brought him around softly.  The next right turn he was a little hesitant but he did turn with the cow. The third time he stopped hard and rolled over his hocks.

Many times I have witnessed situations like this that caused a horse and rider trouble. Good dentistry is relatively simple and inexpensive in my opinion and should not be overlooked.

I could write a book of testimonials I have experienced on the Horsemanship side of things. Too often the big bit and more spur came out, only making things worse.

Dale Jefferies is the master of equine dentistry and will give us all very valuable information.


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