Float a Horses Teeth -- What Does that Mean and Why is it Necessary?

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 the 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 the top and bottom cheek teeth grind the forage between the flat surfaces in a sideways motion. This grinding action breaks down the food into a pulp before swallowing which helps it to be digested better. If your horse is unable to grind down food all the way due to uneven teeth surfaces, the unchewed food will not be digested as well.

Most often, points develop on the upper cheek teeth toward the outside of the mouth next to your horse's cheek. And on the bottom cheek teeth toward the inside of the mouth next to your horse's tongue. These points can then cut into the 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 the overall good health of your own teeth. Well, your horse is no different and deserves some of the same attention to her teeth as you give to yours. Confined horses or those that do not have the 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
  • Head-tossing
  • Excessive bit chewing
  • Resisting having the bridle put on
  • Difficult handling while riding
  • Mouth odor
  • Blood in the mouth
  • Face swelling
  • Nasal discharge

Because horses are adaptable creatures, even if they are having discomfort, some do not show any signs of dental problems. So don't assume that if there are no symptoms, there are no problems.

Sharp teeth edges can hurt the inside of your horse's mouth causing pain and creating sores on her tongue or cheeks. Your horse may show resistance when riding due to added pain from the bit pressing against the sores.

The vet or equine dentist will carefully file all your horse's teeth that need smoothing to achieve a flat grinding surface between the upper and lower teeth. Having your horse's teeth floated is well worth it so she digests her food better, is in better spirits, and makes riding more enjoyable for you both.

How often floating is necessary varies quite a bit from one horse to another. Some horses seem to have slower-growing teeth and may require floating only once every several years while others may require floating every few months. Even if your horse does not require her teeth to be floated often, it is still a good idea to have her teeth and gums examined once a year.

The procedure the vet typically uses to float your horse's teeth is to first sedate your horse to make her relaxed. A special halter is put on with a rope thrown over a ceiling rafter or the equivalent in order to hold your horse's head up. A mouth speculum is used to keep your horse's mouth open. The vet will then either manually file your horse's teeth using a rasp in a back and forth motion to flatten the high points, or may use a power tool. The whole procedure is quick and painless - taking about 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

If you're like me, you cringe at the thought of someone filing away on your teeth with a rasp. You can imagine the shooting pain from the nerves in your teeth. Personally, the dentist can't give me enough Novocain to make me feel comfortable before poking around or drilling in my mouth.

Unlike us, a horse's nerves end close to the gumline, so there is no nerve where the tooth is being worked on, and therefore does not feel any nerve pain. We humans should be so lucky.

Randall Holman, site owner of Front Range Frenzy and horse enthusiast, is the author of the above article. You will find other easy and practical basic horse care information on his website: http://www.FrontRangeFrenzy.com.

In The News:

Adoptable pets for Dec. 13-19  Knoxville News Sentinel
Give your pets a treat thanks to Petlandia and Iconic Paw  WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports | Fort Lauderdale
Pets of Harvard, 2019  Harvard Crimson

Training Collars: Teaching Your Dog Basic Obedience and Breaking Bad Habits

Training CollarsTraining collars are a tool many pet owners utilize... Read More

Parrot Keeping

Parrots are becoming more popular as pets with each passing... Read More

Scottish Terrier Dogs - Important Facts

Scottish Terriers are short-legged dogs, at a height of ten... Read More

The One-Minute Horse Training Manager

If your life is so busy you literally only have... Read More

A Dog Day Care Business Can Be A Lot of Fun!

If you love dogs and you enjoy making money then... Read More

Correcting a Dog Behavior Problem - Jumping

The first thing to realize when you are training a... Read More

Does The World Need More Cats?

Aren't they cute? Yes, they are! A nest of meowing... Read More

Identifying and Treating Health Problems in Your Dog

An essential to your dog's health is his/her regular annual... Read More

Are Your Fish Sick?

Keeping a fish tank is a wonderful and relaxing hobby,... Read More

How To Recognize A Respiratory Tract Ailment In Your Parrot

A respiratory tract ailment can be fatal to your parrot... Read More

Agility Training For Dogs

Without agility, the most muscular person in the world couldn't... Read More

Horse Training Gets A New Face Lift From A 108 Year Old Horse Training Manual!

If you have a passion to learn all you can... Read More

Protecting The Family Pet

Ever since the beginning of time there has always been... Read More

The Benefits of Large Birdcages

We've all heard the phrase, "Free as a bird." In... Read More

The Importance Of A Proper Correction

There are headstrong dogs that know too well that a... Read More

Breeding Piranhas

Piranhas are unique creatures that have gained popularity not just... Read More

Essential Oils and MRSA

Natural preventative pet care isn't a new thing but it... Read More

Immune System Booster for Your Pets

Many chronic diseases commonly seen in pets result from immune... Read More

Top 15 Cat Quotations

Gain some insight into how your favorite feline actually feels... Read More

Do You Know What You Are REALLY Feeding Your Pet?

When looking for the best dog food - consider Life's... Read More

Leash Training Your Dog-Take The Time To Get It Done and Do It Right

Attempting to train your dog to walk on a leash... Read More

Dont Let Ticks Ruin Your Dogs Good Time!

Nobody likes ticks.In fact, when it comes to ticks I... Read More

Puppy Training that is Safe for Your Puppy

Puppy training can and should begin the day you bring... Read More

Spaying or Nuetering Your Dog-Get The Facts... Be Responsible

Bringing a new puppy or dog home is a huge... Read More

Housetraining Tips for Your Dog or Puppy

Puppies need to go to the bathroom after they play,... Read More