Wild horses maintain their teeth by chewing grass, leaves on branches. Some pebbles may help to file the horse’s teeth. In short, the natural grinding process reduces the horses’ teeth over time. But by and large, wild horses do little for their oral problems. In the case of malocclusion, floating remains the most suitable solution for most horses. And, of course, this means that the presence of humans is necessary.
Basic Info About Horse Teeth
From the teeth, you can determine the age of a horse. Usually, a stallion (male horse) has 40 teeth. More specifically:
- 12 incisors (6 upper and 6 lower)
- 24 molars
- 4 canines (generally, female horses do not have them, but they can have some or all of them).
On average, most horses posses between 36 and 44 teeth. To be precise, the incisors allow you to roughly establish the age of the horse. Mostly, they consist of cement, enamel, and ivory.
Sometimes, horses’ teeth can grow between two teeth. Normally, they must be extracted as they can cause problems during mastication. But wild horses can do nothing about these dental problems. So, they just process their food badly.
At birth, foals generally have no teeth. Ordinarily, the first milk teeth appear in the first week. At about two years old, the horse changes its small and white milk teeth. At two and a half years old, it begins to get its large and yellow adult teeth. From the age of three, equine dentistry specifies that the shapes of their teeth change. But the main thing is, horse teeth keep growing year after year.
Wild and Domesticated Horses’ Diet
Just like all herbivores, horses eat large amounts of fibrous food. In short, they have to grind it as much as possible to promote the action of gastric juices. Simply put, horses with healthy teeth eat and digest better. Hence, they live longer.
As with humans, the incisors have the function of grasping, tearing, and cutting food. More precisely, the premolars and molars are responsible for the actual chewing. This is why these teeth have large contact surfaces with each other and allow for accurate chewing of food.
Tooth wear depends on the horse’s diet. Mostly, domesticated horses maintain their teeth thanks to the help of equestrians and equine doctors. They live longer than wild horses. Usually, five to ten years more than feral ones. But they need floating because their food is nowhere near to wild foodstuffs. On the other hand, wild horse eat:
- meat (in case of necessity, wild horses may consume other animals or animal products)
- grass (needle grass, bluegrass, wild rye, etc.)
- shrubs (bitterbrush, juniper, greasewood, saltbrush, etc.)
- forbs (lupine, aster, clovers, etc.)
Because of the more resistant nature of natural grass and shrubs, the wild horses’ teeth wear more. In theory, their teeth should wear in a way that keeps the bit even. But sadly, specific conditions may create discomfort or pain. Thus, shortening the wild horse’s quality of life and lifespan.
Horses Need Regular Dentistry and Teeth Floating
When dental problems arise, wild horses show signs of anxiety or distress. Here are some common signs that tell horse owners to watch out for dental issues:
- The horse’s refusal to put the bit
- The shaking of the horse’s head once the bit is inserted.
- The horse is leaking infected fluid from the nose, a sign not only of a possible sinus but also of a dental infection.
- Irregular chewing with hay falling sideways, as the horse chews by grinding its teeth horizontally.
- Weight loss due to digestion problems. In fact, if the horse does not chew properly, it cannot mince the nutrients.
- The horse has problems drinking cold water due to acquired dental sensitivity.
- Collateral problems, such as constipation, colic, etc.
- The horse eats slower than it used to (sharp or broken teeth could also injure the internal soft tissue).
- The horse has trouble eating the grains and spreads them out of the manger.
- Bad smell coming from the horse’s mouth or nose. An infection of the gums or other parts of the mouth could be its cause.
- The horse drools when chewing.
Some vet may cure wild horses’ dental problems. Due to persistent pain from the removal operation and inflamed gums, recovery times vary. On average, it may take a couple of days for the horse’s eating habits to return to normal. However, eating shouldn’t be any slower or painful than it used to be. On the positive side, it is usually not necessary to administer additional pain relief.
What can we learn from wild horses’ dental issues?
By nature, being a restless and easily stressed animal, chewing is a tranquilizing habit for the horse.
Also, prolonged chewing and splitting of meals are related to the particular physiology of the wild horse. In effect, the relatively low volume of the stomach forces it to ingest modest quantities of food. And more importantly, to reduce it into very small fragments, in order to speed up gastric transit.
The presence of ulcers on the palate or gums, due to defects or defects in the chewing table, makes chewing painful and stresses the animal. If abnormal tooth wear hinders the chewing movement, the horse ingests poorly salivated food. As a result, wild horses become restless, depressed, and/or show aggressive behavior.
For these reasons, the control and care of the dental table are important in domesticated, stabled horses. To put it differently, horses in paddocks and boxes need teeth floating at least once a year to avoid health issues.
How Do Wild Horses Maintain Their Teeth? Conclusion
Most horses maintain their teeth by grinding their food. In particular, wild horses’ diet is such that it allows for even teeth wear in most animals. But even wild horses can develop dental problems. In the latter case, bacteria and infections can cause pain, slow food processing, and even death.