Dentist can't stand to see horse down in the mouth


February 28, 1993|By MUPHEN WHITNEY

Equine dentist Lars Curley is a master of show and tell.

Armed with "Waldo" -- the jaw of a deceased young quarterhorse -- Curley recently demonstrated the ins-and-outs of equine oral health to a large crowd at last week's Carroll County Equestrian Council educational seminar.

"The first horse dentistry that we know about for sure began in Germany about 1860, although Hungarian Gypsies may have been doing it 100 years before that," Curley said.

Curley demonstrated why it is necessary to have a horse's teeth "floated" -- filed smooth -- periodically.

"After a horse reaches its full growth the teeth don't grow any more, but they are pushed up out of the socket to compensate for the grinding, which takes place when the horse eats," Curley said.

"The mechanics of a horse's jaw mean that nothing wears against the outside of the top teeth and the inside of the bottom teeth. This makes for sharp points on these teeth.

"These sharp edges can cut a horse's tongue and cheeks unless the points are filed down. "

The problems caused by uneven tooth growth include resisting the bit, malnutrition, colicking and behavioral problems.

"You can tell there is a problem if your horse starts fighting the bit or shaking his head with the bit in his mouth, or if he raises or tilts his head when he eats," Curley explained.

Prevention is the easiest way to deal with a horse's dental health. Curley suggests that a horse be checked at 1 year of age unless the owner sees problems developing before then. Then, a horse should be checked and floated yearly until he enters his teens, when he should be checked every six months.

"A good mouth is essential to the health of an older horse," Curley said. "Older horses need all the help they can get to maintain a good diet and good health."

He suggests a diet of beet pulp and wet pellets to make a mash when a horse begins to lose his teeth. He also cautions care in the amount of hay an older horse is fed because hay can compact and cause colic if the horse is not chewing it thoroughly.

Curley clearly enjoys his life of looking horses in the mouth. He likes to work with the horse in the stall by himself.

"The owners get nervous and then the horse gets nervous," he said. "Most horses just open up their mouths for you and try to cooperate; they are nice people. I don't have to tranquilize the horses, but there are some owners I would like to tranquilize."

Curley said owners can make life easier for him by having their horses in their stalls and by making sure the horses are used to being handled.

Help support 4-H

Maryland's Horsemen's Party and Blue Ribbon Auction is scheduled for Saturday beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Sports Palace at Laurel Race Course.

Proceeds help finance horse-related 4-H activities. Tickets are $25 per person and include dinner and the live and silent auctions.

L Call Hank Shirley at (410) 848-3192 for further information.

Calendar of events

Today -- Flat and jumping clinic with 3-Day Event rider Bruce Davidson. Shadow Brook Farm, Elkridge. (410) 796-4947.

Today -- New Kids 4-H and Arnold's Tack Shop Winter Horse and Pony Schooling Show. Gambler's Reward Stable, Sparks. (410) 875-2050.

Saturday -- Longjohn Dressage Show. 9 a.m. Olney Farm, Joppa. Entry fees: $12 per ride, $10 for Pony Clubbers. (410) 877-1887.

Saturday -- Maryland Horsemen's Party and Blue Ribbon Auction. 7:30 p.m. Sports Palace at Laurel Race Course. (410) 848-3192, (410) 252-2100 or (410) 422-7803.

Saturday and March 13 -- Pony racing clinics at the Conaways' farm in Taylorsville. (410) 875-2287.

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