How Often Should My Horse Be Floated?
The answer varies greatly by the individual horse. Horses with conformational abnormalities such as parrot mouth, missing teeth, monkey mouth (under bite), or wave mouth need to be floated every 6-8 months to correct the abnormality and then at least yearly to maintain the correction. The longer the teeth have gone without dentistry, the longer it will take to fix the problem. Horses with normal mouths can go as long as 3-4 years between floats, depending on how much tooth they grow and what the horse is being used for.
My Horse Is Young, Does He Need Dentistry?
Yes Yes Yes! The ideal time to start managing your horses teeth is 2-3 years old. The foal should have his mouth examined to look for abnormalities such as over or under bites. At 2-3 years old most horses are beginning to be started under saddle. At this time they should have their teeth floated to remove any sharp points that can cause pain, have wolf teeth removed, and make sure that all deciduous teeth (caps) are being shed. Wolf tooth removal is becoming somewhat controversial with some feeling that the removal is unnecessary, however the majority of horse owners request the removal and there are no ill effects from having them removed. Retained caps can cause pain, insufficient chewing that can lead to poor body condition, choke and impaction colic, inhibit the eruption of the underlying adult tooth and create the beginnings of a wave mouth or step mouth. The young horse should have his teeth checked and if necessary floated every year until he is 6 years old when all adult teeth should be in full wear. At this point the dentistry schedule ideal for the individual horse can be determined.
What About Wild Horses? They Don't Get Their Teeth Floated.
This is a question that I am asked frequently. My answer is that wild horses on the open range eat a very different diet than our domestic horses. The diet of a wild horse is very coarse and dry and they are grazing 24hours a day 7 days a week. They most likely wear away more tooth and may break off those sharp points that grow in a normal mouth. Horses with abnormal conformation that inhibit the ability to chew will become malnourished and die or never achieve a body condition to support reproduction and therefore not pass their genes on to the next generation. The malnourished mare in the wild will not become pregnant and the malnourished stallion will never be able to compete with other healthy stallions for mares. The other reality is that feral horses do not live nearly as long as domestic horses. A 15 year old mustang on the range is an OLD horse, but a 15 year old domestic horse is just reaching his prime and has a good 10 - 15 years of quality life left.