Alana Weir has been an equine dentist for nine years. She was the first woman to graduate as an equine dentist after completing the course at TAFE in New South Wales. Just like Shannon Smith, the farrier, Alana regularly visits HorsePower Riding Academy to treat both Sandie’s HorsePower Riding Academy (HPRA) and agistees’ horses and ponies.
Horses have teeth at the front, which you have probably seen. It is possible to estimate the age of a horse from its teeth. Then there is a gap – where the bit of a bridle goes. Behind that are the molar teeth, which go quite a long way back into the jaw. The front teeth tear off grass, and the teeth at the back chew and grind the feed the horses eat.
In the wild, horses graze for up to 20 hours of the day and night. They eat so many different grasses in different locations as they travel across the land that their teeth are naturally maintained at an optimum shape and size.
Domesticated horses are generally given two feeds a day plus having the opportunity to graze if they are in a paddock but they usually aren’t in a position to graze for as long as they can in the wild. This means the growth of their teeth isn’t controlled as it would be in nature.
So domesticated horses need an equine dentist to diagnose the health of their teeth and mouths, and treat them if there are any issues.
I watched Alana treat several horses and ponies at HPRA recently. First, Alana puts a dental halter on the horse, which has a metal section that fits in the horse’s mouth which she ratchets open to hold the horse’s mouth open. She puts her hand into the horse’s mouth, and feels all the teeth, front and back, to determine any treatment the horse’s teeth may need.
In particular she feels to see if any teeth are growing too long which could affect the horse’s ability to eat, or if there are any sharp or rough edges which might cut the tongue or the cheek or cause ulcers in the horse’s mouth. Any of these conditions can cause pain and discomfort to the horse.
Alana then uses a range of tools to file down teeth that are too long or have sharp edges. Her training and experience enable her to know by feel when she has the horse’s teeth filed to the correct shape and size.
I was impressed by how the horses were unperturbed by the whole process. Alana likes horses, and her confidence, knowledge and calm, keeps the horses calm.
At the end of her work, she cleans and packs away her tools to be ready for their next use.
If you know anyone who needs the services of an excellent equine dentist, they can contact Alana on phone 0418 939 286 or email aweir[dot]horsedentist[at]gmail[dot]com.