Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Barefoot Horse: November 2011 Trim and Dental Appointment

Don't listen to her.  I am perfect.

I am sure that you have heard the expression "no foot, no horse."  Anyone who has owned, ridden, or worked with horses for any amount of time will no doubt agree.  I have friends whose horses have foot issues, and more than a couple of them have drooled over Harley's nice set.  But fear not, dear readers, there is balance in this world.  Harley does have his own physical dilemma.  I have joked with Harley's original trimmer that "my horse's foot problem is a tooth problem."  Harley's major maintenance challenge is his teeth.

I would like to add a new expression here:

"No tooth, no horse."

Harley has an overbite.  He needs braces.  Big time.  Harley's condition is considered a conformational flaw and is called "parrot mouth".  This is somewhat amusing to me, since I live with four parrots who possess their own "parrot mouths".  But in all seriousness, parrot mouth is no laughing matter.  When I purchased Harley, I was aware of his dental condition and willing to assume the responsibility of caring for his very special (expensive) mouth.  There were so many other wonderful qualities about him, which easily overshadowed his dental handicap.  Let us not forget that one can search forever and never find a flawless horse.  I accepted the bad with the good.

Now, you may have seen an overbite on a horse before.  You may have visions of what this looks like.  So just let me add a few details:

1) I am not going to post pictures of Harley's condition.  It is bad enough that I do not want to see pictures of his mouth showing up all over the internet as ridiculously, horrible horse dentition.  I also feel like it would be kind of mean of me to publish his worst quality for the world to see.

2) Two dentists have described his teeth as "the worst overbite I have worked with".  Although since then, Harley's dentist told me that he did see a more severe case.  Yikes!

3) Harley has had not one, but two incisor reductions.  Which means that I have paid for two incisor reductions.  Specialty horse shoes, anyone?

4) Mt. Everest-sized hooks were removed from his upper front molars (a three-hour procedure without a speculum or power tools) and a few years later he had good-sized hooks removed from his rear lower molars (this time with a speculum and power tools, which was much faster and less stressful).  The upper hooks were so large that they were interfering with the bit, which was a serious safety hazard, not to mention the impact it had on his ability to eat properly.  Since I bought him in December, I had the dentist out as soon as possible and then he promptly told me that he would have to return with specialized tools.  Harley's first Christmas present was upper hook removal.  Not very exciting, but definitely necessary.  Merry Christmas!

Good News on the dental front (pun intended)!

Harley's latest dental appointment, on the first of December, revealed that his teeth are maintaining!  This means that he is not redeveloping hooks and his lower incisors are not assaulting his palate!  The dentist explained that this wonderful news indicates that we have finally caught up to the years of minimal (no) dental care from before he was my Boy and his mealtime routine of only eating from the ground (dinner and hay) is keeping his genetic predisposition for hooks at bay.  A round of high fives are in order, as this type of success is thanks to the combined efforts of Harley's dentist and caregivers!

His overbite will never go away, and he will need special attention as long as he has teeth, but it is worth mentioning that all horses can suffer from hooks and malocclusions if their teeth are not properly floated and evaluated on an annual or semiannual basis.  I am proud to announce that Harley has graduated to yearly appointments!  I am relieved.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled hoof trim...

Right front, 2 days post-trim: My camera was having some trouble in Harley's shadow.  The outside bar is still a work in progress, as are the outside bars on the hind feet.  Just trimming and waiting.

Left front, 2 days post-trim: There was a little bit of chalky sole in both fronts.  The bars on this foot are looking straight with an open central sulcus.

Right hind: Before trim

Right hind: After trim.  The white line was super tight all the way around the hoof.  All four of his feet had a nice, healthy connection.  I am hoping that this is more magnesium magic.

Left hind: Before trim

Left hind: After trim.  This hoof was equally nice.  If you compare the frog to the summer pictures, the asymmetrical groove (thrush of some kind) is gone.  Harley, would you like some hoof with that frog?

I try my utmost not to take Harley's positive genetic traits for granted.  Combating a genetic defect, like his overbite, is no simple matter.  I am very grateful that he has inherited healthy feet, as any predisposition to physical problems is draining for horse and owner on a number of levels.  All one can do is take advantage of the resources at hand, educate oneself, and make the horse's well-being the first priority.

Thankfully, Harley is able to maintain decent condition, despite his dental handicap and his high metabolism.

My barn owner says that he copes with his disability very well, always picking up dropped grain and taking his dear, sweet time eating his meals (20 minutes!). 
He is no less cute with his flaws.


  1. Hey, Val! Not to minimize Harley's "problem" in any way, but be encouraged! I love taking my horses to the dentist (ours is our vet) because they do the coolest things! I have a great video on my website if you want to see an example (http://www.bakersfielddressage.com/bakersfield-vet-hospital.html)

    My vet ALWAYS uses power tools as it is far quicker and much more effective. Montoya had a HUGE over bite. It took several years of very aggressive treatment, but because of that, as she entered her teens, the treatments were less aggressive and she was more and more comfortable. She also had massive hooks. I bought her as a nine year old, so we had nine years of dental work to over come.

    Mickey had huge canines that had to be "filed" away as they interfered with the bit. And when I say huge, I mean over an inch was exposed. I can't imagine how long that would have taken without power tools.

    Speedy has also had pretty big work done. Since I bought him as a three year old, it was up to me to have his wolf teeth pulled. One of course hadn't dropped (impacted?) so we had to do some gum cutting to find the tooth and get it out. It looked pretty drastic to me, buy my vet just did the work as though that's a regular occurrence. There was also the time he knocked out a tooth, thankfully a baby tooth, and the time he rubbed his teeth so hard on the pipe fencing that he carved out a hunk. That is almost no longer visible. Again, thankfully!

    With continued regular dental care, I am certain that Harley's freakishly horrible teeth will start to look as good as his feet already do. Who knows, by next year you might be proudly showing us photos of what a nice mouth he has!

    Keep up the good work, remember to floss, and brush daily!

  2. Good work on those bars, they are looking better and better.

    Coriander doesn't have good teeth either, I'm pretty sure he never had his teeth done before I got him at 9. Now he's got a very expensive affliction called a "wave." Gwen's tiny head creates issues too, apparently it's hard to get back there and get all the points.

    Those darn quarter horses with their teeth! (tongue in cheek, of course)

  3. Glad you have gotten the dentition under control. I always thought parrot mouth was a cute look, health issues notwithstanding...

    I think the magnesium does tighten up the white lines... my farrier is coming Friday - planning to post our pix as well :)

  4. I do bare foot shoeing with my horse but idk if the lady who does it is the most knowledgeable... what should I be looking for? I love ur blog im following you now


  5. Hi Karen- The story about your lovely Montoya was basically Harley's predicament. I have been"rehabbing" his teeth since before his nineth birthday and we have just about caught up now (he is thirteen). His teeth do look much nicer since the incisors were reduced. He likes to show them off with a horse smile. Silly boy.

    I am a power tool/speculum convert. That is on my list of blogging topics. I could not agree more.

  6. smaz- Thanks for confirming the bar improvment. They grow surprisingly fast and sometimes look ready for a trim before the walls do.

    Based on what you wrote about Coriander and Montoya's story from Karen, I guess that a shocking number of people do not provide their horses with dental care. Harley had a minor wave complex, too. The dentist impressed upon me how debilitating a wave can become without being addressed early in a horse's life. Coriander is lucky that he is getting proper care now.

  7. Calm, Forward, Straight- That's funny! I kinda think it is cute, now that we have it under control, of course. :)

    That is cool that you have seen the same thing with Val and magnesium. Cause and effect can be tricky with the many variables surrounding living things, but I am happy to continue with the supplement and see if the trend continues.

  8. Hi Kianna and Welcome!

    My first recommendation is to speak to other clients.

    If I were looking for a barefoot hoofcare professional, I would look for someone who discusses horse management outside of trimming (like diet, exercise, and turnout) and produces references upon request.

    FYI: A horse should not be sore following a trim or farrier work.

    Good Luck!

  9. How wonderful to finally be down to yearly dentist visits. It must be a huge relief!...an improved mouth to match gorgeous feet. Harley is a lucky horse. I have to admit this year I've concentrated on my teeth.It is mega expensive and doesn't allow for horses to have a dentist visit as well....their turns coming in the new year!!

  10. Hi Sally! I know that they are important for us, too, but I do not like dental visits. I think that Harley's looks much more tolerable than the hygienist leaning on my jaw and micromanaging my mouth.

  11. Well I don't care what any one says, I think the overbite gives him character :-). Oh and, I must admit, I've been 'blessed" with a pretty good overbite myself....it looks better on Harley. I wonder if having his teeth in such better shape has anything to do with how well the two of you are progressing. I'm sure it's a combination of all of your kind and hard work. His feet are to die for! It's funny I just love the sound of a horse walking (not trotting or cantering) on hard surfaces, like cement or pavement or something with bare feet, I think that is a really cool sound. (I'm weird)

  12. I just love his expression! And yes, EVERY horse has its "thing" (flaw) and your boy found the perfect owner willing to take care of him. I just noticed your footer photo... it is beautiful.

  13. Hi Mary- Properly maintained teeth are definitely important to progress in the saddle. My teacher is huge advocate for addressing the whole horse.

    I like that sound, too, so I guess we are both weird. In a good way, though!

    Thanks, Margaret! I would even like it for the header, but I think it would give the impression that I show a lot and I don't. ;)


Leave a comment or add to my memoirs with some of your own.