Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Dental Health and the Performance Horse

When an equine athlete’s performance slumps, check the mouth, where numerous factors can cause problems.

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When searching for answers as to why an equine athlete’s performance has suddenly declined, many owners and trainers will look for problems from head to toe. But one place they sometimes neglect to check is the horse’s mouth, where many dental issues can cause a performance horse to work at a less than optimum level.

During a presentation at the 2011 Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital Sport Horse Health Symposium, held Nov. 2 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, R. Brad Tanner, DVM, an equine practitioner and associate at Rood & Riddle, discussed the impact of dental health on the equine athlete.

Tanner began by discussing a few different indicators of equine mouth pain while a horse is working, such as:

  • Opening the mouth;
  • "Lugging out";
  • Pinning the ears;
  • Head tossing;
  • Coming ahead or behind the bit; and
  • Leaning on the bit.

Tanner explained that these signs can have a variety of causes from natural processes that just need some attention to problems brought on by ill-used or ill-fitting

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Written by:

Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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