OklahomaHorses Magazine January 2022

January/February 2022 • OklahomaHorses 29 Story and photographs by Lindsay Humphrey P revention is always less expen- sive than treatment, and many times, a rock-solid spring pro- gram is key. Dr. Kenzie Brewer of Stillwater Equine Veterinary Services explains what horse owners should do when temperatures start to rise and shedding begins. Although each component of a compre- hensive health plan is important, one of Brewer’s main springtime objectives is to look inside your horse’s mouth. A dental checkup is often overshadowed by vaccina- tions and deworming. Smile Pretty Young horses develop and erupt 24 baby teeth from birth to a year old. Starting at about one year of age and continuing through about age five, the mouth is constantly changing while sequentially erupting 36 to 44 permanent teeth. “Horses’ teeth erupt slowly over time, so it’s superimportant to keep them healthy for the longevity of the horse,” Brewer said. “A lot of horses will need dental work at least once a year, but it’s especially import- ant to look in the mouths of the youngest and oldest horses on your place.” During spring wellness exams, Brewer recommends asking your vet to check your horses’ mouths. Not every exam will result in dental work; sometimes the teeth will be in great condition and won’t need to be checked again until the next year. “I always recommend getting teeth checked on young horses before putting bits in their mouths so we can make sure that experience is a good one,” Brewer added. “I hear all the time that people don’t think horses need their teeth checked until they’re seven years old, and that’s just not the case.” It’s all too easy for a retained tooth cap in a young horse to go unnoticed and cause behavioral issues later. Some dental issues develop early in horses and can impact them for the rest of their lives. Wave mouth, for example, must be addressed on a regular basis to keep the horse comfortable once it forms. It can be something as simple as a tooth that didn’t erupt properly that keeps a horse in the metaphorical dental chair. Regular dental checkups can also help to reduce feed costs. A horse with a healthy, balanced mouth will do a better job of mas- ticating, which allows the body to absorb more of the food taken in. “I’ve seen horses that were once easy keepers have a harder time maintaining weight as they get older because of their teeth,” Brewer said. “And I have some clients with horses in their late 20s who have beautiful teeth because they had regular dental checkups throughout their lifetimes.” Prevention with a Purpose Plentiful rain coupled with fresh grass in spring creates the perfect breeding ground for a wide variety of parasites in this red-dirt state. Because of that, an annual fecal test should be on every horse owner’s to-do list in the spring. Although rotating dewormers throughout the year works to an extent, de- veloping a protocol based on an annual fecal test will be much more effective. “Sometimes people will just blindly de- worm and then alternate between deworm- ers throughout the year,” Brewer said. “It’s a good idea to do a fecal flotation to get a good idea of what parasites you’re dealing with in your area. Even if you do that for only one of your horses, then you’ll know what’s likely on your property and in your entire herd.” Choosing a dewormer for your horse should be based on what parasites are present in your area.