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We Are Flying Solo

February 10, 2010

Hoof and Mouth Lessons

If I have learned anything about horse ownership, it's that we can try our damndest to do everything right, to give our charges the bestest, perfectest life...but we'll still screw up somehow. Blessedly, most of the time, our horses patiently hang in there till we figure it out.

As you've probably figured out by now, I pretty much bust my ass to educate myself on every issue I can related to horse care and training. I try to keep an open mind, think critically and research via every venue I can get my dirty little paws on. So, frankly, it just plain pisses me off when I still get it wrong! But I guess life is a series of lessons learned via experience and if you never have the experience you never learn.

So, two recent lessons:

Lesson 1 -- Tooth maintenance. Last time I had Solo's teeth floated was about a year and a half ago. He had all kinds of pointy bits on there. My vet at the time (no longer my vet) had one of those fancy power units and lots of sedation and filed them down over the course of an hour. It looked pretty cool and efficient to me. It cost me over $300. Turns out there is actually no relation between price and quality.

New dentist came out yesterday. Supposedly he is the best. He travels up and down the east cost from FL to Canada and he just does horse teeth. He has told me that Solo drops food all over the place because his teeth are screwed up and don't even meet. He walked into Solo's stall with his little metal file and just went to work. No sedation. Done in about ten minutes. Solo just stood in the corner and was like, oh, ok, you are scratching my teeth, have at it, dude. That kind of calm is kind of shocking if you've ever seen tooth floating in action -- giant long metal rasp stuck in horse's mouth and loudly scraping at the molars while moving the whole head after which crazy looking Midieval Torture-Device-Resembling Speculum is strapped on to their head to hold their mouth open.

I figure he knows what he is doing because by this point I have figured out who he was discussing with BO as he is telling client stories. He keeps talking about "Mike and Charlie" who live about two hours south of me. Slowly, after a comment from BO, it dawns on me that he is talking about Michael and Charlie Plumb. Yeah, the Michael Plumb who has, oh, six or so Olympic medals in eventing. (This happens a lot when you live in Area II, where if you forget to set the parking brake on your truck, you will run over a member of USET, they are that prolific) So I guess if the top guys hire Dentist Man, he must be the best!

New dentist has a little teaching tool: a bag of horse teeth. Digging around, he pulls one out of the bag and says, "This is what happens when you use power tools on horse teeth; the tooth heats up almost instantaneously and then the roots burn and a hole blows out of the tooth in some random spot."

Awesome. I had no idea. So, I write him a check (this one's only $90) after he shows me how nicely Solo's teeth meet up now and I promise never to let a power tool touch my horse's mouth again.

Stay tuned for Lesson 2 -- Hoof biomechanics.


  1. And Mike Plumb didn't train Barbaro, that was Michael Matz.

  2. Oops, ok, I have now been officially corrected. My bad! Thank you, RBF! Dang those confusing M names.

  3. See, I check things and I STILL screw up! *dopeslaps self*

  4. Yep, I went through something similar, though I didn't use awesome vet man. I use a holistic vet fairly close to me, he walks to the horse with nothing but a syringe of water (to rinse out the mouth) and a rasp, rubs them, and goes to town. Even spirited little Rascal(morab), and super-hot Bailey(TB) handled it by going to sleep. A-m-a-z-i-n-g comparatively...It is depressing when you realize you have been going about things the wrong way, but good for you, and all of us, that continue to learn for our horses!

  5. Nice... I had a similar experience, but with farriers. And of course, no power tools were involved at any time.

  6. Plus I've heard the electric ones can (not WILL, but CAN) cause nerve damage. Imagine half your horse's facial nerves paralyzed after a floating. I'll go for elbow grease any day.

    Though I AM temped to take a mild power sander to those white hooves of mine.... but I'd be afraid of doing some horrible irreparable damage...

  7. Haha! Honest mistake, girl! :) So glad you had a positive experience with the "tooth man"...I've been searching for someone (ANYONE?) to do my guy's teeth and am having no luck so far!

  8. Isn't that frustrating! I've had my guys done with both the power sander dealy (before I'd heard anything about the possible issues; I just thought it was the newest & best technology) and done by hand the traditional method with a rasp. I'd love to have them done by one of the "natural" tooth care people, but it's hard to find one here! So for their last float I had to settle for the vet using a hand rasp. He was really conservative & gentle, but I'd still like to have an experience more like your recent one. You live & learn, and when you're a horse owner that is exponentially more frequent! :)

  9. Eventer79, I am in the Southern Pines area and I have a wonderful man to work on my horse's teeth but I live in fear of his retirement. Can you tell me who you used so I can access him when I need to? I do not want to use the sedate-em-and-drill bunch. My vet has told me stories of horses being ruined or dying from over-zealous use of power tools.
    Also, when Mike Plumb moved his base of ops here in the early 90s, he called my office for some air tickets. I'd been doing low level eventing for about 10 years and my trainer was one of his star pupils, so I'd been thoroughly indoctrinated! I was so star-struck just to be talking to him personally that I could barely stutter my way through the conversation. He was the first of the Team to move here, but now they're everywhere!

  10. Hey, shadowlake, sure -- his name (if I spell it right) is Peter Macharg. Don't ask me how to pronounce that. Tall, lanky, red-bearded guy, super laid back and friendly. If you click my profile pic and send me an email, I'd be happy to send his (Canadian, ack!) cell number, he's currently looking for new clients!

  11. Eventer79, I am such a dinosaur--- when I clion your profile pic it just goes to your complete profile--- what am I doing wrong please?