20 November 1998

Why dental checks are important

HORSES need regular dental checks just as much as people. Your horses mouth should be checked by a vet or an equine dental specialist at least once a year, starting at about three years of age or as soon as a bit is worn, says Hilary Vernon*.

A regular check for older horses is important because the horses teeth continue to grow throughout his life and because of the direction the horses molars grow in, she explains. Among the signs that teeth may need attention include unexpected resistance to the bit; obvious discomfort when a caveson noseband is done up tightly; reluctance to have the sides of the face handled; quidding; general inability to eat up as normal and loss of condition

The state of the animals mouth is the first consideration when selecting or changing a bit, explains Mrs Vernon. A qualified riding instructor and keen amateur whip who has spent 10 years in the saddlery trade, she has now produced a comprehensive guide to bits and bitting with 92 illustrations and 450 bit pictures.

And she has dedicated this valuable reference for horse owners and equine students to her husband: "Who has been subjected to years of relentless pressure to accept mud, wet rugs, hay in the kitchen and horses nearly always coming first." AR

*The Allen Illustrated Guide to Bits and Bitting by Hilary Vernon, J A Allen & Co (£19.95).