Horse Molars

...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

Thus far, we have discussed foal teeth, or milk teeth, along with parts of the tooth, such as enamel and pulp. We touched upon the nature of the horse’s teeth, which continue to grow throughout its lifetime, along with the necessity for the food that the horse is consuming to be thoroughly ground up before being swallowed. We mentioned the necessity of filing, or “floating” the horse’s teeth throughout its lifetime, also, and that failure to do this task will result in failure to masticate food properly, along with other problems, such as sores and “points.”

In the adult horse, the first molars, “M” appear around 9 to 12 months in age, with the second molars erupting around the age of two. (1)

When the horse is around 2 ½ years old, its Central Deciduous Incisors fall out and are replaced by permanent Incisors, “I.” The first and second Premolars, “PM,” also erupt. These first Premolars are called “Wolf Teeth,” and can only be found on the upper jaw. If some should appear on the lower jaw, they are needle-like and tiny. (2)

When the horse turns 3 years old, the third Premolars appear. Sometimes the lower Premolars may appear at 2 ½ years of age.

When the horse turns 3 ½ years old, the third Molars and Lateral Incisors appear.

At 4 ½ years old, the Corner Incisors are present, the fourth Premolars are present and also the Canine Teeth. The Canines, “C,” appear only in the male horse and are completely absent in the female. If they should appear in the female, they are primitive. (3)

By the time the horse has reached 5 years of age, it has its complete set of adult teeth, numbering 40 to 42.

The following is the Dental Formula for Adult Permanent Teeth:

2 x I 3/3 CI/I PM 3/3 or 4/3 M 3/3 = 40 or 42. (4)

Think in terms of Central Incisors at 2 ½ years, Lateral Incisors at 3 ½ years and Corner Incisors at 4 ½ years of age for eruption in the animal. This formula, and the notation of whether Canine Teeth are absent or present, can fairly determine an accurate age for a horse up to 5 years of age.

Sometimes at age 2 ½ you can see the new Central Incisors that are coming down after the milk teeth have fallen out. (5)

The Incisive Arcade is quite round at this time, also, and still resembles the rounded orange or pineapple shape on the young horse.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the young foal or yearling can’t hurt you if he bites you. Foals think it is quite funny to pinch their dam or you, but good horsemen don’t let that slip by. The baby also likes to rear up and strike, boxing his mother in the face and slapping her back with his front legs.

The dam will often cuff or bump the baby when he gets too rough, pinning her ears and swinging her head, and the handler should also let the baby know this is unacceptable, without striking his face. Stud colts in particular like to make a game out of pinching and if you’re not paying close attention, your arm, stomach, back and legs are fair game. The strength of the jaw on a small colt when he bites is no laughing matter, and allowing him to continue this behavior makes for a bad setup when he is a 1,200 pound adult.

I find it very irritating when owners allow young foals to pinch, bite and kick, without any reprimand. They think it’s cute and then they wonder why a 1,200 pound galoot wants to sit in their lap and sample their arm for a snack.

It’s not so funny when he’s trying to put the owner back in their place, once the baby has grown and he’s large and scary.

Well, that’s all for now, more next time. Looks to be a rainy Spring, but at least it is not snow.

Leaving you with thoughts of sunny days and flowers to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”

1- 5 : “Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook,” by James Giffin, MD, and Tom Gore, DVM