At ten, Galvayne's Groove begins
Outside upper nipper, my friends
Slowly south the dark line falls
Until twenty when time itself calls.
Beyond that, we know no more.
The horse pictured at the top is ~4 years old. At 4½ the lower corner baby nipper will be replaced the permanent incisor. Note the difference in the size of the baby teeth compared to the permanent teeth.
Nippers are the incisors, the grass acquisition teeth. It is the incisors we assess to age the horse.
This is the revised version to "every fear and doubt dispel" Of course, this aging system depends on the horse being examined for age having lived a natural existence, grazing with others most all her life, continuous lifetime foraging as the horse evolved to do. Grazing teeth wear consistently, and aging is quite accurate, for horses raised up here on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Some, however, may not let you look them in the mouth. Those horses have to be aged from a distance, and many Blackfeet have quite an eye for that, as well.
Mind you all, stabled horses' teeth with wear differently than horses offered a natural grazing and socializing existence, especially those stabled horses who are often deprived of forage and locomotion for periods of time. Horses need to move and forage most all the time to maintain health, vigor, and trainability.
The feeding of artificial grains and the development of stereotypic behaviors due to deprivations of forage, friends, and locomotion alter teeth wear dramatically, as well.
This goes without saying:
Horses who graze continuously in natural settings often have healthier teeth and lives than stabled horses. Look all horses in the mouth, please, each and every one, every time, my friends.
Dr Gustafson is an equine veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and novelist. He helps refine horse and dog training methods to accommodate their inherent natures and preferences. Applied veterinary behavior enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Natural approaches to development, training, nutrition, and conditioning sustain equine health and enhance performance. Behavioral and nutritional enrichment strategies enhance the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses. DrSid provides equine behavior consultations to help recreate the needs and preferences of stabled horses in training and competition.