The Horse Tooth Fairy – A Kristull Chronicle

It has been raining for a week solid, and the mud is ankle deep all over the ranch. But we have an appointment with the Horse Tooth Fairy, Loren Hardie, to float the teeth on several horses today.

“Floating” involves a series of rasps (called floats) of different sizes, angles and depths that are inserted into a horse’s mouth, used to file or grind away sharp points that appear on the molars over time. The points begin to tear into the soft cheek tissues (and/or tongue), causing discomfort and pain and changing the way a horse chews as well as how he takes a bit, how he moves, and how he feels when he is asked to perform.

Floating can not only smooth the surface of the molars, but it can also even them so that one side of the molar is not higher than the other, creating a smooth and even chewing surface.

Because horses must chew their food efficiently in order to digest it, if he experiences pain while eating it can have a profound affect on his weight and overall nutrition . It is the FIRST thing to check if your horse starts to lose weight for no apparent reason. It can have an affect in his way of going or his physiology and appearance as his muscle structure begins to change to alleviate the pain of TMJ or other muscle stresses.

Pastured and wild horses can often go longer without the help of a Fairy because they pick up and chew rocks and gravel in their forage: materials that break off the points as they form. But those hay bellies on our horses mean that they all probably have points all over the place. (Horse teeth continue to erupt and grow taller throughout a good portion of a horse’s life, so domesticated horses need this done routinely).

The procedure pictured took about 10-15 minutes per horse, was done without anesthetic, and each horse actually seemed to enjoy the procedure as relief came. Notice the head angle and the ears and eyes of these horses during the procedure: Their ears are flat and floppy, the eye has no white showing, and the head is cocked much as a dog cocks his head when enjoying a good ear scratch. Horse teeth do not have nerves near the surface, so there is no pain at all. There is no trauma, no fight and no recovery.

Many, many horses are unnecessarily sedated for routine floating.
The secrets to a successful Natural Float:
It is the rare animal who is well trained to stand that cannot be done in a more natural way. Find an excellent equine dentist whose attitude is calm, gentle, and who understands horse psychology. Allow enough time for a slow introduction of dentist to the horse.

Because horses are naturally claustrophobic and fear unknowns (especially if cornered or tied) I recommend:
1. Restrain the horse as little as possible during the “meet and greet” with the equine dentist.
2. Restrain as little as possible during the mouth examination (If your horse wears a bit, this should be a piece of cake)
3. Work your way up to introduction of the tools, first for him to smell and examine (they probably smell like antiseptic and are cold and hard). Then into his mouth. (Use Approach and Retreat and Release exercises if necessary)
4. And finally, restrain as little as possible during the procedure, moving a little step or two with him, calming and controlling as you go.

If you can accomplish all of this in a pasture, all the better. If not, try a round pen. Control without force or squeeze is best.

Take your cues from the professional doing the teeth. Everyone needs to be safe, but ABSOLUTE control is often not necessary. A little bit of dancing around at first is to be expected, but standing is ultimately required. If “mom” can’t get gentle control, have someone else hold the horse. (I don’t mean to be insulting, but sometimes a horse will respect another handler more than a pampering Mom.)

If your horse will not stand for such a procedure, we highly recommend that he go back to some basic training including de-sensitizing exercises. It is so much better for him to have his routine floats without anesthetic, it is worth the time and effort.

Teeth Affect EVERYTHING!
The equine muscle and temperament story certainly doesn’t stop at the teeth. A horse’s entire muscle structure starts in his mouth and ends at his tail. “The tongue is the gateway to the neck, shoulders, and front of the horse.” The front is the gateway to the ribs and rear of the horse. And so it goes.

How he chews dictates how his jaw musculature develops. When a horse bites down, he has 2,000 lb/sq/in of pressure in his bite. His lower jaw is smaller than his upper jaw, so the teeth do not always meet perfectly.

(More coming soon)

Few horses tolerate this device without anesthetic. If this speculum is necessary (such as if corrective or extraction work is needed), a veterinarian usually sedates.

* Note A “Performance Float” is different than this routine float. It actually involves floating the first tooth behind where the bit sits until it is rounded off, somewhat smaller. Some people think this makes a more comfortable “bit seat” for a performance horse.

If you live in Central Texas, contact Loren at Email

Horse training can be dangerous. Not all methods work on all horses. Instruction presented here is not meant to be prescriptive in nature, and takes no responsibility for the welfare of any animal or person using our methods.

Please note that any advice given on is neither veterinary nor prescriptive in nature but offered only as an introduction to this topic.

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