What in the World are you Doing?

This is a legitimate question to one who is not familiar with this procedure. It seems so awful, and cruel towards the horse at first glance. Sometimes not everything is as it seems. In the horse world it is called “floating a horses’ teeth.” It can be a life saver for neglected horses because these painful, sharp tooth points interfere with eating and drinking.

At first glance this procedure looks so cruel.


Horses teeth do not stop growing over their life. The expression “long in the tooth”, comes from the horse world. An old horse is described as being ‘long in the tooth’ because their teeth grow longer as they age. Because of this growth, horses need regular dental care. This procedure is called ‘floating the teeth’. In simple terms it is like filing one’s fingernails. Floating grinds down the sharp, uneven surfaces of the teeth. Many times sharp, painful points are formed on the teeth. In the above photo, Dr. Rhode is feeling around Duke’s mouth to find the sharp points. These points are what need grinding down. They can cause pain in the mouth when eating, and could cause problems with digestion as well.

Tracy is an amazing assistant to Dr. Rhode. Duke was in very good hands with her.

Horses are sedated before the procedure is started. In the above photo Duke is obviously not feeling too much pain. A bright light is attached to the mouthpiece that holds his jaw open. In the below photo, it has been circled in a green marker.

The flashlight is that square in the middle of the green circle. It is very bright, as is seen in photo.

His heavy, sedated head is resting on a sling. A close look in the above photo shows Tracy’s gloved hand holding the pole steady. Tracy said Duke was very good because he did not shake his head from side to side, which makes for a very difficult job. I was very thankful.

The sling Duke’s head is resting on can be seen in this photo also. Dr. Rhode’s power drill is loud and big, but it has a big teeth to grind down.

After the points had been ground down, tarter was removed from his canines. This was the last thing to do. Duke’s dental appointment was over. Good, good horse. Great vet and assistant.

Tarter is being removed from his canines.

I am not able to post the video for some reason. It can been seen on my Instagram account @primaryfarmoperator.

History Note: Before hand tools were available for this job, it had to be done by the vet with big heavy files by hand!