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How to Tell Your Horse's Age By Their Teeth


horse teeth2Though not an entirely accurate method of telling age, you can get a pretty accurate guesstimate of your horses' age by looking at their teeth. Horses do not have teeth like people do, they continue to grow as they age and be worn down as they eat. Knowing how the different teeth are worn down and how they develop will help you guesstimate how old your horse is.

Baby Teeth
Baby horses, or foals, will begin to receive their deciduous or milk teeth almost immediately after birth. Milk teeth appear paler in color and are shorter in length than permanent teeth. These will continue to come in and be fully grown by the time the foal is nine months old. A horse will begin to grow in their adult, permanent teeth between their second and third year and it is not at all unusual to find teeth by feeders or simply laying on the ground. Milk teeth are gradually shed over two or three years and permanent teeth are completely in place by age five.

Adult Teeth
Permanent, adult teeth are cupped, with a concave center. They also have shape and a groove on the outer surface that runs vertically along the tooth and gradually grows out. This groove is known as Galyvane's groove and is an indicator of how old a horse may be. As the horse grazes and wears down it's teeth, the sides of the cup are worn down and become flatter. In general, by the time a horse is 11 years old they will have worn their teeth almost completely flat. Naturally, a variety of factors can contribute to how flat your horses' teeth are, and this is why it is not an exact way to determine age. Sandy soil will wear teeth down faster than clay soil; horses that graze often will have flatter teeth than those that aren't set out to pasture much.

How can you tell the age then? With Galyvayne's goove. The groove grows up from the gum line when the horse is about ten. As the teeth continue to grow out, this groove will stretch from the gum line and up to the top of the tooth. Remember that the teeth are being constantly "sanded" or "filed" by the grit in the grass the horse eats, so Galyvayne's groove is appears as the tooth grows up out of the gum. When a horse reaches their mid-twenties, the tooth stops forming the Galyvayne's groove and the groove will begin to disappear from the gum line. A horse that is older will show no signs of the groove.

Senior Teeth
Senior horses will have angled and longer teeth that may yellow and fall out as the horse continues to get older. Senior horses need constant dental care and may need a diet that is easier on their teeth as it can become difficult and painful to chew as more teeth fall out.


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