Teeth 'n' Hooves

What do the horse's teeth have to do with the hooves, you ask?


This past week I was privileged to be able to observe some HUGE differences in the movement of a horse and his body positioning after having his teeth attended to by a Natural Balance Dentist (NBD). The changes were so profound that two others who were also observing made appointments immediately following for their own horses. They, too, experienced ginormous differences in their horses!

So how does that happen that simply having the horse's teeth tended can change their body positioning, their gaits, their muscle tension and even their attitude?

Well, think of when your teeth hurt. I'm sure, like myself, you get cranky, can get a headache, don't feel like eating much or even talking! Worst of all is TMD
(temporomandibular disorder). You know, when you're jaw is out of alignment so it aches and even causes pain in your neck and shoulders? That causes you to hold tension in your face, your head, even down your back.

It's just not fun.

Did you know that horses can get TMD also?

Now think of that l-o-n-g neck and how that might be affected from the tension in the jaw, the poll and more? Think of how the neck works with the rest of the body. Think of how the neck influences the shoulders? The shoulders influence the legs which influence the strides of the horse.

Even more so, if the horse is so tense from TMJ (tempomandibular joint) that the pain flows down his back to the hind end, the *engine* of the horse ... well, I daresay you'd notice changes in how he holds his body AND the way he goes.

Refusing jumps, balky, grumpy and nippy, or overly shy and spooky, refusing to stride out or pick up the correct lead for the canter. TMJ may even go as far as to cause the horse to buck or rear from nasty discomfort!

Other 'symptoms' include the following:

  • asymmetrical gait
  •  high/low heels and shoulders
  •  irreparable hoof issues
  •  joint damage/pain
  •  tendon and ligament tears
  •  muscle soreness, atrophy or hypertrophy
  •  chiropractic adjustments not sticking
  •  not tracking straight or tight-rope walking
  •  inability to pick up leads easily, flex, extend, or engage hind end
  •  lugging on one rein
  •  poll pain, lack of flexion, or extension at the poll
  •  organ dysfunction (i.e. colic, liver, or kidney issues)
  • weight loss or gain
  •  excessive eye drainage or tears
  •  and the list goes on...

But, given all that, what about the hooves? How does TMD affect the hooves?

Well, the easiest answer to that is ... if the horse is tense and holding pain in the poll, the neck, the shoulders then the horse won't be moving correctly which will, in turn, wear the hooves in an imbalanced manner! Then those imbalanced hooves can distort the horse's way of going, too ... and, cause discomfort.

There is a chart that shows each tooth in the HUMAN jaw and how it is connected to specific organs through meridians.

The following is a chart based on the EQUINE mouth:

It is theorized that the same applies to horses. Each tooth in the horse's jaw correlates to a specific organ AND it has been shown that each tooth is connected to the hooves through nerves and proprioceptors. (Proprioceptors are sensory receptors that receives stimuli from within the body, especially one that responds to position and movement..)

Domestic horses do not have the opportunity, for the most part, to graze acres and acres of land with different forages and many domestics do not even have the opportunity to eat from the ground. Without biting off tough, dry grasses and other forage, the incisors (front teeth) do not wear as much as the chewing teeth (molars), and the result is physically longer incisors. When the feed and hay are placed up off the ground the horse does not have to lower the head to eat. Eating "up" does not allow the bottom jaw to drop down and forward for proper chewing positioning which, in turn, affects not only the front teeth but also the molars!. (And as a side note, grazing position in the only way a horse can drain its sinuses and clear out the bronchial tubes.) The result of this mal-positioning to eat causes malformations as the teeth continue to grow. Long incisors, hooks, waves, curves and other problems arise. Did you know that the length and inclination of the front teeth were meant to be equal in comparison to that of our domestic horses at around age 5 and should remain that way throughout the lifetime of the horse?  Too often, though, we see very long incisors and very short molars. This is the result of traditional equine floating (dental work on the horse).

(Photo courtesy of Spencer LaFlure, http://www.centerfornaturalbalancehorsedentistry.com)

NBD addresses the incisors FIRST and then will address the molars accordingly.

Spencer LaFlure wrote a thesis a number of years ago stating that whole horse restoration could be accomplished by whole mouth equilibration. The key starting point is addressing the incisors FIRST and proceeding from there to balancing the mouth in an anatomically correct way to fit each individual horse. Doing this not only addresses the teeth BUT also the overall (whole horse) comfort of the horse which, as a result, also affects the way the horse moves that affects the way the hooves wear and grow.

There is far more to NBD than I can go over in a short post here and even way more than I even understand fully.

Suffice to say in conclusion ...

"Thoughtful dental and hoof changes can rock a horse’s world in very positive ways.  The connections with their entire body, breathing, digestion, freedom of movement and feeling of well-being is undeniable, and working on both the teeth and the feet in concert beautifully addresses the horse’s foundation, allowing for better results using every other treatment modality." -- Thomas Tesky, DVM

I've had my horses' teeth tended by NBD and the changes in their bodies, as a whole, was remarkable. The two horses last week are totally changed in a most positive way.

So, if your horse begins to exhibit behavior that is objectionable and you can't figure it out, try looking at the horse's teeth AND the hooves.

Your horse(s) will thank you!





Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications including The Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoof care for the last 20 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. You can email to Gwen -- gwen.santagate@gmail.com or telephone in the US (774)-280-4227 NEW PHONE). For further information please click here:  www.thepenzancehorse.com


Hi Vickey — I tried answering you before but, for some reason, my post just didn’t go through. :( Anyhoo — hopefully this one does.

My suggestion to you would be to go to Spencer LaFlure’s website:
http://www.centerfornaturalbalancehorsedentistry.com and you’ll find info there on the educational opportunities.

I wish you the best! Good choice! :)

Gwenyth Santagate August 02, 2018

Yes, absolutely! Please visit Spencer LaFlure’s page here:
and you’ll find the information there as well as contact numbers of whom you can email or call for more info if you’d like.

:) — Gwen

Gwenyth Santagate August 02, 2018

I am a general dentist and would like to learn more about horses teeth to help our small herd. Can I obtain an he education needed to treat their teeth your way and improve their lives? I am very interested.

Vickey j Hodnik July 31, 2018

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