Straight from the horse's mouth: an hour with a travelling equine dentist

I always wanted to be a dentist from the time I was in high school, and I was accepted to dental school in the spring of 1972. I was planning to go, but after the Olympics there were other opportunities. Mark Spitz

Unlike Olympic medalist Mark Spitz, I never had an aspirations towards dentistry.

In fact, thanks to my mom's great genetic contributions, I can successfully avoid dentists for years at a time without suffering any adverse effects. When I do (finally) show up at the dentist's office, (usually following some sort of horse-related gravity-test that impacted my mouth) I am heartily scolded by the receptionist, the hygenist, and the dentist because they haven't seen me in the office since the last time a Democrat was President. However, since none of whom can ever find anything about my teeth that actually requires FIXING, I tolerate the scoldings and then wander away for another few years. The dentist must make his boat payments without my help.

Fiddle and Hana, however, are not given a choice. Today was their appointment with Dr. Sarah Metcalf, DVM. Hana had been here before, and recognized Sarah and her rig...but Fiddle was mystified by the oddly-appointed trailer and the strange smells inside it. However, thanks to tons of practice loading in every trailer
I could find last summer, Fiddle walked in confidently and got her first dose of sedative.

Then Sarah went to work.

Fortunately for me (and the checkbook that will be making farm mortgage payments in just a couple of months) Fiddle's mouth is quite uncomplicated; lacking my mom's great "teeth" genes, Fiddle still has terrific teeth.

Sarah uses a gigantic speculum
to help her in viewing inside a horse's long, dark mouth. She not only peers inside the mouth, she makes sure the owner looks in there too--so that I fully understand the minimal (but important) work that my horse needs. Fiddle had some "hooks" on her upper back teeth, which created dime-sized sores inside her cheeks. Hooks are a part of the tooth that has been ground down unevenly, so that the part near the tongue is flat (like your own back molars), but the outer edges near the cheek are pointed--and sharp!

Sarah removed the hooks with a special power drill--similar to my dentist's drill, but about 2 feet longer. Then she filed everything flat and pronounced her 1,000-pound patient ready for the "recovery room": a flat patch of sunny parking lot where Fee could walk in big circles while I sang Drunken Sailor and laughed at her sedated amble.

The sedation wore off quickly, and within 15 minutes the mares hopped in the trailer and snoozed all the way home, ready for another year of happy eating.


  1. Only the best for Fiddle: ) I recently had to ask Sarah for a recommendation in SW Washington state, and she had one for me - Dr. Dick Vetter, who has a trailer that she designed hers after! My horse thought, "Same trailer, WRONG DENTIST!" but Dick's wife Kathy holds all the horses and watches them for signs of trouble. It's so fun to watch them work together. Dick's office portion of the trailer is fascinating, with a laptop playing a slideshow that educates the owner about teeth. Case histories with photos are on the walls. A great place to spend a few hours. Baasha took a few hours. I was pretty shocked to see the bill - $500. But I feel that professional dentistry is not an option, and I really wouldn't have just a vet out to float teeth again. Let's see if I have any luck finding a horse dentist in a foreign land!

    Baasha took a long time to adapt to his new mouth this time, still quidding a week later, and he was in quarantine in Morton at the time, so Dr. Vetter dropped in and did a checkup. Cathy assured me that some horses take time. Finally he's better and he can eat the biggest carrots no problem, WHEW!

    Wish me luck in finding a dentist here.

    Oh, and as for my own mouth, I'm like you - so far, lucky - I hate dentists!


  2. Story's first dental appoint was SOOO expensive...probably because she was 15 years old before she had a REAL appointment, rather than the traditional "pull out the tongue and rasp a bit" floating. After the first year, maintenance appointments were cheaper.

    Starting with a younger horse is better, I guess. Certainly it was less expensive!

    I *do* wish you luck in finding a dentist--keep me posted.


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