Heirloom Circles

The down side of being the first one in a freshly dragged arena is there is a visible trail of your ineptitude.  

slug trail

After practicing my Introductory Test C, I could clearly see that I was not quite ready for the horse show next weekend. I tried explaining to my trainer that my circles are like tomatoes. You don’t want the chemically enhanced, perfectly round ones that have no taste. You want the lumpy irregular heirloom varieties. She didn’t fall for my farmer’s market propaganda.  

heirloom circle

This is the good thing about dressage, it fosters accountability. If I didn't have a bunch of letters glaring at me from the edges of the arena I would have convinced myself that riding a green horse with two dogs running interference and a strange man mowing along the scary side of the arena and a cow lurking in the bushes excused my lack of attention to detail. My circle wasn’t lumpy because of those distractions, my circle was lumpy because I wasn't focused on the track ahead and balancing my horse. Once I recognized this, I anticipated the distractions, weighted my outside elbow and concentrated on a point far ahead on the circle and miraculously grew a 20 meter GMO tomato!

The Real Gentle Dental

I am surprised by how many horse owners do not use equine veterinarians for their horse’s dental work. Instead they employ dental technicians, often from out of town, to work on their horses. At first I figured the technicians were performing the work for a lower price than a veterinarian. But I found that is not necessarily true. When I asked these horse owners why they didn’t use their veterinarian for dental work, I got a variety of responses. One said that veterinarians are not as well trained to perform dental work as someone who does dental work exclusively. Another said she uses a dental technician because her veterinarian uses a Power Float which is too aggressive for the teeth. A third client said she didn’t even realize that vets did teeth. 

I would like to address all three of those comments:

  • Dental Technicians have more training in dental care than veterinarians”. To become an equine dental technician you only need to complete a four to six week training course. All veterinary school graduates will have taken a more comprehensive lecture and practical course taught by a certified diplomat of the American Veterinary Dental College. Veterinary students interested in dentistry can take additional elective course work during their senior year. Many veterinarians who incorporate dentistry into their practice also choose to fulfill their continuing education requirements with advanced training in dental care. In every situation, a veterinarian has received equivalent, if not superior, training in equine dentistry than a lay dentist. 
  • Power Floating is too aggressive”. In the wrong hands, this is true. This is why power dental tools are only sold to veterinarians as their misuse by untrained lay practitioners resulted in their reputation as being too aggressive. Many states prohibit non-veterinarians from using power dental tools. As a result many lay practitioners perpetuate the rumor that power tools are too aggressive only because they are not legally allowed to use them. Both traditional hand floats and power tools have their place in equine dentistry. The most important tool is the practitioner and their experience, technique, knowledge and judgement.
  • Vets don’t float teeth”. For some veterinarians, this may be true. Many vets specialize in specific aspects of veterinary care. Some veterinarians only diagnose and treat lameness. Others spend all their time with a magic wand up some mare’s butt (reproductive specialists). But the vast majority of equine veterinarians are general practitioners who incorporate dental care into their comprehensive practice. So why do our clients not even realize we “do” teeth? Well, we got lazy and allowed pseudo professionals to pick up the slack. Prior to power dental equipment being available, floating teeth was much harder work and rotator cuff injuries were common. Veterinarians could make more money taking radiographs and injecting joints than floating teeth. We allowed ourselves to be replaced by less qualified but more available technicians. For those of us veterinarians who enjoy performing dental work and are concerned with the welfare of the horse, this is incredibly frustrating. 

Why have a veterinarian perform the dental work?

As a veterinarian, my training and experience extends beyond just the mouth. When I do a dentistry, I start with a thorough physical exam. My training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, neurology and anesthesiology allows me to recognize and diagnose underlying health issues. I perform a neurological exam to ensure that the horse is able to stand while sedated and elevate his head without discomfort or ataxia. I manipulate the neck, poll, TMJ and hyoid feeling for discomfort or reduced range of motion. Once sedated I perform a thorough oral exam using a full mouth speculum. I choose to sedate my patients because I want them to be relaxed during the procedure. Once I have determined what corrective work is necessary,  I float the teeth, align the incisors, reduce the canines, apply a slight bit seat if requested and remove any extraneous, diseased or loose teeth with appropriate anesthesia. After the work is completed,  I perform a brief fascial therapy session to align the hyoid apparatus and release poll tension to help the horse adjust to the corrective work. After the procedure I am available to answer any of my client’s questions about their horse’s teeth, nutrition and concurrent health issues.  I am also available the days and weeks after the procedure should my client have any additional questions or need further assistance. I am not just passing through town. 

fly by night

There are circumstances where having a skilled non-veterinarian dental technician perform dental work on your horse may be your best choice:

  • IF your veterinarian does not perform dental equilibration with sufficient regularity to be proficient
  • AND you reside in a state where it is legal for a lay practitioner to float teeth
  • AND the technician is educated and experienced
  • AND they are working under the supervision of a veterinarian who has examined your horse who administers the sedation.

There are also many circumstances where using a lay dental technician is ill advised. I recommend you and your veterinarian have a conversation about your horse’s health and dental care needs and decide together who would best be able to assist your horse. 

For more information about horse teeth, their development and issues of the mouth, check out Equi-Librium Institute’s Equine Dentistry Course and attend one of my free dental seminars and demonstrations. 

dental seminar

All Creatures Great or Small?!

Yesterday I answered the phone and booked an appointment to examine a Holstein calf with swollen ears. This morning I stocked my truck with the usual supplies necessary for a farm call, put on my overalls and rubber boots and headed out to see the calf.  I arrived at the address to find a kind couple holding a very overweight black and white cat named Holstein.  


Trying not to appear too shocked or unprepared, I stumbled my way through the small animal appointment. As someone who would much rather be cornered by a bull than clawed by a cat, I tried to hide my apprehension as I cautiously examined this seemingly complacent creature. All the while, Holstein sunbathed on his back, udderly content with the attention. 


15 minutes later with ears cleaned and meds and vaccines administered, I emerged victorious and unscathed by the feline. Apparently naming my clinic Aramat EQUINE did not get the point across. In Puna, if it rhymes with “equine” that is good enough. 


Unfortunately the canine of the day was my own. Otto has begun to wear out his oversized, conformational challenged body. While hiking to his favorite waterfall he partially tore his Achilles tendon. I am now having to practice what I preach and put my big guy on stall rest. He doesn’t seem too broken up about it but I know how hard it is going to be to keep him calm over the next few months.

Source: www.aramatequine.com

If it walks like a duck...

Today I took immense joy in watching my client/friend ride her horse. While she may have only been performing training level dressage drills, it was a monumental achievement for them. She had only ridden this horse a handful of times in the entire 3 years I have known her. Despite her best care and attention he struggled with repeated bouts of laminitis, obesity, recurrent airway disease, and lymphedema that precluded her from being able to ride him with any regularity. Every time I saw this horse I would say “he has Cushings” so we would test him and he would be negative. We would then struggle on trying to manage the pain in his feet, his coughing, his skin infections and his weight all the while thinking he should have tested positive. But he never did. 

Finally out of shear frustration while looking at his latest blood test results, I yelled, “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a damn duck!” And we started him on Pergolide. 

And what do you know! The laminitis went away, he shed his thick summer coat, he lost weight and had a spring in his step. And my client started riding her horse again. Hallelujah!  Her horse had Cushings no matter what the test results said. 

The world is not black and white but diagnostic testing can be if it is not interpreted in light of the patient in front of you. At first I believed too much in a number on a piece of paper. But then I remembered I wasn’t treating a piece of paper, I was treating a horse, a horse with all the symptoms of Cushings. 

Source: www.equi-libriuminstitute.com