Can you tell a horse’s age by looking at their teeth? James Sheppard, an equine dental technician (EDT) with 17 years’ experience who has treated equines in 18 different countries, including top-level performance horses, explains what to look for.
Ageing a horse is relatively simple, but there are some exceptions, especially in horses that crib bite or windsuck.
First, the natural shedding of the deciduous (baby) teeth of a young horse is generally very accurate, so up to the age of five you can be fairly precise.
Between the ages of five and 10, there are certain characteristics to note about a horse’s teeth:
- The upper corner incisors begin coming into wear, and a small ‘beak’ appears on that same incisor at age seven. Large cusps (raised areas) on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the incisors decrease in size as the horse gets older.
- The Galvaynes groove starts at the age of 10, and can last until the horse is between 25 and 30 years old.
- The Galvaynes is a brown mark that appears at the gum line at the centre of the upper corner incisor. This mark grows down and reaches halfway down the tooth by 15 years old, before leaving the gum line altogether at 20 years old.
- The mark grows out completely during the five to 10 years afterwards, allowing us to identify horses who are between 25 and 30 years of age.
- The older the horse, the more acute the angle where the incisors meet, and the more triangular the incisors appear to be.
Related to this…
- Dental bridges and fillings: yes, we are still talking about horses’ teeth
- How to look after your horse’s teeth and keep them healthy
- Tooth decay: why sugar and syrup in treats and licks can be bad for your horse’s teeth
Like humans, horses get two sets of teeth in their lifetime. Most horses have 24 deciduous (baby) teeth and they appear early — usually within the first two weeks after being born.
Mature stallions have between 40 and 44 teeth, while mature mares have around 36 to 40 teeth. The difference is due to the fact that the canine teeth, which should appear when the horse is around four to five years of age, are often not seen in mares.