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How to Tell a Horse's Age by his Teeth

Jim Hamilton, DVM

Starting at 2 years of age the horse's front teeth (incisors) are the way to tell age. There are three sets of incisors, central, intermediate and corners. Open the horse's lips and look to see if all are baby teeth or adults. The central pair are adult (permanent at 2 - 2 1/2 years., the intermediate at 3 - 3 1/2 years and the adult corner incisors at 4 - 4 1/2 years. At 4 1/2 - 5 1/2 years of age some horses (mostly males) grow canine teeth which is that fang-like tooth just behind the incisors.

Now starting at six years old, you need to look at the flat (table) surface of the lower incisors. There is a pit called the infundibulum that is easily seen in the center of each incisor's flat surface. At six years of age the pits of lower central permanent incisors are worn out (disappear). At 7 years the lower central incisors lose their pit and the upper corner incisor develops a hook off the back edge. By 8 years, all the lower adult incisors have lost their pit but a new small depression (dental star) appears in the lower central incisors. At 9 years of Age, the horse's lower central and intermediate and intermediate and upper central incisors will have a dental star but the infundibulum (pit) of the upper corner incisor is still present - they do not disappear until the horse is eleven years old.

From the age of eleven on, the incisors become more triangular and the teeth begin to project out toward the front of the mouth more with each additional year. The best way to get good at aging horses is by practice. Look at as many horses of know age and test yourself. Some day you'll save a friend from buying a 1980 model that he thought was brand new!

e-mail Dr. Jim Hamilton, DVM
Southern Pines Equine Associates
Phone 910-692-8640    fax 910-692-1142

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