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How to Tell a Horse's Age by Looking at Its Teeth

Updated: Feb 26

There's a very common myth that horses grow teeth throughout their whole life. That's not true. They grow teeth for the first seven or eight odd years, and then those teeth continue to erupt for the rest of their life, until the root part erupts and there is no tooth left, which is usually between 35 and 40.

The teeth take up heaps of space in the jaw.

Horses have milk teeth and adult teeth.

The horse in the top photo has grown root, so is closer to eight or nine, whereas in the picture directly above, the horse is still growing the middle section of the tooth, and is just losing the milk teeth, so is about three.

When they have jaw bumps like this, then it might mean the horse is having trouble losing the infant teeth, and the tooth is growing downwards instead of upwards. You need a dentist to check that out.

You can imagine that the jaw and mouth area would be quite sensitive during this time. This period between two to four years is exactly when we're typically "mouthing" - teaching the horse to become accustomed to having a metal bit in its mouth, and strapping leather tightly around its head, while the horse is being 'broken in' or started under saddle. This is something to bear in mind if your horse is reactive to pressure.

You can read a horse's teeth and determine the age because, while the chewing surface will depend on the diet of the horse, the teeth erupt from the gumline at a predictable rate. You can see the profile of the tooth as it emerges from the gumline. The ridge in the profile of the outermost incisor is referred to as 'Galvayne's groove', and we use this to estimate a horse's age.

Above is a graph of that tooth erupting from the gumline.

So now you know how to tell a horse's age by looking at the outer incisor.

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