Horsin’ Around 5-18-09 | TheFencePost.com
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Horsin’ Around 5-18-09

Drawing from Melvin Bradley "Horses"Front teeth with wear at years of age.

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Before acquiring your first horse you should know, with in a reasonable time, how old that horse is, you can’t always trust a horse trader. However that is an old saying from many years ago because I think that many horse traders are relatively honest. Especially when they live in the area, because if they were not they would not be in business very long. Now this is a different story form horse traders passing through or ones that show up at sale barns. I know this because I have sold horses at sale barns and the old saying goes; “Let the buyer beware.”

How to tell the age of a horse requires some practice on a number of horses. First we need to learn how to open the horse’s mouth and keeping it open for the examination by pulling the tongue to one side, while grasping the upper lip with the other hand.

Foals have two central incisors (milk teeth) at the gums that are about to come through. The two lateral (next to the milk teeth) incisors come in at about five weeks, and the ones at the corners come in around eight months. Replacement of the “baby” teeth with permanent teeth follows as the foal grows in years as with our teeth.



At about two and a half years the two central permanent incisors appear. Baby teeth are much like ours, a chalky white, and as the permanent teeth come in they are more solid looking with enamel. Replacement is consistent, and a horse’s age can accurately be assessed. The two laterals appear at three and a half and the corners are up at four and a half. All these teeth have black rings or cavities in the center from which the age is determined for the next three years. Cavities in the central teeth disappear (or rather smooth out) at about six, those in the laterals disappear at seven and those in the corners at eight.

At about the age of eight or 10 a black line appears on the outside of the upper corner incisor (called galvayne’s groove). This groove extends down until it reaches the bottom at about age 20.



After age 10, the incisors also begin to protrude forward and change to oval and later triangular from front to back.

If you are interested in the height of your horse you can make your own measuring stick or purchase one marked in hands, that’s four inches per hand. This is the term used when discussing the height of horses. It can be fun guessing the height of horses, only when it is not important, then use the measuring stick to see how close you can come to the correct height. Be sure to measure from the a flat surface on the ground to the top of withers. Good luck.

Prior to his retirement, Roger Thompson was a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.


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