I have owned Missy now for five years. The sad truth is that during those five years I have not got her teeth done. It was not meant to be neglect! I thought I was doing her a favour, protecting her from the stress of a dentist visit. Missy was given to me as an unstarted eight year old Arab that had been rescued from starvation and bad handling, to a woman who thought with good intensions to send her to a breaker, she was sent back worse and her experience with being mouthed had resulted in a comment that she was unsafe and tried to kill them.
Shortly after I was given Missy I met Cynthia and she introduced me to natural horsemanship. I was able to form a relationship with this beautiful sensitive mare. Yet her scars remained and I just accepted her as she was. I had my gelding’s teeth done but still was too scared to do Missy, because of the stress it would cause her. Then a few weeks ago I noticed swelling down her jaw, I was horrified at the pain that Missy was in.
I called the vet and arranged for him to do her teeth. Recently I had discovered Clicker training through Natural horse world and was using the technique to get Missy to worm easier, I was having great results and in a conversation with Cynthia she recommended desensitizing Missy in readiness for the dentist using clicker training. Over the week I was able to place the handle of a plastic hoof pick all over her teeth without her being upset. I also did target training, which is getting the horse to respond to a manmade object, like a wooden handle with a ball taped to it, so the horse can focus on the target. All this helped in her preparation for the vet.
Photo: The lump in the side of the jaw alerted Vanessa to her horse’s teeth troubles.
The Vet arrived and sedated her and began the procedure as well as a pregnancy test. She was amazing as she coped with all the rasping without hardly any resistance. I have watched horses being sedated and still fighting the whole procedure. I can say that having formed a trusting relationship with the help of many great natural horsemanship techniques and love as well as desensitising her in readiness for the experience has made the whole experience stress free for both of us.. The great feeling is that evening when I walked out to check on them they all came trotting up and I was able to rub and kiss Missy’s face and she stood there loving every moment of it.
I realise the commitment in looking after a horse’s health. When I first got her she would fall over when I touched her legs, yet over time I was able to bare foot trim her and now she stands with no halter or rope as I trim her sitting down.
I guess I also think teeth fall into the category “what you can’t see won’t hurt you.” I have learnt my lesson in thinking that I was being kind. I was actually being neglectful. What I love about this journey of natural horsemanship, is that there is a huge tool box of knowledge waiting and when we need a solution we just rummage around and find a tool to help us, it may not be the first one but I have learnt that eventually an answer will come. And I thank Cynthia Cooper for all her wonderful articles and now I am just waiting for her book!