How to age horses

Horses can be aged with some accuracy up to the age of 5 years by looking at the front and cheek teeth. If the feet and the teeth are looked after, a horse can live and work for many years.

The temporary (milk) teeth of the horse

The foal at birth has only two front teeth in each jaw and as the foal grows other temporary (milk) teeth are emerge. There are 24 temporary teeth which are smaller than the permanent teeth.

Upper jaw: 6 front teeth, 3 cheek teeth on each side
Lower jaw: 6 front teeth, 3 cheek teeth on each side

Permanent teeth

When you need to look at the animal’s teeth you can open the lips to look at the front teeth, but to see the cheek teeth you will need to pull out the tongue (see Unit 36).

There are 36 to 40 permanent teeth in the horse:

 Front teeth: 6 teeth in each jaw
 Cheek teeth: 6 teeth on each side of the jaw
Canine (dog) teeth: Sharp, long teeth situated in the gap between the cheek and front teeth. There are 4 teeth, one on each side of the upper and lower jaw.

The canine teeth start to emerge when the horse is 4 years old. The teeth are large in the male but in the female are very small or absent.

How to age horses

Teeth on the upper and lower jaws are similar.

(1) Birth: 2 temporary front teeth
(2) One month old: 4 front temporary teeth, 3 temporary cheek teeth on each side
(3) Six to nine months: 6 front temporary teeth
(4) One year old: 4 cheek teeth present
(5) One and a half years: 5 cheek teeth
(6) Two and a half years: 2 permanent front teeth replace 2 temporary teeth
(7) Three and a half years: 4 permanent front teeth showing
(8) Four years old: 4 canines show and 6 cheek teeth
(9) Four and a half years: 6 permanent front teeth

From 6 to 25 years of age the point of contact of the front teeth and the surface wear of the teeth will point to the age of the animal.

The Galvayne groove

This is another way to tell the age of the horse from 10 to 30 years. It appears at 10 years of age as a little canal on the top of the corner front teeth. By 15 years of age it has reached the middle of the tooth and at 20 years it has reached the bottom. It then starts to fill up and by 30 years of age the groove has disappeared.

Teeth problems

As equines grind their food the edges of the teeth become sharp and can damage the tongue or the inside of the cheek. If you find that an animal has difficulty eating, open its mouth by taking out the tongue and check the cheek teeth with your finger. You may need a veterinarian to rasp the teeth. You should check the teeth several times a year. Remember that teeth and hooves in good condition are essential in equines.