For those that don't already know this (I think most of my five readers are already horse people), there are far more accurate and complete sources than my blog, but basically, horses wear their teeth down when they chew with the side-to-side grinding motion they do, and they often wear unevenly, creating points and even hooks that obviously make it uncomfortable for them to eat. They can get ulcers on the insides of our cheeks just like we humans do, and it can also make having a bit in their mouths painful. So every so often, the sharp parts of their teeth need to be ground down. Some people use power tools and some people use hand tools; some horses need to be sedated, some can be done without, but the basic idea is the same.
Yesterday, the vet came out. He asked whether I knew for sure that Trigger needed his teeth floated, or whether I'd called him out to check, and I said I didn't know for sure, so to please check. He checked as well as he could with a conscious horse fully in control of his teeth, and said it wouldn't be a bad idea, since he was out here anyway. So he gave Trigger a little tiny shot that made him quite a bit woozy. I asked how long it would take to kick in, the vet said a few minutes, and literally by the time he got to his truck to get his tools out, Trigger's head and eyelids were drooping in unison.
|Sleepy boy. I did apply fly spray not too long after this, since he didn't have the presence of mind to twitch/blink/swish them off him himself.|
|You may see that his eyes are kind of alert and he has pissy ears--this was taken as he was starting to come to, shortly before he got another dose to make him sleepy again.|
He did his thing, grinding and grinding away at Trigger's teeth, and while his tongue wiggled all over the place (giving Nathan a run for his money for the "Wiggliest Tongue Award" he earns from every dentist or orthodontist who has the pleasure of looking in his mouth), he didn't seem to mind a bit. The vet had me put my thumb directly on the grinding surface of the power tool to feel that it doesn't damage soft tissue at all, it has diamond chips/dust to grind down the teeth fairly efficiently.
Then the vet noticed a bit of a wolf tooth poking up from his gums. These are teeth that are much more common for male horses to have than female horses, though it's not unheard of for mares to have them. They sit right where the bit goes, so when a horse is completely knocked out to be gelded (or if it's unlucky enough to have some other procedure, I suppose), they will often extract the wolf teeth at the same time. Anyway, the vet felt something, and went to go get the tools to pry it out, but Trigger seemed to be stirring a bit, and getting a sparkle in his eyes and a twitch in the rest of his body that indicated he wouldn't be too amenable to as much poking and prodding as he might have been a few minutes prior. The vet made a go at it, but when I suggested he give Trigger another bit of sedative so he (the vet) didn't get hurt, he took me up on it.
With Trigger happily loopy again, he got a tiny sliver of tooth out, and poked and prodded and felt around for more, but only felt scar tissue. He figured they must have missed the sliver when they removed them when he was gelded.
I paid the vet, and he instructed me not to let Trigger eat (or drive heavy machinery, I assume) for at least an hour, so I penned him up in an empty stall without any food to let him recover. Since he'd only JUST received that second dose, he took longer to recover than is typical after dental work. Poor guy was NOT stable. Walking him from the stall where he'd had the work done (which had a full hay rack so he couldn't stay there) to the empty stall, he was literally weaving with every step. When he finally stopped moving, apparently the rest of the world didn't, as he stood like this for about 10 minutes:
|This is Trigger. This is Trigger on drugs.|
The poor boy's bladder was full, but he didn't have the brain power to led down the equipment, spread his legs, or use force to expel the urine, so it just kind of splattered all over in the form of a weak showerhead spray. He peed THREE more times (a total of four!) over the hour he was in the recovery room. SweetPea says it's like when humans drink--you just pee and pee and pee. :-)
At one point, Trigger got the idea to do a 180 and go check for food or something. He staggered in the most awkward way imaginable. His knees knocked into each other, his feet dragged on the ground, at one point his fetlock joint was bent the wrong way and he was on the tippy toe of that foot...totally uncoordinated. I'm surprised (but relieved!) he didn't just flop down on the ground for a real nap, though he would have had to stay there until he was coherent enough to organize all four limbs to stand.
He did, at one point, notice the few strands of hay that had migrated from neighboring stalls. He lowered his head, wobbled a bit, then wiggled his lips in the general direction of the hay. He was not successful in actually picking any up, though.
I left him alone to sleep it off.
Then turned Trigger and his buddy Jesse out to the pasture. Though his eyelids happen to be mid-blink, you'll notice the alert ears, the perky tail, and the relatively controlled stance of his limbs and neck. :-)
The farrier (excuse me, he prefers to be called a blacksmith) is coming this weekend, and after that, Trigger should have NO excuses to misbehave. Now to find someone confident enough to ride him properly and not let him get away with stuff...