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Dynamic Assessment of Feet and Teeth. What does THAT mean?

We love pictures…and they are helpful, but we have VIDEO, which is way better! Our eyes and brains work better with movement, because that’s how our eyes and brains evolved to perceive our world. Look at two examples of DYNAMIC hoof and mouth function, the dynamic assessment of feet and teeth, and then read my insights into their connections:

This rear view of a dissection specimen shows one part of the independent rear suspension of the equine foot. Note the movement of “one heel up–one heel down” and the tilting of the frog spine in the center during these torquing/twisting movements. This is what happens when a horse leans their body forward, backward, right, left, up and down hills with EVERY step.

This movement of the dissected sole shows the independent opening and closing of the heel region…one more demonstration of how DYNAMIC and movable the anatomy is.

This movement of the horse’s jaw is called lateral (side-to-side) “excursion.” Note the separation between the teeth that occurs with movement to both sides–(Do you know why?) This is one indicator of normal, and vital, “3-point balance” in equine dentistry. There is a solid connection between the incisors when the jaw is centered (“centric occlusion”). These movements happen in a big way during chewing/eating and in much smaller movements during locomotion/walking, trotting, running, turning, raising the head up and down, going up and down hills and changing leads.

This movement is called “A-P excursion” of the jaw, meaning “Anterior (to the front) and Posterior movement (to the rear).” A healthy horse can comfortably move their jaw in these side to side and front to rear directions simultaneously as they chew and/or traverse their habitat.

Dr. Teskey trimming

Helping hooves with form and function…with spectators.

Trimming hooves for optimal performance involves respecting where a horse lives, the landmarks on each foot and their current conditions–no cover-ups and honest rehabilitation when needed.

untrimmed feet

Needing a trim–note the toe is more self-trimming than the heels.

trimmed feet

Finish what she started. Allow the frog to self-adjust when possible. The sides of a healthy hoof (called the quarters) often course in a naturally-arched shape.

Don’t overtrim: (Always leave some material behind to wear off on its own.)

Most domestic horses develop long and imbalanced incisors due to lack of full time grazing and confinement/inadequate body movement. We can easily demonstrate improvements in horses’ quality of life with respectful dentistry and providing for quality movement. Confinement and lack of free-choice available forage promotes unhealthy jaw retraction (movement to the rear), due to standing around in a more head-up position. In addition, any object in the mouth besides food, such as a bit of any kind, causes a reflexive, unhealthy jaw retraction, resulting in overjet and deformed incisors such as these below.

teeth before dentistry

Before adjustments: Note the overbearing, upper incisors with their excessive length and more anterior position (overjet), trapping the lower ones in a retracted, stagnant position.

teeth after dentistry

After adjustments: Note I reduced the excess length and sculpted a straighter connection above and below, allowing for freedom of jaw movement. This translates to comfort through the poll and spine, which is part of gaining freedom of movement body-wide!

Deformities in feet and teeth don’t come back when horses are managed in ways respectful of their natural abilities.

girl playing with a horse

When hooves and teeth are shaped better, they work better, and you will be happier as you witness greater comfort, agility and elevated movement.

I have a database of over 2000 horses’ teeth , feet and body pictures that demonstrate the effects of traditional versus more progressive management practices, for better or worse! I can show you horses that keep their feet so much nicer after their teeth are adjusted AND horses that maintain their head carriage, overall posture and dental balance so much nicer once their hooves attain a natural shape and comfort. The HIGHEST PERFORMING horses are those with naturally shaped and comfortable feet AND teeth, by nature’s design! The critical issue is having smooth strides, fully-formed heels that allow for heel-first landings and secure breakover ALONG WITH freedom of lateral and A-P movement in the jaw joints and poll. The MOTION in these structures flows back and forth through fascia (connecting tissues) on a spectrum from stiff to free…to braced to comfortable, and usually in an asymmetrical pattern left to right. This results in horses that appear stiffer or more free in their overall body movement.

If you like learning about these things, I think you’ll really enjoy my book, Insight to Equus, available to read here on this website. Thank you! –Dr. Tomas


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