Horses in Steamboat Springs get their teeth fixed by class of aspiring dentists
Steamboat Springs — A bad set of teeth once kept Jiggs the horse from riding to his full potential on a dude ranch in Jackson, Wyoming.
Then a horse dentist came along and fixed Jiggs’ teeth.
“He rode perfect after that,” his rider, Steve Glasnak, said Friday in Steamboat Springs as he helped other students from around the world learn how to perform dentistry on horses at Sombrero Stables.
Jiggs’ transformation was so great, Glasnak spent years studying the field of horse dentistry.
When horses’ teeth are in good shape, they eat better, live longer and can run faster.
Glasnak and almost a dozen students are here in the Yampa Valley participating in four weeks of lessons with the American School of Equine Dentistry.
When they leave this week, the students and teachers led by Raymond Hyde will have helped an estimated 350 horses with their dental issues.
The treatments range from extractions to filings.
Had it not been for a class, the dental bill for that number of horses could have amounted to $70,000, Hyde said.
He said one of the focuses of the training is fixing teeth of older horses that are better for beginner riders.
The students will be able to go back to their homes as far away as Sydney, Australia, and help more horses.
“If horses’ mouths are out of alignment, then their bodies will be out of alignment,” horse chiropractor and dental technician Michelle Sauerwein said as she led another horse into the stable for treatment.
Almost all of the horses being worked on looked comfortable as students donning headlamps shoved long poles into their mouths to grind some of their teeth down.
Only one fought with the dentists with its large tongue during an hour of training.
The calm demeanor of the horses comes thanks to the fact that just like in human dentistry, some of the horses are given drugs that make them more comfortable.
Hyde said a horse will chew for about 12 hours each day, so it’s important that the horse’s set of 40 teeth are properly aligned and functional.
The dentist from Virginia said he was motivated to get into the work because horses’ teeth were being neglected.
He said he’s had more than 600 students attend his classes, which have been held in places ranging from Alaska to New Zealand to Brazil.
During the monthlong course here in Colorado, the students get to live on a ranch about 8 miles west of Craig and experience life on a ranch.
“A lot of people don’t know about it,” Adolfo Cedeno, a veterinarian from Costa Rica, said about horse dentistry. “It’s pretty sweet. I like this work.”