Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nobody likes the trip to the dentist...

.... and that goes for me, and my horse.

The dentist came out yesterday, and I got him to check Jingle. As I detailed in my last post, he's been shaking his head, and generally not exactly being a calm and collected horse - especially when I ask for a remote bit of contact. After I purchased him the first thing I did was get a Vet out, who also floated his teeth. He's a respected vet, and works with the University to train vet-med students. I'm sure I've said it 16 million times already, so bear with me, but when Jingle was 5 he was sent to a trainer, upon returning, they told his previous owners he had an "abscess" in his jaw. In reality, he had severely fractured his jaw on his left side, and it had been re-set without proper veterinary care. Fast-forward to visit from the vet. I was really nervous, I didn't want to hear my horse was in pain, I didn't want to hear that he'd never be ridable, I had a million thoughts in my mind, all of which were pretty grim and dark. The vet floated him, took off a couple waves and hooks, and stated that aside from slightly pointed in back molars (which he claimed to be a trait found in foundation bred paint horses), and his jaw being 7 mm off, Jingle was in great health and that his jaw would probably align over time. It all sounded too good to be true, but I really just desperately wanted it to be true.

Fast forward to the Dentist taking a look at him. At first he said that Jingle would never take a bit properly, the fracture is on the left side, but he also has trauma to his jaw on the right side (not as noticeable). Then, he delved deeper into my sedated horses mouth, he let me put my hand into Jingle's mouth and for the first time I felt the spot where the fracture had occurred - it has resulted in a big dip in his jaw. One of the teeth is also pointed outwards, probably as a result from the trauma. Due to this dip, one of his teeth on the top of his mouth, has more room to erupt, and has become pointed, and was digging into the bottom of his mouth. This, my dentist said, caused a large amount of pressure build-up. He filed down the erupted tooth, as well as floated some waves he found in the back and in the front. He changed his tune and said that I should attempt to ride Jingle in a bit for now, so for the next 5-6 rides I'm suppose to take it slow, and see how he responds. Basically, his mouth will feel, to him, completely different. It makes sense as to why he was shaking his head, the noseband clamped down his mouth, and the erupted tooth was causing all that pressure to build and then not be able to escape. The fact that Jingle attempts to open his mouth and avoid the bit every time I ask for contact is most definitely in response to how much pressure he was feeling inside his mouth.

He also told me to start doing some basic massage on his head and neck, and to use Apple Cider Vinegar to draw any heat out of his muscles after a workout. (I am a huge fan of ACV - I should write a post about all the horse-related things I use it for!) I did it yesterday after he was out of his sedation and he seemed relaxed and happy for me to rub on him for awhile. The dentist said that with how bad the fracture had been, tendons and muscles were probably severed and pulled, and then grew back differently. He has a hard time going to the right, and his jaw was very tight before the Dentist worked on him - afterwards I noticed a considerable difference in the movement he now has in his jaw, which makes me happy.

The Dentist said Jingle will be a 6 month maintenance type of horse, which doesn't bother me. That is what I expected all along. He also said that when the tooth erupts again (as it will, he said teeth erupt 4-8 mm every month or so!) I'll know right away when Jingle starts feeling that build-up of pressure. He also said that Jingle isn't in pain, especially now, and that a lot of his behaviours are probably learned from when he was in pain as a 5 year old. I can't help but worry though, horses, like humans, can have a lot of issues correlated with jaw problems. I'm especially worried about his TMJ muscles, he can't let me know if he has a headache, or a jaw ache, or if he just feels out of sorts you know? That's the hardest thing with horses - they just don't have a way of telling you, clear as day, "Mom, this hurts".

At one point, the Dentist looked at me and said, "He'll never be your show horse", which is true, and I always knew he wasn't destined to be. However, it still stung, it just kind of twisted that knife in my stomach you know? My only dream for Jingle was to one day come to the barn and watch some little girl learn how to ride on him. I just want him to be happy, healthy, pain-free, and ultimately yeah, I wanted him to be dead-broke.

I was really sad yesterday, sad for my poor horse who went off to some wonky trainer and returned with a horribly broken jaw, and no veterinary care. Sad for my horse who isn't able to communicate with me when his head hurts, or when he is experiencing pain, or when he needs to see the dentist right away...

But, you know what? He's alive, and he's happy, and that's all that matters. Plus - I have a better knowledge now of what is going on with all his muscles and tendons, so I'm formulating a horsie game plan.
1) Research safe stretch and massage techniques that I can use on him on a regular basis
2) I'm moving him inside for the winter, meaning he can be fed grain if I want, so I'm going to research if I can put him on some supplements that might relieve any headache-y, jaw pain related issues.
3) Find a really good reputable equine massage/chiro and bring them in every six-eight weeks to look at him.
4) I honestly don't care if my horse is ridden in a bridle, bitless, bridless, whoever whatever whichever works. So, if it comes down to the bit not working for him - you know he's going to try every form of bitless bridle I can find until I find one that works for him. I asked the Dentist if the added pressure on the actual structure of his jaw from a bitless would effect him, or cause him any pain, and he said no - so hopefully if an answer doesn't lie in any of the above + a bit, the answer will be found in all of the above + a bitless bridle.

&, ya, it also sucks I spent a lot of money in July to have him looked at, by someone I thought was reputable, and it turns out that he really had no idea what he was looking at - which is also scary. Although, even my Dentist said the guy I had out was, and is, a really good Vet. The hard thing with Vets who do dental work is that they barely cover dentistry in Vet school, "Dentists" take extensive courses, and then on top of that very extensive training. My dentist said when he runs courses they do a bare minimum week of school-stuff, and then float over 300 horses! Insane. I was happy that my barn has the Dentist we do, he definitely knew what he was looking at, and how to deal with it, and I especially appreciated his honestly. Hearing my horse may never be perfect is hard to hear, but I at least know the truth, and we can grow from there.


  1. Well some good news there and some other sad news. Good he can be ridden and he is not in pain. But terrible that someone would not even care enough to get a vet out to fix a broken jaw.
    I am sure you will find something that will work for you guys. And just cause he isn't a show horse, don't mean you can't enjoy and take lessons on him :))

    1. Thanks Crystal - I appreciate it, and yup! Exactly. He may never be a show horse, but he's mine, and that's all that matters :)

  2. Nothing wrong with going bitless at all. I'm sure you'll find something that works. It's wonderful that you take the time to care about all these things and I'm sure that Jingle appreciates everything you do for him.

    1. I agree - we'll see where the bit vs. bitless debate/journey takes us! Thanks for you comment, I appreciated it. :)

  3. So sorry to hear about the jaw/tooth problems. Your boy sure is lucky you found him. If you can, just think of it as an opportunity to learn to ride with using your legs as much as possible and your hands only a little. Also, both Brian and I have found with horses that have had bit trauma, a nicely fitting bosal can serve as a clean slate. As long as you take the time to teach the horse to understand it properly, you can bypass all that bit baggage and not have to have anything in their mouth at all.

    Also, keep in mind there seems to be the opposite of a honeymooon period whenever a horse changes environments/handlers. I have never known of a single person that brought a new horse home and didn't suffer through at least a month or two of rather discouraging behavior and set-backs of various kinds. Consistency is the only thing that matters. If you are consistent, Jingle will find his comfort zone before too long. :)

    1. Thanks Robin! I have never ridden in a bosal, so I worry about the "understanding it properly" for both myself, and the horse. I imagine if I went bitless I'd probably start out in a sidepull, or more bitless bridle type set-up, as i'd be more comfortable with that. The world of Bosal's does intrigue me though!

      I try to ride with legs as much as possible, but I find Jingle thinks leg means "go faster", which then means slowing him down by using my reins... things I need to really work on, and think about, I suppose!

      You are right, I've heard this before, I'm hoping that this period of awkward times between us ends soon. He seems happy with everything.. aside being ridden. haha