how to float your horses teeth

Can I Float my Horse’s Teeth Myself?

Older horses usually have the weariest parts, and at some point, teeth fall out themselves. The horse may experience extreme pain when feeding due to the sharp edges. It also causes discomfort and distress. To save your horse from all these, then you need to float your horse’s teeth.

Taking care of your animal’s health is a vital responsibility. But most people ignore dental care and assume it’s not as important. For horses, a good set of teeth makes them valuable. 

What is Teeth Floating in Horses?

We have seen that old horses have their teeth falling. Given how horses chew their teeth, it is evident that some teeth fall off before others. When this happens, feeding becomes painful and uncomfortable. And if the teeth do not wear out, the sharp edges form, causing more pain. 

Floating entails shaping the teeth of a horse to take care of the sharp edges. The shaping leads to teeth with flat surfaces hence making the horse comfortable and free from pain. It will be simple when the horse is feeding. A licensed horse dentist or vet can do this technique.

Smoothing the teeth requires special tools like a file or rasp; their design helps flatten sharp edges and fill the fallen and worn-out parts. This tool, traditionally called float, can be of any size and shape and used manually. The modern float is automatic and uses an air compressor to function. 

However, either rasp does float in the same way and takes the same amount of time. They rarely lead to complex outcomes. But in case of dental problems, it will be slightly time-consuming.

Can I float my horses’ teeth myself? 

However easy floating may sound, you can’t do it yourself. Though essential, this procedure requires special care and handling. A horse dentist needs to check the head movements, teeth alignment, and jaw movements, which requires special equine skills. 

Floating is not a DIY thing because you might overdo the procedure. You might also do excessive filing, which leads to broken or loose teeth or wear out faster. Furthermore, you may cause severe harm to the mouth tissues, including the gums. 

That is why a qualified dentist is essential to examine your horse’s mouth before continuing with the procedure. As a result, your horse’s teeth will be in a good state no matter the previous condition.

Is Teeth Floating Painful For My Horse?

Teeth floating isn’t painful since horses’ teeth have low nerve endings. Instead of the pain, it will be a relief to the horse. The only effort that is required is standing for a long time before doing the procedure. That’s where sedation comes into work on their patience.

How Often Should I Float My Horse Teeth?

Teeth floating is all about dental care. Therefore, you need to check for poor tooth shape to float them. Even if the horse seems healthy, a dental test is essential. 

Some factors influence how often you will need to float the teeth of your horse. They include diet, jaw and head movements, dental problems, age, and tooth eruption.

Young horses that are five years old or less tend to have more teeth floating because their rate of teeth eruption is higher than in older horses. The rate is usually twice per year. For horses that are five to twenty years old, you can float their teeth once a year. Some may go for a year without floating. 

Horses with more than twenty years should float twice a year and sometimes after two to three years, depending on how old the horse is. Old horses have many worn-away and fallen-out teeth. Therefore, you should make floating more conventional.

Horse Signs That You Need To Float Their Teeth

Teeth in horses never stop erupting until they are old when there is no chance for more. They don’t grow out like the manes and tails because of their chewing pattern, maintaining the correct teeth length.

Unfortunately, chewing won’t help in keeping the teeth in good shape. As mentioned previously, unfiled teeth may cause sharp edges that cause pain in the horse’s mouth. As a result, the horse won’t have the privilege of enjoying its diet

Your horse will show these signs to show that it’s time for the dentist:

Primary Signs

Difficulty in Eating

Teeth problems affect the tongue and teeth with painful surfaces. In that case, these are the signs to watch out for:

  • It consumes more time eating while throwing its head.
  • Loss of weight due to improper feeding
  • It avoids eating, and when it eats, it is just a tiny portion than usual.

Eating Carelessly

If your horse is eating carelessly, like drooling, dropping, and scattering food on the floor, then your horse might be experiencing oral pain.

Drooling saliva may occur when the horse is chewing food while positioning the head on one side. The horse may also dribble, making the chin wet continuously. They drool since swallowing is painful.

You may notice some blood in the drooling saliva since the dental issue has also affected the mucous membrane.

Choking Frequently

Dental problems lead to a painful feeding experience for the horse. It may cause little or no chewing hence swallowing undigested food. Sometimes the food particles can choke the horse when it goes into the esophagus. As a result, there will be swollen parts of the neck near the jaw bone.

The choke isn’t the usual kind; it’s food blocking the trachea. The horse still breathes but with painful coughs containing food. 

When the food builds up in the esophagus, it blocks the saliva passage leading to heavy drools.

Puffy Cheeks

A horse may eat while packing the food in the cheek side, a process known as quidding. Quidding will ease the pain in the cheek lining as it feeds. Sometimes it may spit out the packs to avoid swallowing. If you see the puffy cheeks, then it’s time to float the teeth.

Avoiding the Mouth Tack

Dental problems affect the whole mouth. The horse will avoid anything that connects with the mouth, including the tack. So when you try to put it on the mouth, the horse will shake its head to try and drop it down or try to move it in a less painful area. 

Secondary Signs

Horse Weighing

With all the painful experiences, the horse is likely to reduce weight. The weight loss is because the horse will be avoiding hardy feeds like grains and hay, which are rich in nutrients. Also, the weight loss may be due to the half-chewed food particles, which reduce the nutrients the body absorbs.

Be keen for a thin horse as it may not eat at all to avoid the discomfort. You will also notice its dullness since it has no energy due to starvation.

Check out for Indigestion

Undigested food causes indigestion since it doesn’t make its way from the gut. If your horse has indigestion, you will notice symptoms such as:

  • Rapid slight breaths
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Wide eyes
  • Constant turns
  • Flared nostrils

Whole food particles in the horse’s waste

Since the horse swallows half or not chewed food particles, the droppings will contain whole food particles. The gut is unable to digest improperly chewed food hence producing the same full balls as waste.

Mouth Odor

Teeth issues cause the horse to pack food in the house before swallowing or spitting it out. In the process, some particles may remain in the mouth corners. They finally rot, leading to a foul smell from the mouth, also called halitosis.

Why Do Horses Need Their Teeth Floated?

Floating horses teeth is essential because:

It Helps in Eating

The sharp teeth edge leads to painful teeth and cheeks, making eating a difficult task. Horses love eating and wouldn’t stop at the expense of any disease, and if it does, the pain is dense.

Enhances Performance

A horse with dental problems is always dull and will give a low performance. But floated teeth will enable the horse to feed appropriately and get the needed energy to perform better. 

Prevent Future Problems

It’s better to prevent the damages than have to incur the cost of the cure. A horse whose neglected dental care may lead to teeth problems prevented by floating the teeth or other dental measures.

Teeth Floating Cost

The price of floating a horse’s teeth ranges between $80 to $200. Sedation brings in an additional fee of between $10 to $25. There is usually an oral test that costs $30 to $70 for less than an hour.

Factors That Affect the Floating Cost


Though it doesn’t cover most of the general floating cost, it affects the total price for floating your horse. That means the older your horse gets, the more it will cost you for dental care.

The Dentist’s Experience

The person in charge of your horse’s dental care determines how much you will pay for the floating treatment. For instance, hiring a horse dentist is less expensive than a vet. Additionally, the vets’ reputation also affects the price.

Potential Dental Problems

The dentist has to examine your horse for possible complications thoroughly. In case of any, it will lead to a price increase. For instance, if the vet has to extract a tooth in the middle of the procedure, that will be an extra cost. 


Sedation isn’t a necessary procedure for all horses. But if the horse dentist decides to perform it, that means extra dollars for you. The average sedation cost is $20.


Where you reside may affect the floating price. It isn’t a huge impact, but always consider how far you can keep your horse. 

Extra Fees

The extra fees depend on the vet you hire. Some vets will charge for the visiting vehicle, equipment purchase, and repair in addition to the cost of the floating treatment.

Final Verdict

Teeth floating isn’t a complex procedure, but it isn’t recommended you do it yourself. Unless you have the training to do such tasks, you should leave it to a professional vet or an experienced horse dentist. Unprofessional handling may lead to more dental damage and more suffering for your horse.