showing the effect of
wear of the teeth at
Structure of the
lower incisor. As the
horse ages the
tooth is worn down
to reveal the patterns
shown in the 1st
The traditional way of determining the age of a horse is by looking at the horse's teeth.
There has been some dispute lately over how reliable this method is, but in most cases an experienced vet or horseman is generally pretty accurate in horses up to 12 years old.
The standard text on the ageing of a horse was published in 1912 by a Mr Galvayne.
Galvayne claimed that his method was infallible and that he could exactly age any horse or pony up to his mid teens and then give a very good assessment after that.
Theory behind ageing a horse by his teeth
The system of telling a horse's age by his teeth is based on the fact that the teeth continue to grow throughout the life of the horse.
As the crown of the tooth is worn away by chewing and grinding of food, more tooth erupts from the gum to replace it.
In horses the gradual eruption of more of the teeth changes their shape and alters the angle at which they meet.
The marks and depressions on the grinding surfaces also change as the horse gets older.
As it isn't very easy to see the molars at the back of the horse's mouth it is the incisors at the front of the mouth that are used to assess a horse or pony's age.
There are a few basic features of the horse's incisor teeth which , when taken together, can be used to give an estimations of the horse's age.
The features used to tell a horse's age are:
According to Mr Galvayne, who gave his name to the it, Galvayne's groove and the hookon the upper corner tooth are the keys to accurate ageing.
Galvayne's groove is a well marked groove which appears on the side of the upper corner tooth at about 9 years.
The hook usually appears at 7 years old then is gradually worn away - another hook may appear at 11 years old.
Modern research has shown this to be unreliable - with hooks present in horses from 5 to 19 years old and Galvayne's groove appearing in horses from 5 to 29 years old.Appearance of incisors in the horse's mouth
The horse's first teeth are milk teeth - these are replaced by permanent teeth as the horse reaches maturity. The incisors develop as follows: