Why Do Horses Rub Their Teeth on Metal?

Why Do Horses Rub Their Teeth on Metal? The Great Mystery Solved

I’ve got a real horse hankerin’ of a story for you today about one of horses’ most peculiar habits – rubbing their teeth on metal.

As someone who was practically raised in the saddle, I’ve seen my fair share of horses chomping down on fence posts, trailer hitches, and pretty much anything metal they can wrap their teeth around.

And let me tell you, when a 1,200 pound horse clamps down, they aren’t letting go!

So what in the Sam Hill is going on here?

Why are horses so drawn to grinding their pearly whites on metal surfaces? Well strap on your spurs and mosey on over, because I’m gonna get to the bottom of this mystery straight from the horse’s mouth.

Let me take you back a few years to when I was just a young whippersnapper learning the ropes on my grandpappy’s ranch.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw our old mare Bessie going to town on the metal rungs of her stall.

Her eyes were half-closed and she had this look of pure bliss, like she was getting a hoof massage or something.

I hollered for grandpappy and said, “Hey, get a load of Bessie! Why’s she chewing on her stall like that?”

Grandpappy took one look, chuckled and said,

Why Do Horses Rub Their Teeth on Metal?

“She’s just filing down her teeth, kiddo. Horses love rubbing their teeth on metal cause it feels darn good!”

Well, I decided then and there that horses’ attraction to metal had to be one of nature’s great mysteries, and I aimed to get to the bottom of it one day.

After years of researching equine dentistry and observing horses firsthand, I learned that horses rub their teeth on metal surfaces for a couple of key reasons:

To relieve discomfort caused by misaligned teeth or sharp points, and to feel pleasurable sensations from the pressure and friction against their teeth.

In short, metal grinding works like a combination toothbrush and trip to the equine dentist!

The Ins & Outs of Horse Teeth

To understand why horses go through all this metal munching business, it helps to know a little bit about how their teeth work.

Horses actually have two sets of teeth in their lifetimes – baby teeth that they’re born with, and adult teeth that start coming in around age 2 or 3.

Why Do Horses Rub Their Teeth on Metal?

Adult horses have between 36 and 44 teeth, with incisors in the front for nibbling and molars in the back for grinding.

Now here’s the crazy part: horses’ teeth never stop growing! They continue to erupt throughout the horse’s life, about 2-3 millimeters per year.

All that grazing on tough grasses and grain helps wear the teeth down at a natural rate so they don’t get too long.

But sometimes issues arise that disrupt proper wear or alignment and cause discomfort. Let’s gallop through some common problems:

  • Misalignments: If teeth don’t meet correctly with the opposite row, it can lead to overgrowth and sharp points.
  • Hooks/points: Extra growth can form hook-like points that jab the cheek or tongue.
  • Wave mouth: An undulating bite surface that makes chewing difficult.
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You can imagine how uncomfortable these issues would be if we experienced them! Now let’s see how horses in the wild deal with dental woes before the invention of equine dentistry and metal surfaces.

Horses Have Teeth That Need to be Worn Down

It’s important to understand that horses have teeth that are constantly growing.

I’m talking like, up to a quarter inch per month kind of growing. That means they need to constantly wear down their teeth to keep them at a manageable length.

Why Do Horses Rub Their Teeth on Metal?

One way they do this is by chewing on hard objects, like metal bars or fencing.

When they rub their teeth on metal, it helps to grind down the edges and keep their teeth nice and smooth.

It’s kind of like how we humans brush our teeth, except we use toothbrushes instead of metal bars.

The Allure of Metal

Metal surfaces provide the ideal friction and malleability for a horse to gain some temporary tooth relief.

Here’s why horses love chomping down on metal:

  • Hard but malleable: Metal is durable enough to file teeth but also slightly gives under pressure.
  • Moldable shape: Horses can nip and shape metal objects like fence posts to fit their mouth.
  • Cool temperature: The cold feels refreshing against irritated gums.
  • Great friction: The texture smooths down growths and feels satisfying.

I mean, when you put it that way, gnawing on a nice cool metal rail sounds pretty darn tempting! It allows horses to self-treat minor tooth irritations that pop up between vet visits.

Just picture it as a horse-sized teething toy!

But Wait, There’s More: Other Possible Reasons for Tooth Rubbing

But it’s not just about grinding down their teeth.

Why Do Horses Rub Their Teeth on Metal?

There could be a few other reasons why horses might rub their teeth on metal:

  1. They could be hangry. You know how you get when you haven’t eaten in a while and you start getting grumpy and snappy? Yeah, horses can get like that too. If a horse hasn’t eaten in a while, they might start rubbing their teeth on metal as a way of trying to find something to munch on.
  2. They might have a toothache. Sometimes, horses will rub their teeth on metal if they have a sore tooth or some other issue with their mouth.
  3. This can be a sign that they’re in pain and need some dental attention. So if you see your horse doing this, it might be time to call the vet.
  4. They could be bored out of their minds. Just like humans, horses can get pretty bored if they don’t have anything to do.
  5. Rubbing their teeth on metal might just be a way for them to pass the time and keep themselves entertained. It’s kind of like how we humans scroll through social media or play video games when we’re bored.

Natural Tooth Care Tricks

Wild horses didn’t have access to nicely squared-off metal fences and tools to assist with their teeth.

So how did they cope? Well as naturally innovative creatures, horses developed some pretty clever tooth-care solutions:

  • Chewing coarse foliage like bark, branches, and fibrous grasses to slowly file down overgrowths.
  • Rubbing their teeth against rocks, logs, and tree stumps to smooth down sharp edges.
  • Swishing pebbles or sandy dirt in their mouth to act as natural toothbrushes.

Just goes to show how resourceful our hooved friends can be! Once horses became domesticated, metal surfaces offered a game-changing oral health aide. Let’s look at why horses find metal so appealing.

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When Metal-Chewing Becomes a Concern

Okay, so we’ve established that occasional metal-rubbing is completely normal and even beneficial for horses.

Why Do Horses Rub Their Teeth on Metal?

But how can you tell if your horse’s metal munching habit is within the healthy range versus a sign of a serious underlying issue? Here are some warning signs:

  • Excessive grinding – over 30 minutes per day
  • Ignoring food to grind teeth instead
  • Grinding accompanied by discomfort or irritation
  • Noticeable weight loss from inability to eat properly

If you notice any of these, it’s time to call in an equine dentist for an exam. They can evaluate what’s going on inside your horse’s mouth, identify any problems, and perform necessary treatments such as:

  • Floating – filing down overgrown teeth
  • Extracting damaged teeth if needed
  • Smoothing sharp enamel points

Addressing underlying issues will help eliminate your horse’s need to obsessively grind their teeth. Their mouth will feel so refreshed afterwards, it’ll be like a trip to the horsey day spa!

Routine Dental Care is Key

Since horses’ teeth are constantly shifting and growing, even the healthiest horses need periodic dental checkups.

Your vet will likely recommend a checkup and floating every 6-12 months. This helps minimize sharp points before they become a problem. It’s the equine equivalent of getting a routine teeth cleaning!

Catching dental issues early through regular professional care can help reduce your horse’s need for metal grinding sessions.

Your rides will be more enjoyable without a grumpy equine chomping at the bit, and your fences will thank you too.

Well I’m all talked out for today, pardners! I hope you feel enlightened on why horses seem so drawn to metal surfaces for their tooth care needs.

Just remember – the occasional rub is normal but excessive grinding could signal it’s time to call the dentist.

If your horse seems like they’re trying to eat the farm implements, an oral exam is probably in order.

Thanks for riding along, and be sure to hit the trail with me next time for more equine adventures. Happy trails!

Alternative Ways to Support Your Horse’s Dental Health

While the occasional metal rubdown provides some relief for horses, there are also some other great ways to support your equine buddy’s dental health between professional treatments.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Feed fibrous hay like timothy or coastal – the abrasive stems help wear teeth naturally.
  • Avoid overly rich feeds which can cause faster tooth decay.
  • Offer chew toys like treat balls with hard rubber nubs to massage gums.
  • Provide large rocks or heavy logs for rubbing teeth safely.
  • Spray oral probiotics on feed to support healthy bacteria.

Implementing some tooth-friendly practices like these can help minimize discomfort between dental exams.

Just don’t be surprised when your horse still sneaks over for the occasional metal nibble – old habits die hard after all!

Fun Facts About Equine Teeth

Well I don’t know about y’all, but I’m chomping at the bit to share some fun facts about horsy chompers! Did you know:

  • Horses have bigger teeth than humans – their incisors can grow over 4 inches long!
  • Males usually have 4 more teeth than females due to their larger head size.
  • Horses get two sets of teeth in their lifetime, with adults having between 36-44 permanent teeth.
  • A horse’s teeth continue growing an average of 2-3 mm per year throughout life.
  • The chewing surfaces of horse teeth form unique ridged patterns used to estimate age.
  • Horses produce almost twice as much saliva per day as a human – around 10-12 gallons!

Ain’t that some fascinating facts? Those equine chompers sure are something! Next time your horse flashes you a horsey grin, you’ll have a new appreciation for those remarkable teeth.

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Say, all this dental talk reminds me – I better schedule my next cleaning soon too. Neigh-ther of us wants any cavities!

Teeth Troubleshooting for Horse Owners

If your horse starts getting a little too handsy with the metal surfaces on your ranch, their teeth may need some professional attention.

But not to worry – here are some temporary troubleshooting tips:

  • Offer chewing toys like sturdy rubber balls to distract them.
  • Try rubbing their gums with a clean cloth or soft brush.
  • Provide fibrous hay to encourage more chewing.
  • Mix in probiotics or saliva-enhancing supplements.
  • Block access to metal surfaces if they seem obsessed.

While these conservative measures may provide some relief, if you notice your horse is excessively grinding or their eating is impacted, go ahead and book that vet visit.

They’ll be able to fully evaluate and address any underlying dental issues so your horse can get back to feeling their best.

Regular checkups and floating can help prevent major discomfort between appointments.

Here’s to keeping those chompers healthy and happy!

What Else Can I Do to Keep My Horse’s Teeth Healthy?

If you’re worried about your horse’s teeth and want to take some extra steps to keep them healthy, there are a few things you can do:

Make sure they have regular dental check-ups. Just like humans, horses need to see the dentist (or in this case, the equine dentist) to make sure their teeth are in good shape.

Provide plenty of roughage. As I mentioned earlier, hay and other roughage can help to naturally wear down your horse’s teeth.

Make sure they have plenty of this in their diet to keep their teeth healthy.

Consider adding supplements. There are a number of supplements on the market that are specifically designed to support healthy teeth and gums in horses.

Talk to your veterinarian or a equine nutritionist to see if one of these might be right for your horse.

Keep an eye on their teeth.

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your horse’s teeth and look for any signs of problems. If you notice any abnormalities or changes in their teeth, be sure to contact your veterinarian.


Can Rubbing Their Teeth on Metal Damage a Horse’s Teeth?

It’s possible, but it’s not very likely.

Horses’ teeth are pretty strong, and they can handle a lot of wear and tear.

That being said, it’s always a good idea to make sure that your horse has plenty of hay and other roughage to chew on, as this can help to naturally wear down their teeth.

Better safe than sorry, right?

Is It Normal for Horses to Rub Their Teeth on Metal?

Yup, it’s completely normal.

In fact, it’s a pretty common behavior that you’ll see in horses of all ages and breeds. So if you see your horse doing it, don’t freak out. It’s just something that horses do.

Is There Anything I Can Do to Stop My Horse from Rubbing Its Teeth on Metal?

Not really. It’s a natural behavior for horses, and it’s not something that you can really train them not to do.

The best thing you can do is to make sure that they have plenty of other things to do to keep them entertained and occupied.

This can include providing them with toys, puzzles, and other interactive activities to stimulate their minds.

You can also make sure they have enough room to move around and explore their environment.

By providing your horse with plenty of mental and physical stimulation, you can help to reduce the likelihood of them engaging in undesirable behaviors like rubbing their teeth on metal.


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