What Part Of The Horse Do You Examine To Tell Its Age?

Last Updated on October 7, 2022

What part of the horse do you examine to tell its age? While a horse might not be able to tell you his age and date of birth, we can take a good guess by looking in its mouth! The teeth of a horse change as it grows older, and can give us some clues about his age and stage of life.

What Part Of The Horse Do You Examine To Tell Its Age?

At certain points in a horse’s life, it is possible to determine its age by looking at the teeth. There are two factors which are taken into consideration – which of the adult teeth are present, and what they look like.

This is because the adult teeth of a horse are not all present at birth. Foals are born with a set of temporary teeth, and over the first few years of the horse’s life, these will be pushed out in stages by the adult teeth as they erupt from the gum. It is possible to estimate how old a juvenile horse is by which of the adult teeth are present.

Once all of the adult teeth are present, they will start to grind away very gradually as the horse eats. This happens continually over the lifetime of a horse, and the tooth continues to erupt very slowly to compensate for this. The result is that changes can be seen in the shape and grinding surface of the tooth, which helps us to estimate the age of a horse.

Eventually, in a very old horse, the available tooth will run out, and they will start to fall out from the gum. So, if we find a horse with very few cheek teeth remaining, we know that it is a considerable age!

What Do Horses’ Teeth Look Like?

The teeth of horses are quite unlike human teeth, or that of other domesticated animals such as cats and dogs. The reason for this is that the diet of a horse consists almost entirely of tough grass and hay, and it needs strong teeth to grind and digest this foodstuff.

Horses have several different types of teeth, all of which perform different roles. At the front of the mouth are the incisor teeth, which you can see if you carefully lift a horse’s upper lip. These teeth grasp and tear food, which is then moved back into the mouth by the tongue.

At the back of the mouth are large, square teeth with a ridged grinding surface, called the cheek teeth. These are divided into molars and premolars and are used to grind food into a pulp and mix it with saliva before it is swallowed. It is very difficult to see these teeth, as they are located deep inside the mouth.

In between the incisors and cheek teeth is a large gap, called the diastema. Some horses have teeth in this gap, whilst others have none at all. There are two different types of teeth that can be found here, called wolf teeth and canine teeth, both of which have no function in the domesticated horse.

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How To Age Horses By Teeth – What Part Of The Horse Do You Examine To Tell Its Age?

Here are some of the key stages and indicators of age that can be seen in horse teeth:

  • One year old – all temporary teeth are present but no signs of wear are visible
  • Three years old – the temporary central incisors have been replaced by permanent teeth
  • Five years old – all the temporary teeth have been replaced by permanent teeth

After this stage, the age of the horse can be determined by the level of wear on the permanent teeth. This is a complex skill, and takes time and patience to learn and understand fully!

How Old Is An Adult Horse?

The age at which a horse reaches physical maturity varies, but officially a horse is considered to be an adult when it reaches four years of age. At this age most horses will be broken to ride, but their musculoskeletal system may still take a year or two to be capable of strenuous physical exercise. It is important not to overwork a young adult horse, as it may sustain serious injuries or growth abnormalities that cause life-long lameness issues.

Horses can also take time to reach mental maturity, and a four-year-old horse can still be lively and unpredictable. This is why younger horses are considered to be unsuitable for a novice or inexperienced riders, as their behavior can lead to accidents or frightening incidents.

What Are Horse Ages In Human Years?

Horses age at a different rate to humans, with each life stage lasting a different proportion of their lifetime. This means there are no hard and fast rules to how many human years are in a horse year, but we can make some comparisons.

A young horse is in its infancy for the first year of its life, which would equate to the first six years of human life. A two-year-old horse is considered to be an adolescent, in comparison to a human who is 13 years of age. A fully physically mature horse is around five years old, in comparison to a human in their early twenties.

What Are Horse Ages In Human Years

The senior years of a horse begin when it is in its late teens, between 17 and 20. For humans, this would be comparable to between 60 and 65 years of age. However, some horses live to age 30 or beyond, meaning the geriatric years can consist of over a third of their lifetime. This can also be the case for humans, although life expectancy does depend on many different factors.

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Summary – What Part Of The Horse Do You Examine To Tell Its Age?

So, as we have learned, the part of the horse you examine to tell its age is the teeth! During the juvenile years, the number of adult teeth a horse has will tell us his age. And as he grows older, we can estimate the age by looking at the shape of the tooth surface as they are gradually worn away.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on how to discover the age of a horse! Have you ever been shown how to tell the age of a horse by its teeth? Or perhaps you’ve got a horse that you suspect may be much older than you were told when you bought it? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!