Name: Kenneth Dowling
Job title: Equine Dental Technician with Unique Equine Dentistry
Base: Athlone, Ireland
Areas that you cover: All over Ireland
Equestrian experience: My family always kept brood mares and young sports horses. I gained my horsemanship skills by shadowing my uncle from an early age. My uncle broke and trained show jumping horses. As a result, the passion for equines was embedded in me. In 2008 I emigrated to Australia. I was extremely fortunate with my first job working in the yard of equestrian Olympians George and Rachel Sanna.
I was employed to work their youngstock. It was in this yard I experienced equine dentistry done to a high standard. It was from there on I found a passion to learn more about equine dentistry and its importance. I learned how to float teeth and travelled central Australia being introduced to a wide range of equine disciplines.
In 2014 I met world renowned dentists Belinda Smith and Ian Wharton. It was through them I was introduced to whole mouth dentistry (there is a lot more to dentistry than floating teeth). Proper education was key to becoming a successful equine dentist.
Education: Cert IV Equine Dentistry Australia which is under the International Association of Equine Dentistry.
I was very lucky at this point to have meet such mentors as Belinda, Ian, and later on, Dale Wearing, teaching me and travelling throughout Australia gaining experience and a wealth of knowledge.
Correct equine dentistry is the art and science to balancing horse’s teeth. This enhances mastication nutrition, comfort, and performance. Performance cannot be compromised.
Whole mouth dentistry is vastly different from the well-known ‘floating’ or ‘a rub up the sides’ which is a mere removal of some sharp points. Education and continued education are imperative to perform good dentistry practice.
Types of horses you look after: My patients are a mix of performance, show and leisure ranging in all shapes and sizes.
What do you need to be able to do this job: Good horsemanship skills, a good relationship with owners and veterinarians and most importantly, a deep passion and desire for equine dentistry.
What are the greatest challenges that you face? Without proper oral examination, no one can tell the condition of the dentition. If the horse is in good condition then ‘he doesn’t need them done’ attitude is taken. Unlike horses’ feet which we can see when looking at a horse if his feet need trimming, shaping or correcting, nobody can determine the condition of horses’ teeth without opening the oral cavity and examination under a headlight and using inspection tools.
I regularly visit middle-aged to older horses who are starting to lose condition. Quite often these horses have never received dentistry or have only ever been floated. Proper dentistry care has often been overlooked due to the horse being fat and shiny.
Giving proper function and comfort can take months to years of treatment which could be avoided with regular check-ups throughout its life. All too often, the symptoms have gone beyond fixing.
Is there an increased demand for people looking for equine dental technicians? There is a big need for education around horse health. There are a lot of knowledgeable horse therapists around and the more knowledge we can share with owners the better we all become at understanding the basic needs of our equine friends. There is a demand for a well-trained qualified dentist. Unfortunately, training can take years and educational institutes are located in far off shores.
What do you most love about your job: Results, nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing results ranging from a horse on their last legs to becoming healthy with a good condition score and shiny.
A rosette hanging from the bridle of a performance horse I’ve recently treated or an aged child’s pony pain-free, happy and eating again.
What signs should you look for? Every horse should be looked at at least once a year, but if you are seeing signs, you have left it too long. Dentistry treatment is required sooner rather than later.
How often and why should you get your horses’ teeth done: Every horse every year, this is not negotiable. Performance and stabled horses should be checked every six months.
We have taken horses out of their semi-arid environment and placed them in lush green fields and stables. We feed them processed feeds and soft grasses, this contributes to irregular eruption and wear patterns of the teeth. I would encourage owners and trainers to take the opportunity to learn about the horse’s mouth and the reasons why whole mouth dental equilibration is so important. It is essential that every horse, before retraining or breaking is examined, is assessed for balance and function and the removal of wolf teeth and caps before ever placing a bit in their mouth.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain is all too common in stabled horses; it causes the horse to become difficult to perform a natural rounded outline while under saddle or in-hand showing, the soreness often causing the horse to become headshy.
Unfortunately in many yards, the broodmares are the last on the list to see the dentist, only focused on the foal she is carrying this year and less on future fools she may possibly carry. I have seen many cases where a mare is unable to maintain condition to supply enough nutrients to her foal or failing to keep her foal or unable to become pregnant. With first-hand experience, I have been able to restore function and clear oral infections and bring back a healthy mare to stud.
Benefits of whole mouth dentistry and balance include all-round comfort, reduced bit evasions, bit chewing, pushing through the bit, horse favouring one side, better and more even muscle distribution enhance performance, general well-being and improved behaviour.
It also contributes to a lower feed bill, if a horse is able to process and correctly chew their food, the full use of nutrients contained in the feed does not get wasted. If you are unsure that your horse needs its teeth looked at, please find me on Facebook and I will answer your questions.