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12/17/2008 Entry: "Equine Dream Jobs: Third in the Series Equine Dentistry"

Article by Bill Weisenburger
Photos Courtesy of The American School of Equine Dentistry

I remember sitting at the dinner table, doing my best to “entertain” my little brother by chewing with my mouth open and dribbling corn down my chin. In addition to the desired squeals of laughter from my brother, I elicited a response from Mom. Horrified, she exclaimed “Stop that! You are eating like a horse!” Needless to say her attitude resulted in more hilarity leading to another response from Mom…and it was the early sixties and Mom was not a hippie. Ouch!

As it turns out, mom was right. I was chewing like a horse, a horse that needed a visit from the dentist. Horses that need some attention to their mouth exhibit a wide range of behaviors from dropping grain while chewing to acting up while being ridden. Besides being a little annoying such behaviors can lead to weight loss in the horse as well as being dangerous to the rider.

Enter the equine dentist. Equine dentistry is one of the many careers that a person interested in horses can pursue. Like virtually all activities associated with the grand beasts, it takes someone with the right temperament. Nearly everything having to do with a horse takes a person who is not afraid to sweat or get dirty and equine dentistry is no exception. Days are spent with archaic looking tools, filing the teeth of very large animals that would prefer your arm not be in its mouth. However, as pointed out by Dr. Ray Hyde, owner of the American School of Equine Dentistry, the task is very gratifying “because you see the results immediately. The horse will ride better and begin to gain weight.”

Equine dentists, much like human dentists, spend most of their time performing normal dental care but on occasion may be confronted with more involved problems. Horses can require extractions and may even need braces. As a horse ages, special needs may arise. Dr. Hyde said “I can turn a $10,000 jumper into a $100,000 jumper if you give me an hour in their mouth.” While that would probably not hold true for every horse, it illustrates the fact that an equine dentist can be a very important person to a horse and owner. Problems that arise in the horse’s mouth can create problems for the rider that could be catastrophic. A skilled equine dentist can literally be a lifesaver!

If the image of a shirt soaked with sweat and horse saliva, flecked with tooth chips has not changed your mind, you must wonder how one gets to be an equine dentist. The most obvious answer is to become a large animal vet. Fortunately, that is not the only path to this rewarding career. An interested individual can become certified as an equine dentist through the International Association of Equine Dentistry (

There are a lot of horses in Virginia and the United States and they all need to see a dentist to insure they remain healthy throughout their lives. This need translates into a gratifying business opportunity for someone who wants to work with horses, is good with anxious owners and not afraid of a little dirt and hard work. The first step into the business is a good training program. Secondly, dental technicians must be registered in a few states. In Virginia, newly enacted laws (Virginia State Code, 54.1-3813) regulating equine dental technicians require that an individual be registered with the state, be IAED certified or have five years of experience. Third, there is a financial commitment. The course to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge is about $6000 for tuition with some additional costs to include room, board and travel. Basic tools could cost an additional $4000. Needless to say, as with any business, there are recurring overhead expenses such as transportation and business fees but after it is all taken into account, starting an equine dentistry business is much less expensive than most start-ups.

One of the big advantages to starting into the equine dentistry field is that you do not have to give up your “day job.” Many people go into the field part-time or to provide an additional source of income for their farrier or stable business. Some people become equine dentists to help pay for their education as a vet or something unrelated to horses. One creative equine dentist retired from his first career and travels the country in his motor home, practicing dentistry as he goes!

Those of us who are blessed by living in the Commonwealth of Virginia have the added advantage of The American School of Equine Dentistry ( This program is owned and operated by Dr. Ray Hyde, DVM and his wife Hanina, both of whom are certified by the IAED. The program is four tough weeks long and is designed to help students gain the skills, knowledge and practice required to become IAED certified. The classroom portion of the program covers anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and equine behavior to name a few. Students spend many hours doing practical work on live horses and on practice skulls.

If you enjoy horses and are looking for a way to turn your interest into a good paying career this could be the answer. A good equine dentist can work on one to two thousand head of horses a year. Depending on your location, the going rate is $50 to $200 per visit and wherever there are horses, there is a need. It goes beyond just making a good living. An equine dentist is performing a valuable service for the horse and the owner. As Dr. Hyde says “horses love to eat so we make it comfortable for them to do what they love!”

Students begin their practical work on skulls

Days are spent with archaic looking tools and very large animals!

NOTE: The American School of Equine Dentistry is a private school.

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