12/17/2008 Entry: "Equine Dream Jobs: Third in the Series Equine
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 (www.amscheqdentistry.com). 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!