It’s dentistry day!
You have your appointment and Frank is on his way, now what?
Please have your horse accessible in as relaxed a frame of mind as possible. This means in the paddock with buddies, if that is where he is happiest. It is better for Frank to arrive and wait a few minutes while you catch your horse, than to find the horse in a stall upset that all of his buddies have left. He has tools to unpack anyway, so take your time and keep everybody content. If you have a rope halter for your horse and a long lead, at least 12’, this is what Frank would prefer to use. If not, no worries he travels with a few.
Very rarely will Frank choose to work on your horse in its stall and never on crossties. Putting a speculum on (they are a touch clunky), and putting his hands in your horse’s mouth both represent a challenge to the horse’s trust and can feel threatening. It is really important to let horses move their feet when they feel anxious, to let them know they are not cornered and have the ability to find a spot, position or view that will be comforting to them. Some horses need to keep moving all the time – this is normal and Frank will work slowly with lots of breaks to help the horse think through the sensations rather than becoming afraid or fighting. Frank will also close the speculum frequently. This is often not the case with dentists. While it appears easier to get in there and just “get it done, ” your horse’s mouth needs to be open wide enough to accommodate a visual inspection, a manual inspection and the use of tools. He never holds his mouth open that wide for more than the space of a good, long yawn. Therefore, asking your horse to keep its mouth open for more than a minute or two at a stretch can cause quite a bit of cramping and pain even if sedated. For this reason the speculum must be closed and the horse allowed to chew and readjust his head every couple of minutes.
Frank will need a fresh water source. We live in the north, so if it is less than 45 degrees out he would love that water to be warm. Bucket heaters or a bucket of about 2 gallons from the house are both great. They may need to be renewed it the temperature is really low. Frank will use the water to keep his tools moist as well as his hands and the horse’s tongue. This is very important for the horse’s comfort, as they are rather sensitive to dry, sticky spots in the mouth.
If your horse is having a bit of difficulty, there may be a lot of movement, as mentioned above. Please do not try to step in to hold your horse unless Frank asks you to. He will move with the horse as necessary and needs to keep his eyes on his work and may not see you which could lead to someone being stepped on. If necessary, he will stop dentistry entirely and let the horse graze, have a belly scratch, visit a buddy or do whatever it takes to re-establish its comfort zone. This is normal and necessary for the horse to work through any anxiety and will have very favorable results in the future. Frank believes in taking the time it takes for the best interests of the horse.