Martin Black: Equine Dentists versus Vets

Martin Black

Horseman Martin Black grew up on the Ace Black family ranch in Bruneau, Idaho, and was influenced by his father, grandfather Albert and uncle Paul Black. After school he worked on ranches in Idaho, Nevada, and California, working with top horsemen and bridlemen, Charlie and Bill Van Norman, Ray Hunt, and Tom Dorrance, among many others.

Over the years, he has started thousands of colts and now travels throughout the U.S., Europe, and Australia, offering horsemanship, ranch, and roping clinics. He is the co-author with Dr. Steve Peters, of Evidence-Based Horsemanship.

Here, Black weighs in on the debate – some might call it a battle – between those favoring equine dentists or veterinarians for dental care.

Martin Black writes:

Black presents with Dr. Steve Peters at 2017 BHP Summit

Equine dentistry is becoming a popular topic recently in the horse world. Along with the demand for the service comes a battle between two groups providing the service: certified equine dentists (CEDs) and doctors of veterinary medicine (DVMs).

I am no expert on anything. I have no PhD, DVM, or even a CED. But I start over 350 head of colts and work with over 1,000 head of horses on an annual basis, and have for the last decade.

I have family members and friends who are DVMs and CEDs and I have no bias toward either one. But what I experience in my travels and what I read disturbs me.

I think anyone that cares about their horses needs to educate themselves on equine dentistry and the politics that are being shoved down our throats. Some states are trying to define existing laws and pass new laws that that would only allow a DVM, or persons assisted by a DVM to practice equine dentistry.

Photo by Kathy McCarty/Presque Isle Star-Herald Steven Akeley, a licensed equine dentist, demonstrates on his horse, Tori, what to look for when checking a horse for dental problems

One of the arguments vets have is that the equine dentists are not licensed to administer drugs to a horse. This may be law, but I don’t’ see vets coming down on farriers, horse transporters, and others who use tranquilizers. In fact, most often, the vets supplied those tranquilizers and trust them to use the drugs responsibly.

My interest is what’s best for the horse. There is no monetary gain to me whether a DVM or a CED works on my horses or my client’s horses.

My concern is if the DVMs have their way, then only a vet or a vet-assisted person could provide dental care. It means that we are paying more for the service.

And what is the quality of service? Vets have limited training for dental work, while CEDs train exclusively for it.

My personal experience has taught me that the vast majority of vets working on horses’ mouths are not doing proper work. When I discuss performance floats or bit seats and how they are suppose to function, these vets are often ill-informed.

The need for equine dentistry exceeds the number of qualified professionals available to do the work. Excluding the CEDs would only create a larger void.

Equine dentist Phil Ratliff examines a horse

If vets are truly concerned with the horses and the horse owners, they should support the establishment of a certifying board represented by DVMs and CEDs, to approve a unbiased list of “Qualified Equine Dentists” based on their ability and effort. Applicants need to be judged on their performance of equine dentistry, not how long they went to school and how much money was spent on knowledge unrelated to equine dentistry.

Good Luck and God Bless,

Martin Black

Read article on how teeth connect to hooves.

Posted in BestHorsePractices Summit, Clinicians, Health.

One Comment

  1. Thanks Martin. The scope of practice battle continues in all the health professions. Vets/farriers/CEDs, Physical Therapists/Massage Therapists/Chiropractors/MDs/Osteopaths…. I always tell people it’s the skill of the practitioner that matters more than the letters attached. Yet, it’s easy to bamboozle people if they haven’t done their own research first. If the AMA and AVA had their way, NO one would be able to practice without their supervision. Phooey.

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