What is “floating a horse’s teeth”?

David Sanderson Horse Language & Idioms, Horse Techniques & Careers


You might have heard this mysterious phrase being tossed around the barn and wonder what it means. As odd as it sounds, it’s pretty important, so we decided to post this article to explain what it means.

So what “floating” mean?

Floating a horse’s teeth is to file them using a special kind of rasp or file referred to as a “float”. Unlike humans, horses’ teeth continue to grow over time. A horse’s upper jaw is wider than it’s lower jaw so upper and lower teeth do not meet each other evenly. The upper teeth have more wear on the inside, leading to longer sharp edges on the outside and the opposite is true for the bottom teeth. This can sometimes lead to sharp edges or hooks that can inhibit proper chewing and digestion leading to poor absorption of nutrients and then weight loss. These sharp edges can also cause pain by rubbing the inside of the horse’s cheek or their tongue and may cause serious discomfort when they have a bit in their mouth.

How often do horses need it?

It is important to have your horse’s teeth checked by your veterinarian at least yearly. Your vet will suggest an appropriate schedule to meet your particular horse’s needs. Some horses seem to have faster growing teeth than others and floating requirements might range from months to years. The procedure itself is fairly quick and painless although many horses are distressed by it and may require sedation.