Veterinarian Dr. Geoff Tucker developed his school, The Equine Dentistry School Online, after floating more than 60,000 horses’ teeth over three decades. The school, started September 2014 with a worldwide practical component, already has two graduates — a veterinarian in New York and a citizen of the Dominican Republic. “I became a veterinarian because I love horses,” Tucker said. He even overcame dyslexia to graduate from Cornell University. In 2014, he released his compelling third book, Since the Days of the Romans: My Journey of Discovering a Life of Horses. He is pictured with his horse, Oliver, on the cover.
Dr. Tucker travels up and down the East Coast to preserve the traditional way of equine dentistry based on whole horsemanship. “Whenever you work with the horse as a professional, you need to respect it as a living, breathing animal,” advises Tucker.
“When I use horsemanship to do dentistry, people say, ‘Wow, Dr. Tucker, I really like this kind of dentistry you’re doing. All I’ve seen is automatic drugging and power equipment.’”
Dr. Tucker explains that the reason for floating horses’ teeth is, “Twenty-five thousand times a day they’re chewing, and their teeth are continually erupting throughout their life.” This creates wear and tear on their teeth, just as it would the lead in a mechanical pencil. You can turn a worn lead around in a pencil, but horse can’t turn their teeth. This leads to sharp edges.
However, Dr. Tucker said, “It’s not how sharp the teeth are, it’s what they perceive to be their threshold of pain. Some horses could care less. Others have a pimple and can’t be ridden. You shoudn’t wait until you have a problem to start floating teeth.”
Tucker uses a method of horsemanship based on communication — listening to the horse and trying to understand what the animal is saying. “I listen and create a relationship with the horse. I walk in there with an expectation of openness and respect. The horse says, ‘Okay, who are you?’ I tell them, I’m just a guy here to find out about you.” This starts a wide-open conversation, Tucker says. The horse willingly allows a hand in his mouth to inspect his teeth. This does away with relying on drugs or power tools for floating. People are amazed.
“Just because horses don’t speak the language, doesn’t mean they don’t understand the language. In 30 seconds, I can explain the personality of the horse.” It is so simple, he says, that he has coined a new word: “complexicate.” Complexicate is defined as taking something very simple and making it complicated. Horses need you to explain to them what you’re doing. And then they say okay.
He finds many professionals to be lacking in horsemanship. “They all say they want to connect with the horse, but they’re there to fix something, and they don’t have time to make a connection. Schools are selecting people who are very smart and can fix things, but they aren’t horsemen. They’re scientists. There’s a separation happening.”
People turning to professionals seeking advice have also skipped this stage, trying only to fix a problem, not find the cause or communicate with their horse. For example, many horses are intolerant of grain, as it can create inflammation in their hind gut. The owner doesn’t understand why horse doesn’t like the girth tightened. “A professional prescribes a medication to fix the symptom, when they should eliminate grain. “Why became a veterinarian or farrier or a chiropractor if all you do is treat them as an inanimate object?” Tucker asks. “You have a car to get you somewhere.” On the other hand, “The horse is not your surrogate lover, or long-lost friend. To treat a horse as anything but a horse is disrespecting the horse for what he is.”
He started his school online to reach people worldwide and foster the skill of horsemanship, Tucker startes there are 112 million equine in the world, with almost 10 million in the United States. “If I can teach someone who doesn’t have access to drugs or fancy equipment, it would make a huge difference,” he said. Tucker is donating 5 percent of his school’s earnings to thebrooke.org, an international animal welfare foundation providing veterinarian care to the world’s poorest countries for 84 years.