REASONS FOR PERFORMING STUDY: Although equine motorised dental instruments are widely used, there is limited information on their thermal effect on teeth. The recently described variation in subocclusal secondary dentine depth overlying individual pulp horns may affect heat transmission to the underlying pulps. OBJECTIVES: This study compared the effect of 3 different equine motorised dental instruments on the pulpar temperature of equine cheek teeth with and without the use of water cooling. It also evaluated the effect of subocclusal secondary dentine thickness on pulpar temperature changes. METHODS: A thermocouple probe was inserted into the pulp horns of 188 transversely sectioned maxillary cheek teeth with its tip lying subocclusally. Pulpar temperature changes were recorded during and following the continuous use of 3 different equine motorised dental instruments (A, B and C) for sequential time periods, with and without the use of water cooling. RESULTS: Using motorised dental instrument B compared with either A or C increased the likelihood that the critical temperature was reached in pulps by 8.6 times. Compared with rasping for 30 s, rasping for 45, 60 and 90 s increased the likelihood that the critical temperature would be reached in pulps by 7.3, 8.9 and 24.7 times, respectively. Thicker subocclusal secondary dentine (odds ratio [OR] = 0.75/mm) and water cooling (OR = 0.14) were both protective against the likelihood of the pulp reaching the critical temperature. CONCLUSIONS: Prolonged rasping with motorised dental instruments increased the likelihood that a pulp would be heated above the critical temperature. Increased dentinal thickness and water cooling had protective roles in reducing pulpar heating. POTENTIAL RELEVANCE: Motorised dental instruments have the potential to seriously damage equine pulp if used inappropriately. Higher speed motorised dental instruments should be used for less time and teeth should be water cooled during or immediately after instrument use to reduce the risk of thermal pulpar damage.