Kissing Spines

In order to participate in the forums and post comments, you need to be registered on Horse Hero. Please make sure you are Registered and Logged In to get involved!

21 Apr 2009 14:04
Has anyone got experience with kissing spines - either surgical or non-surgical treatment? We are due to go for a second opinion on whether surgery is required, the concern is that the horse may be difficult to manage post-surgery on box-rest and do damage to himself and those around him. We were also concerned that he mightn't want to work in a pessoa (you get the idea of his character) but tried Kavalkade reins on recommendation of our physiotherapist and, to our surprise, he is almost accepting them. Would like to know the long-term prognosis if anyone has had an experience with this condition.
26 Apr 2009 20:10

I have a 9 year old gelding diagnosed with Kissing Spines in December. I was given him after this diagnosis as he was going to be shot, and having dealt with and ridden the horse previously, and always utterly adored him, I felt he deserved every chance I could give him. Before I had him he lived in almost all the time, the yard had very, very limited turnout. He has hunted most of his life and been worked hard, I have known him for about 2 years and throughout this time he's always had 'a dodgy back'.

He is, somewhat unfortunately in this situation, the type of horse to get on with it, and make the best of a bad situation, so it's unclear how long he's been affected, during these two years he's competed successfully at unaff' dressage, winning a great deal. At the time I got him however, he had totally lost the plot, he was attacking everything that walked past his door, trying to come over the door. When ridden he was crashing through every fence, eventually getting to the point where he would just stand and refuse to move. He was taken to the vet where his previous owner was advised he probably had kissing spines, she was told to work him until he broke down to ascertain this was definitely the cause, as she was unwilling to shell out anymore money on him.

She decided to have him put down, but I intervened. A friend of mine competes at the highest levels of showing, and had a 12.2 HOYS pony diagnosed with KS, the owner was advised to pessoa this pony every day for 8 weeks, this was done about a year ago,and the pony has had no further problems, coming 5th this year at HOYS with a ten stone rider on, and not only that, but has just passed a 5 stage vetting!
My boy has been turned out for 6 months to forget the awful time he's and have a good old fashioned holiday, he's on joint supplements and is the happiest horse around, he follows you around the field now instead of lashing out. I'm due to start the same pessoaing treatment that was so successful with my friends pony shortly, and will update you how it goes. Sorry for the essay, but there seem to be so many horses affected with this currently, my own vet has even claimed that many vets diagnose KS if they don't know what the true problem is, I know people who have come through it, so don't lose hope!

Fiona Price, Horse Hero Founder
26 Apr 2009 20:53
Lovely story Letti! Hopefully, this will be an inspiration to others. I am a great fan of lunging with the Persoa. I have found this has helped with horses I have had in many ways, including problematic backs!
27 Apr 2009 17:53
Were the horses you are talking about xrayed to confirm kissing spines? I am being told by vets and alternative practitioners alike that in the vast majority of cases kissing spines do not resolve themselves and surgery is normally indicated. Clearly, it is very costly and few people whose horses are not insured can afford it. My initial feeling was against the surgery, as it seems invasive and risky, in case something goes wrong. My horse is also extremely unwilling to accept any form of head restraint, so pessoa mightn't work for him anyway, be it before or after the operations. We are trying to practice with KAvalkade reins but he is pretty angry about it and makes it perfectly obvious. I have decided to go with vets' and physio recommendations, and have him operated if this is what the specialist - Sven Kold at Willesely Equine clinic in Gloucestershire - recommends when we take him there on May 5th. Even a Tellington Touch practitioner, an equine osteopath and a McTimoney practitioner are all telling me to go with the radical solution if it is recommended. It's scary, we imported this horse from Russia as a yearling and invested a lot of time and money into him, he is now six. So I guess we can only hope for the best.

27 Apr 2009 22:44
The pony was x rayed to confirm it and surgery was recommended for her, but as she's a show pony the owner was very against this, so wanted to look for other options. I'm sure you realise that after the operation there are gaps in the spine which are very obvious, and this would have put an end to the pony's career in the show ring and made her difficult to sell. As she's only 12.2 it's obviously less difficult to handle and manage her, but she's very firey for her size and isn't afraid to make her feelings known on any subject, luckily for my friend she took to the pessoa quite well, everyone was amazed as she's a very difficult mare. My gelding has not been xrayed, i didn't want to put him through more trauma at the time I had him, my plan is to xray him when he's brought back in from the field. As he was a freebie and we have a lot of land it's not that important to me if he's ridden again, although the physio who watched him a few weeks ago saw no reason why he shouldn't be. The main thing for me is he gets to live out his days free of pain.

The pessoa persuades and asks the horse to make the correct shape rather than forces, so perhaps your horse might take more kindly to this than you imagine? It's very important in my experience to fit it slowly and make the horse aware of the sheepskin tensioner at the back, as it's usually this they have a problem with if anything. There are some horses however who refuse totally to work in it, they are such complicated creatures aren't they!!

It's certainly a difficult situation when you have invested a lot of money into a horse, another of my friends works in a racehorse rehabilitation centre and sees numerous cases of kissing spines. She remains sceptical on the operation as she feels it makes the horses very set through their necks post surgery and prone to arthritis. It depends massively on who carries out the operation seems to be the general consensus, and the Gloucestershire hospital is well renowned. I wish you all the best of luck with this, and hope your horse comes through whatever you decide.
28 Apr 2009 10:19
Hi Letti

Thanks for the information. The appearance doesn't bother me in the slightest. My horse is an Akhal-Teke. They are an ancient Central Asian breed used mostly for racing and endurance, though they are very elegant in dressage if they can be persuaded to cooperate. One thing they find pointless is the show ring! Fortunately, I do too. We also have plenty of land but he is six years old, and Tekes don't like doing nothing. I wonder why you say that the horse becomes set in its neck post operation? Could you please explain what you mean? Also, is there any statistics regarding the long term prognosis? Do you know of any evidence about them being more prone to arthritis post-operation?
28 Apr 2009 11:39
Oh I know of Akhal Teke's though I've never had the pleasure of meeting one, they always look absolutely beautiful!

She feels that because part of the spine is taken away, and obviously the spine is shorter, this can often result in the horse becoming short to compensate, and going in a very 'set' way, which then can result in an arthritis setting in. This obviously depends on how many spinous processes are affected etc, and obviously a racehorse will have had a hard life initially, because they aren't ever worked long and low, they're often more susceptible apparently, especially the ones used for jumping, and others because they are started so young on the flat. This then makes it harder for them to adapt to working long and low post op. I am due to see her in the next few days, so I'll ask her if she has any concrete information then on the subject. In the worst cases she's seen, the KS has returned post op, resulting in a further shortening, which obviously results in euthanasia, however this is very rare from my understanding.

There are a fair few success stories on the H&H forums, and I found this article very interesting

I do hope you find a solution, it's so confusing with all the different information out there, I understand the Willesley Clinic are leaders in their field so I'm hopeful for you, I'm sure they will be able to advise you on the best options for your boy. It seems so odd to me how many horses are affected by this, its not a disease I ever came across until a few years ago, but I suppose with more technology comes more bad news as well as good! Letti.
28 Apr 2009 19:02
Letti, thanks again, for a comprehensive explanation, also for the link to the article by Peter Gray. A very interesting site.
17 Aug 2009 23:51
My horse had the operation for removal of 3 spinous processess this june. He was diagnosed with kissing spines. We are 2 weeks off the final 12 week reahab period and everything is going well. He certainly seems more free in his paces and is moving well over trotting poles and also when i ask variations between paces on the lunge. Its been a long haul rehab process and I hope to return him to dressage. I'd be interested hearing from any one who has gone through the op. What outcome did you achieve? The operation was carried out By Svend Kold at the willesley equine clinic. He remains positive that the horse will be as good if not better than he was before. I suppose until I start riding then I wont know. I'm praying all will be well.


Share this Page

Follow Us On:


14938 users rated Horse Hero videos 5 out of 5
Page loaded in 0.0155999999988126 seconds

Subscribe now for instant access to around 1000 training videos from top riders in all equestrian disciplines. The best value training on the web!