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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep. 13, 2002
    Pacific Northwest

    Default Kissing Spine Treatment and Experience

    I have a horse that was diagnosed with mild to moderate kissing spines in the T-13 to T-15 region. He is a 5 year old warmblood that has always been a bit sway backed built (I've had him since late in his 2 year old year), plus he has a history of freak accident injuries that may have contributed (he's hung his hind leg in a board fence, gotten cast numerous times, split his head open on a plastic bucket, etc.).

    We treated the back two weeks ago with shockwave and injections, and he was given a week off of riding (turnout only), then back to riding for one week so far. Vet also has him on Equioxx daily since then, and that goes another week (three weeks total). He has a wide gullet saddle that appears to fit him fairly well -- I don't have a good saddle fitter to consult with in person but have had one review photos and they thought it was a good fit.

    Even with all that, things are still not good. He's still really funky at the start of riding, and while he gets better as he warms up, he still feels resistant and locked in the back end. Vet told me that we might notice a difference immediately, or might take a while, but what we have one week after ending the Equioxx (so two weeks from now) is probably all the improvement we will see.

    Horse looks good lunged, or loose in paddock, so it does seem related to rider/saddle weight. We tried riding him bareback and he HATED that.

    So I'm curious what others have experienced with treatment of kissing spines? Did it really take a long time, or should I be seeing "something" by now? What treatments worked, what didn't? I did inquire about surgery but the vet didn't think he was a candidate as it was so mild, but if this treatment regime doesn't help, perhaps that will change his mind.

    Anyway, would be interested in hearing others' experience.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr. 14, 2001


    Blush has bony changes between C6 and C7. We injected, and she got immediately better and had about 6 really good months where I rode her daily. She went off again, we injected again, she got about 2 weeks before regressing again. I retired her.

    She hangs out, has buddies and is a happy horse. She's not in pain, but is not normal neurologically--she does not track evenly behind. It's pretty subtle if you're just watching her wander around, but if you really look at her trot of if you're on her, it's definitely there.

    I realize my case is different than yours and the cervical spine is a different ballgame than the thorasic, but if you're not seeing improvement this far out from injections and shockwave, I don't think you're going to. Have you thought about staying off of him and really working to get his back UP and strong before trying to sit on him again?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb. 28, 2001


    I have had to KS horses, both related.

    Rosemary was diagnosed through scintigraphy/radiographs at UGA as a 4yo. Nothing helped and retired.

    Julian (half brother to Rosemary) showed signs as a 5yo, finally diagnosed via rads a few years later.

    Same result.

    Julian declined rapidly until age 13 when his overall pain was enough to leave him with poor quality of life.

    He crossed the rainbow bridge in June.

    Both had changes in the thoracic area.

    Wish I had better stories to share.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul. 24, 2004


    No good results for my mare either . She was diagnosed four years ago (at age 8) when I took her in for a lameness exam though she has never been off a day since I've had her - I just started having problems w/ her u/s. It was pretty clear what the problem was once we saw the xrays of her back . We tried time off, muscle relaxants, injections but nothing worked. She is ultra-sensitive to everything (OTTB mare ) and there no way she was going to be happy... so I retired her. She is a pasture pet along w/ my 30-year old TB. Watching her move out in the field one would think she is fine but even put your hand on her back and she'll stomp the ground once w/ her hind leg and do one swish of the tail just in case I forgot about her back. She's happy and content now - she just can't handle the weight of a rider on her back. If she was in any pain she would let me know in no uncertain terms (I've had her for 8½ years now and have been the only one who has ever taken care of her so she knows who I am -"mom" ). Wish I had better news for you .
    "When a horse greets you with a nicker & regards you with a large & liquid eye, the question of where you want to be & what you want to do has been answered." CANTER New England

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul. 12, 2010


    Well, this is us, too.

    My guy - 12 years old, was diagnosed three weeks ago via xray.

    Looking at him, you'd never know it. And, he's not in constant pain - it comes and goes. Sometimes he's fine for months, and then wham! I am currently in the saddle fit, should we inject, rest, shockwave, there might be hope yet ... hell.

    One vet says he's done, the other vet says, let's take things one at a time. MY vet is the let's take things one at a time, and I trust her.

    My heart is starting to get out of the initial shock and disappointment though, and I am thinking maybe I am grasping at straws, and it might be time to just let him be retired.

    It breaks my heart. I've struggled to make a connection/bond with him, and just this spring, we were hitting that groove. Not to say that we won't still have that connection, but he's the kind of horse who thrives on work, and gets weird and grumpy with time off. And he screams and gallops anytime I work with the other horse(not mine).

    I know his are pretty extensive, but I've now had two vets with the opinion that maybe we need to exhaust all the possiblities - saddle fit, soft tissue, etc., first, before we make that decision.

    With him, it's a behaviour thing, and some random come and go back soreness.

    I' m sorry for all of us!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb. 28, 2008


    not quite the same, but wanted to share anyhow...

    After thinking my horse had KS, I found he actually has broken withers. Same as everyone here, I just couldn't find anything to make him comfortable as a riding horse, so he's retired.

    BUT, I was able to find a way to make him comfortable as a driving horse. And he loves it.

    I know that driving is a whole new world and a very big deal, but I'm going about it largely solo with long distance help and books and vids. I do have a little background in driving as I broke two other horses to drive before my current one, but I never really 'drove' a lot, just got them confident in the harness, quiet to hitch, handy to handle and w/t around the neighborhood and in the woods a time or two and thats it.

    I've walked into this new venture of driving fairly grass green with my 'broke back pony'.

    All of my harness and carts/carriages have been bought second hand on ebay, or through carriage driving networks LARGELY with the help of the friendly folks over in the CoTH carriage section.

    We're currently doing really well together after a bumpy start, and recently upgraded from a cart to a marathon carriage. If you think driving is just for old ladies who can no longer ride, think again :

    not for everyone of course, but just offering it up as it may be an option for some... and wanted to perhaps inspire a little bit as though you can't just walk right out and do it - a perfect nobody with no special background can indeed break into it too - just a little perseverance and positive attitude is all... I am really really glad someone gently poked me in this direction, turned into something I never would have expected and brought me to a place I never imagined I'd go.
    “I am sorry negativity, I have no time for you. I have far too many positive things to do.”

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar. 20, 2010
    Bucks County, PA


    I have a mare with KS. When she was in heavy training, she had her back injected and was ridden 6 days a week. The more work she did, the better she got. Saddle fit is obviously very important, as was keeping her back warm.

    Now she is a broodmare, and is out 24/7 with no injections. She is better than ever! I think turn out is so important for horses with KS, it certainly made the difference in my mare. I can ride her now and she never exhibits the symptoms she used to when she was living in a stall.

  8. #8
    horsepoor is offline Schoolmaster Premium Member
    Original Poster
    Join Date
    Sep. 13, 2002
    Pacific Northwest


    Thank you for all the replies, even though I must say they were pretty discouraging! Part of our problem is not knowing for sure that the kissing spine is the issue -- he might have other things that we haven't discovered and treated yet. The vets don't seem convinced that what they see on x-rays and bone scan is enough to explain his problems. But it does seem clear that we should be seeing some improvement by now if this latest treatment is really going to work -- I'll be calling the vet to see what is next.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 9, 2007
    so. chester co.


    My mare was diagnosed with KS as a 5 yr old. She was swaybacked and sore to the touch. We did injections and shockwave with little results. She was so painful that she would leap into the air and was too dangerous to ride. Had another vet look at her, he said it was her hocks that was causing her to drop her back and caused the KS lesions. He injected her hocks, much to my disappointment it didn't help. As a last ditch effort to pretty much save her life I took her to another vet, he looked at her, watched me jog her in hand and said that her Cunean Tendons were causing her hock pain, he did surgery on her to cut and remove a section of the tendon, a year later she is AWESOME!! Sound and happy in her work, we are schooling 3rd level now and are really progressing.
    I'm not saying that this is what is wrong with your guy, but it is worth looking at the hocks since they are a major contributor to back pain.
    Good luck, I feel your pain!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr. 5, 2011
    Sunshine State


    A friend of mine owns a QH mare who was diagnosed with Kissing Spines many years ago. This mare was her show horse (Western Riding, Trail, Horsemanship, Reining).
    After a very thourough saddle-fit-check (where everything fit well and there were no issues), she hauled the horse 2x a week to a special facility for swim-therapy in a man-made pond. The swimming helped the horse to build even stronger muscle over her topline which in turn helped to get her even more collected under saddle.
    She also taught her (with professional help of course) to drive and after a few more years of sucessful riding the mare was eventually "retired" to driving and both are still happy and healthy
    Adjusting the work-load as the horse's health declines is obviously very important, but done right - there are usually many more good years to come! Good luck to you
    Classical Horsemanship

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