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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep. 11, 2011
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    Default Help on kissing spines!

    I have recently purchased a thoroughbred who develpoed back pain. He was skinny when we first got him, but since put weight on him and got him in a training schedule. We noticed about two weeks later that he was very stiff though his back and developed severe back pain. Today we got the vet out, and took x-rays and got the devistating news that he had kissing spines. Our vet did flexion tests on him and said he could not make our horse lame and is extremely sound otherwise. We planned on using him for at least preliminary eventing, because of his great temperment, flawless conformation, and amazing jump. I have done more research and found that surgery is an option. I was wondering if anyone knew anything about the surgery, and if so, would he be a preliminary level eventer after it has been done? Thanks so much!



  2. #2
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    Dec. 19, 2009
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    From what I was told by my vet, the surgery isn't very successful for eventing. It was usable (just) for racing. there are some things that can be done but it really depends on which spiney processes are involved. Your best bet is to talk with your vet. If they're bad enough, long term you can get them to fuse. If they're mild enough and you're careful how you work a horse (round, round and more round) you can sometimes make it work. Injections also can help tremendously for some. Talk to your vet about your particular situation. It really has to be tailored to your horse. One thing that can't be done for a long time: drops.

    The horse I had that had 14 vertebra involved went on to having a long lower level (training) career. he finished doing training at age 24 but he always had to be managed.



  3. #3
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    Jul. 19, 2003
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    You would be surprised how many UL event horses are happily doing their job with kissing spine. Maintenance and proper work is key. LOTS of long and low to build the topline.

    There are a lot of treatment options that work without jumping to surgery. Injections, shockwave, mesotherapy, etc. Talk to your vet about all your options. Or, find a vet who specializes in sports medicine, and get their opinion and discuss options with them.



  4. #4
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    Dec. 15, 2005
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    I think Virginia Tech has done a lot of the surgeries. I heard one surgeon talk about the surgeries. He said they are quite successful in certain situations.



  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by yellowbritches View Post
    Maintenance and proper work is key. LOTS of long and low to build the topline.
    I have been told by some very, very good practitioners that it is best to work a horse with kissing spines on contact and with a rounded topline (not rollkur!), rather than long and low. Reason is that the spinous processes spread further apart when the topline is rounded, so less chance of them touching and causing pain and inflammation.

    There is also now some thought that poor saddle fit may exacerbate kissing spines. We have recently put several horses with KS issues into Schleese saddles (fitted by a good Schleese rep), and they are all working MUCH better. While previous damage has been done, the new saddles seem to be helping to prevent new damage and reduce inflammation.

    Will add that I don't know about KS and eventing, but FWIW, one of the U.S.'s top dressage horses has KS, and he went to the Olympics.



  6. #6
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    Oct. 18, 2000
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    Quote Originally Posted by yellowbritches View Post
    You would be surprised how many UL event horses are happily doing their job with kissing spine. Maintenance and proper work is key. LOTS of long and low to build the topline.

    There are a lot of treatment options that work without jumping to surgery. Injections, shockwave, mesotherapy, etc. Talk to your vet about all your options. Or, find a vet who specializes in sports medicine, and get their opinion and discuss options with them.

    This. You'd be amazed by how many high performing horses have conditions like this. Don't despair.
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
    -Rudyard Kipling



  7. #7
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    Sep. 11, 2011
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    Thanks so much for the info it really helped, unfortunately, he is 5, and we really don't think with the surgery he is going to make it to be an eventer. He has three spots where he is affected and one spot is already fused. But our vet said he would be ok up untill 1st level dressage, and would make a great equitation horse, and possibly some cross rails. It's a shame but there is going to be a little girl who is going to fall in love with him. (He has got that great of a personality)



  8. #8
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    Jul. 19, 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by DownYonder View Post
    I have been told by some very, very good practitioners that it is best to work a horse with kissing spines on contact and with a rounded topline (not rollkur!), rather than long and low. Reason is that the spinous processes spread further apart when the topline is rounded, so less chance of them touching and causing pain and inflammation.

    There is also now some thought that poor saddle fit may exacerbate kissing spines. We have recently put several horses with KS issues into Schleese saddles (fitted by a good Schleese rep), and they are all working MUCH better. While previous damage has been done, the new saddles seem to be helping to prevent new damage and reduce inflammation.

    Will add that I don't know about KS and eventing, but FWIW, one of the U.S.'s top dressage horses has KS, and he went to the Olympics.
    If long and low is done correctly, the horse's back IS round and stretching. Long and low doesn't mean throw the reins away and let them do whatever. Every vet I have talked to about kissing spine and backs in general are big advocates on lots of long and low work, including doing it on the lunge line if they are quite painful (using something like a Pessoa rig to encourage them to push from behind and lift their backs). The stronger their topline, the less pain they are in. Especially for a young horse (as is the case of the OP), the best way to build a topline is to put them long and low. There was also a study released a few years ago that said this was the best form of exercise for a horse with kissing spine (please don't ask me for a reference...I suck at that).

    OP, PLEASE, for your own peace of mind, get a second or even third opinion on this horse's future before writing him off. That's a pretty harsh sentence for a horse so young for a condition that many horses do just fine with by using proper management. There is NEVER EVER anything wrong with seeking a second opinion, especially when it comes down to a "he's done" kind of prognosis.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
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    Nov. 20, 2010
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    Upstate New York
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    I have a 9yo fine-boned 16.3 OTTB. He was retired 2 years ago, and not easy to transition into a H/J prospect the first year, so I took him on a year ago. First vet visit his worst problem diagnosed was kissing spine about mid back along about 3-4 processes. Also arthritic L front ankle and slightly hocky. He also was quite competitive, so can be, as my trainer puts it, "emotional".

    Also got him a Schleese saddle, fitted by Jochen himself.

    I still worry about his back, but so far, the least of his problems has been his back. My vet and newly found trainer have seen no difference in his reacting to my being on him, from his action on the ground. Am trying to get into condition myself, but still probably about 25 pounds over where I need to be, and he is handling it ok.

    We are also working on lots of work to strengthen his back. Plus his now also being out with a run-in 24/7, since we moved 6 months ago, seems to have him very happy as well. Not sure where he'll ultimately end up, but hopefully it's not all negative. He has a super personality as well (when he's not being emotional, ah er, back at the track...)

    Glad to read some of the comments up above. Good luck!
    How can there be so many currents in such a little puddle?
    National Velvet



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by yellowbritches View Post
    If long and low is done correctly, the horse's back IS round and stretching. Long and low doesn't mean throw the reins away and let them do whatever.
    Agree, but when many folks hear "long and low", they assume it means "float the nose out and throw away the reins". Just wanted to make sure you weren't advocating letting the horse trudge around on its forehand without any rounding of the topline.



  11. #11
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    May. 17, 2010
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    Default bump

    Still hoping to hear more about kissing spines. Do any of you all use any other kind of therapy to help besides long and low?



  12. #12
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    Dec. 15, 2011
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    my guy got it at age 23, and while he didnt have the surgery, we put him on prednisolone and tildren and hes back to happily toting around little kids. he had very, very bad kissing spines though so he is not able to jump any more.



  13. #13
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    Aug. 11, 2008
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    my 8 yr old OTTB has mild kissing spine - to manage any pain, he gets a combination of injections/mesotherapy/shockwave twice a year. he does hunters with me and i've been told it's fine (and a good idea, actually) to keep him in work. but he doesn't do anything more than 3'3, and usually far lower than that at home.



  14. #14
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    Apr. 17, 2006
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    A horse at the barn I board at has kissing spines and they have successfully treated her with mesotherapy. I agree with the long and low. I also want to share what I have been doing with my horse to help strengthen the muscles around her spine. There was a study that showed that carrot stretches done 5 times 5 days a week improved the muscles/structure supporting the spine. My horse was injured last year and I decided to give it a try. Study said that it took 5 weeks for full affect. This is week 4 and she went from having back pain to currently none. What I did was a basic massage for her back and hamstrings. Then the belly lifts, then to strengthen the area behind the saddle the butt tucking lifts. Finishing up with repetitions of the carrot stretches. Examples of all of this is all on UTUBE. In the last 2 weeks her improvement has been amazing. i also have regular Chiro work on her and he suggested doing everything after I ride too. I as said remarkable improvement and better yet it's free only costing me a few minutes before and after I ride. Worth a shot in my opinion.


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  15. #15
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    Default

    Its also really important to use a saddle with a really high channel (i think thats what its called) and make sure it doesnt touch his spine while you are on him.



  16. #16
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    Jun. 15, 2002
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    Actually the newer surgery where they incise the interspinous ligaments has been very successful. I would contact your local surgery referral hospital (or vet school) and try to get more information about it. As I understand it, it is minimally invasive, it's done under standing sedation with a scope so no general anesthesia.

    Here's an article, just put out August 2012:

    Here's some good news for owners of horses with kissing spines: A British research team recently developed a new, minimally invasive treatment method that boasted a 95% success rate in a recent study.

    Kissing spines, technically termed overriding dorsal spinous processes (ORDSP), causes mild to severe back pain and can have a negative effect on a horse's ability to work. Several treatment options currently exist, including corticosteroid injections, physical therapy, and surgical resection of the affected vertebra. The latter has the highest success rate; however it can be a risky procedure for the horse and costly for the owner.

    Richard Coomer, MA, VetMB, CertES, Dipl. ECVS, MRCVS, an associate practitioner at Cotts Farm Equine Hospital in Pembrokeshire, England, recently developed and evaluated a minimally invasive surgical technique to treat ORDSP in horses. Coomer and colleagues performed a study comparing this new technique with a traditional veterinary treatment for ORDSP, and found that the surgical technique had a higher long-term success rate.


    Coomer performed the surgical technique on 37 horses diagnosed with ORDSP, and 38 control horses received a traditional treatment of corticosteroid injections into affected vertebral spaces.

    The team found that Coomer's technique, which involves making a 1-centimeter incision near the spine and cutting the interspinous ligament (ISL), appeared to releive back pain: When the ISL is cut, "the horse appears to experience pain relief, which in many cases results in muscle relaxation and the spines to move apart," Commer said.

    Further, "rehabilitation (was) critical for success," he said. For the surgical group, rehabilitation included two weeks of stall rest, daily hand walking for three weeks, and lunging for three more weeks. Horses in the medical group had 48 hours paddock turnout and then three weeks of lunging. All horses were evaluated six weeks post-treatment before resuming work.

    Long-term follow-up (performed after an average of 379 days) revealed that a 42% success rate for the medical group and a 95% success rate for the surgical group. Radiographs performed on 25 horses showed no changes in horses treated medically, but significant space enlargement in horses treated surgically.

    The revised edition of Olympic Equestrian highlights and chronicles the most celebrated equestrian athletes in the sport where men and women compete on a level playing field.

    Additionally, Coomer noted, the "surgical technique allowed (affected horses) to return to work without further clinical signs of back pain."

    The team believes further study of surgical technique is warranted but also noted that the procedure "proved superior to medical treatment despite being applied to a group of more severely affected horses."

    The study, "A Controlled Study Evaluating a Novel Surgical Treatment for Kissing Spines in Standing Sedated Horses," appeared in Veterinary Surgery in June 2012. The abstract is available online.



  17. #17
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    Default In reply to Meadow36

    We didn't give up hope yet, and as of 10/25/12, we have had the new surgical treatment done called, interspinous ligament desmotomy. So far he is doing pretty good. The surgery only took about an hour, and from what I know, he was the first horse in the United States to have the surgery done. I'll keep updates on how he's doing when he gets back into training.


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  18. #18
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    Jul. 28, 2004
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    Yes, please keep us posted. Have a kissing spine horse myself that I would like to help.
    Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.



  19. #19
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    Oct. 25, 2012
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    New member of the forum here! My horse goes in for surgery to correct kissing spines Monday. Radiographs showed over riding of the dorsal spines T16 and T17 during his prepurchase exam. The diagnosis blindsided me and his old owner since he's never shown any back pain. In hindsight, I did notice during our test rides he didn't like to bend. I just thought it was a OTTB thing. The owner agreed to give me the horse if I went through with the surgery and committed to the long rehab. 8 weeks stall rest and walking in-hand. 4 weeks lunging and then back in the saddle. My friends think I'm crazy for doing this but the vet is confident my horse is an excellent candidate for a complete recovery. I figure we are going into winter and all the hand walking and rehab will be a chance for us to get to know each other.

    I will keep you posted, and please send prayers our way for a successful surgery and uncomplicated recovery.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by sporthorsegirl101 View Post
    We didn't give up hope yet, and as of 10/25/12, we have had the new surgical treatment done called, interspinous ligament desmotomy. So far he is doing pretty good. The surgery only took about an hour, and from what I know, he was the first horse in the United States to have the surgery done. I'll keep updates on how he's doing when he gets back into training.
    Awesome! Keep posting updates, I'm sure we all would like to know how it turns out!!



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