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Buying a horse with kissing spine.

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  • Buying a horse with kissing spine.

    Severe, with more than one level involved. Discovered on a vetting in an allegedly healthy 7year old. I know no horse vets entirely clean but from what I’ve read and been told by people I trust this is a no-go deal killer. Thoughts?
    The ants are my friends. And they're blowin' in the wind.

  • #2
    Horses are enough of a problem when they're healthy. Don't buy an already existing problem. There will always be another horse.


    • #3
      I would not knowingly buy a horse with kissing spine unless it was a super deal and already doing the job I wanted with no evidence of unsoundness due to back issues. You would also need to be prepared to spend considerably on this horses maintenance in the future, including potential surgery, to keep them comfortable. And be comfortable with the risk of now knowing how long they would be comfortable for before it became a real problem (hence needing to be cheap to start with). Not a risk I would take while horse shopping. Bummer for those sellers.


      • #4
        Too many good horses out there that don't have KS. That can be a career-ending condition. Sucks, but best to move on. Good luck.


        • #5
          That would be a hard no for me.


          • #6
            I would move on- but if you can't without at least glancing in the rear view mirror I would call your insurance agent and get the numbers on KS surgery repair costs and what is and is not covered and for how long.

            FWIW I have a OTTB with kissing spine, now he is a treasured pasture puff with limited trail riding. He obviously had movement in it before I became aware of it- which happened when he flipped over backwards on me, seemingly unprovoked, walking around on a loose rein. No doubt something twinged and over he went... its one of those things where, its not a problem until its a huge problem.

            Hope you find the right partner


            • #7
              It would be one thing to manage on a horse you already own, but there's no way I'd purchase a horse with known KS.


              • #8
                Horses with kissing spines, can be unexpectedly dangerous. I would move on..


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cardboardoux View Post
                  Horses with kissing spines, can be unexpectedly dangerous. I would move on..
                  Exactly. I would never knowingly take one, because the kind of behaviors it causes scare me too much.

                  I guess anything is possible, but it seems surprising a horse has "severe" KS and the owner has never noticed anything amiss. Like the horse doesn't seem cold-backed or extra sensitive to saddle fit? Maybe it is a very stoic creature.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cocorona View Post
                    I would move on- but if you can't without at least glancing in the rear view mirror I would call your insurance agent and get the numbers on KS surgery repair costs and what is and is not covered and for how long.
                    For KS discovered during the PPE, exactly $0 will be covered by insurance for anything related to the back. It will be excluded from the start.

                    I have a mare retired early due to KS I was not able to manage to a degree that made it fun to ride her. (Safe, yes. Fun, no.) I spent about $2000/year on maintenance for her back -- not including anything else -- and it wasn't enough. I would not sign up for that again.


                    • #11
                      findthedistance exactly my point! i always find cold hard dollar signs to be the great equalizer


                      • #12
                        I will be the one dissenting viewpoint. If the horse is currently going with no issues presenting, presuming a 7yo, this could be a green 7yo off the track or a 7yo going prelim. If the latter and a good price, within our barn we have had several horses bought and sold that just had the surgery done while at the PPE, and going along as if nothing happened a few weeks later. The surgery was not complex or requiring of an extensive rehab process. These horses ranged from Training level packers to preliminary horses. For a good mind and safe horse the extra $2,000-3500 depending on your budget, may not be that much of a stretch. I would discuss with your vet. I do agree, that yes without the surgery maintaining this is complex, but the surgery has been so simple for so many horses in and out of our barn it's not viewed as a career-ender or severe red flag. (If anything if sellers drop the price $5-10,000 once they find out, you may get a bargain)


                        • #13
                          I've got a horse with KS. He came off the track at 5, diagnosed with KS at 9 and retired completely at 11 after trying surgery and multiple therapies. It is true that it can be managed sometimes (my vet has one going advanced) but there are often other conditions (mine has cervical arthritis) that don't become apparent until you get the KS under control. And horse needs to always remain in work and kept fit to avoid relapses. Sorry for the horse and the seller, but it would be a definite no from me.


                          • #14
                            I have a 15 year old mare that was diagnosed with kissing spine a few months ago. So far we've tried vet-recommended diet adjustments, time off, a lunging regimen with long and low work to build topline muscles, and back injections. Nothing has worked. She is not comfortable with a rider on her back and will react explosively under saddle, to the point of being quite dangerous. I have spent more than the mare is worth attempting to get her rideable. I'm stopping short of surgery and I will likely have to retire her.

                            If I found KS on a PPE, I wouldn't touch the horse with a hundred-foot pole. I know some people have had success treating kissing spine, but my experience has been a nightmare.


                            • #15
                              I sold a horse somewhat recently that had KS. I had purchased him directly from the track and didnt do a vet check. He was an awesome horse - super athletic, fancy on the flat and seemed to like to jump. I sold him and on the PPE the vet found kissing spines. He was completely asymptomatic. It wasnt a huge deal and I ended up taking slightly less for him. Thats a risk the buyer has to take.....if the horse truly is asymptomatic, it could stay like that or not. Another friend of mine has a horse with KS and gets some sort of maintenance but the horse is going around in full training and competing. I actually wouldnt be surprised if more OTTBs than we think have some degree of seems to be more prevelant now since people are x-raying the back more. If you are planning on keeping the horse and not re-selling and are comfortable with the diagnosis and know that it may mean more maintenance later on, AND the seller is willing to reduce the price .... I dont see why its an automatic hard pass. Just my two cents
                              Last edited by Rnichols; Sep. 16, 2019, 11:41 PM. Reason: Edited to clarify - typos from posting on my phone
                              Another Adult Amature and her OTTB:

                              Repurposed Racehorses


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Mango20 View Post
                                It would be one thing to manage on a horse you already own, but there's no way I'd purchase a horse with known KS.
                                This is my thought as well. I had one that had to be put down at a relatively young age as we could not successfully manage it and he was considered dangerous.

                                But we're also not getting all the info here so I might wonder about how this was found -- were back x-rays done as a matter of course, or was there something in the initial exam that warranted a closer look? The use of the word "severe" also gives me pause. If the vet is using that word, that to me is a red flag.


                                • #17
                                  I have a barn mate who purchased an older (around 7), started but green, unraced TB. Got him to the point of doing low level events but was having issues with on and off lameness. Found a bone chip, did a surgery and rehab. At the end of the rehab, horse presented with other issues that were eventually linked to the worst kissing spine xrays the treating vet had ever seen. It seemed that the kissing spine didn't become a problem until after the stall rest.

                                  So - I tend to agree that many horses, especially TBs, probably have kissing spines to some degree and do relatively well - until they don't.


                                  • #18
                                    To quote an excellent PPE vet I used -- "If you don't already own this problem, why would you want to?" With a horse that the vet is calling a "severe" case of KS, it's a question you should definitely be asking yourself. Personally, I would not want to buy this problem and risk that it becomes career-ending, when you could hold out for a horse that doesn't come with this risk factor pre-existing.


                                    • #19
                                      A big NO. Mild kissing spine can be managed with correct riding and development of the top line. But I would never buy a horse that has already been diagnosed with the problem. Bummer for you and the seller!


                                      • #20
                                        Interesting opinions but I suppose I might be the one person who says horses are horses and "kissing spines" on radiographs does not indicate the horse has an issue, will have an issue or anything of the nature. Kissing spine is a term used for radiographs that are not within normal limits. There can be a ton and I really mean a ton of interpretations of what this actually means. Also doing xrays in the field doesn't often produce correct xrays and the way the horse is standing also changes the xrays. Rather than just jumping in with the masses I have spent a lot of time doing research and talking to the top sport horse vets all across the country simply because it is actually VERY VERY common in tb's which is of course what I specialize in selling. I wanted to be educated both as a buyer and a seller. The actual research is eye opening and not as scary as what everyone presents but of course is someone had a bad experience or knows someone who did have a bad experience they will encourage you to run away fast.

                                        Would I buy a horse with kissing spines on a radiograph? Well I would want to ride the horse and know it's history a bit more but yes I personally would have no issues with it at all. You have horses competing at the top levels of every discipline with kissing spine in terms of backs that don't xray but they have zero issues doing their jobs. Every horse is an individual and I chose to take that approach to the horses that I look at. When people talk about getting years in a horse isn't that always the case? A horse may last 5yrs...what are your goals? They might last 10yrs. I don't think anyone has a crystal ball so I just can't look at horses like that.

                                        I suppose I just look at it like all horses are risky. I have seen plenty radiograph perfect and never be sound and horses that don't xray well at all be 100% and compete and win for years. Horses are a risk. How much do you like the horse and how much risk are you comfortable with when it comes to buying a horse? Do you have your own farm? Are you okay with euthanizing if the horse does have an issue or making it a pasture pet?

                                        Read the actual research studies on kissing spines and consult good sport horse vets who work in the top barns with horses actually competing in the discipline you are intending to purchase from and then make a decision. I have actually never encountered a vet who discouraged a buyer from buying a horse that showed no symptoms but didn't have a perfect back. Palpating a horse isn't even an indication of kissing spines.

                                        I had a horse that I was selling here that did have some changes in the back and the xrays were sent to a top vet hospital and used during rounds for the vet's. I was told that the sport horse vets were not at all bothered by the xrays and instead looked at the way the horse moved, jumped, how it went with the rider up and more. The surgeons were absolutely bothered. Just goes to show you ask a lot of different people and you will get different opinions. I did sell the horse because after lots of discussion with different vets the buyer thought the horse was too nice to pass up.

                                        As a seller, I generally just wait for the right buyer to come along. I do have buyers that are absolutely a no go if there is even a hint that you might a spinal process that is even possibly close. Do I think that is silly? Sure but again bad experiences give us all our own "no go" issues.