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Kissing Spine - what made you suspect it?

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  • Kissing Spine - what made you suspect it?

    I have a pony who gets very tense and angry under saddle. Been this way for as long as I have known her. She's been seen by chiropractors, equibow practioners, had 60 days with a trainer... no one seemed to think there was something physically wrong with her, but I wonder.

    On the ground she is very sweet, can occasionally get anxious but is usually pretty good. She is very very strong in the bridle, and gets the most "angry" (ears pinned back, tail swishing) when you try and hold her back and ask her to collect at all or bend. She will get very tense and sometimes will even stop and start to bounce in spot and possibly rear. Going FORWARD is not an issue. She wants to run around like a banshee 24/7. She also LOVES to jump. Once in a while she will relax and stretch down but its few and far in between. Ive tried different bridles, different bits, went bitless for a while, different saddles, halfpads....

    I've never worked with a horse that had this much attitude under saddle for years on end. I want to do back xrays on her but she doesnt actually belong to me and I dont know if I should spend the money if there will be no answers...

    Ive been reading up on kissing spine diagnosis but she doesnt entirely fit the bill. So I ask, people who have had/known horses with kissing spine .. how did you know?

    I love this pony with my whole heart but its tough to justify the monetary pursuit of answers when at the end of the day, you dont own them.

  • #2
    Inexplicable bolting undersaddle. This was not a hot and spooky horse getting out of control. It was mellow trot to panicked run in a fraction of a second. Scary stuff.

    Comment


    • #3
      Generalizing here I know, but horses with kissing spines tend to have a constant pain, severity dependent on how bad the spine is. The last thing they want to do is race around because it hurts. The sort of reaction you’re seeing, if it was pain related at all, would be caused by a sudden sharp pain.
      Horses with kissing spines are always uncomfortable, it makes them fidget around even on the ground and feel irritable. Tightening the girth will produce an ‘ouch’ reaction.
      There could well be something going on in the spine that isn’t a constant so to be fair to the horse and for your own safety a thorough check up needs to done.
      I wouldn’t ride this pony until someone had put their hand in their pocket to pay for it

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by AllHorse View Post
        Generalizing here I know, but horses with kissing spines tend to have a constant pain, severity dependent on how bad the spine is. The last thing they want to do is race around because it hurts. The sort of reaction you’re seeing, if it was pain related at all, would be caused by a sudden sharp pain.
        Horses with kissing spines are always uncomfortable, it makes them fidget around even on the ground and feel irritable. Tightening the girth will produce an ‘ouch’ reaction.
        There could well be something going on in the spine that isn’t a constant so to be fair to the horse and for your own safety a thorough check up needs to done.
        I wouldn’t ride this pony until someone had put their hand in their pocket to pay for it
        I don't agree that horses with KS always fidget even on the ground and are irritable. Not the case with my mare or with a couple others I've known with KS. My mare is about as perfect as you can get for ground manners.

        My mare started moving more up-down instead of forward. Became inverted. Very tense under saddle if I asked her to shorten at all. She was better if I stayed off her back as I ride very "lightly". And she bucked after a jump one day - a tiny jump and she is a horse who LOVED jumping and doing jumper courses. She never bucked before - she always had a ridiculously good work ethic.

        I took her in to the equine hospital and had a full lameness workup done on her despite never being lame since day one of owning her. Once we saw xrays of her back it was clear what the problem was. She has three vertebrae that are basically touching and they are right under where the back of the saddle is. This was in 2007 and she's been a pasture pet since then.

        The workup wasn't cheap but insurance covered most of it back then. Not sure how much you want to invest in a horse that isn't yours.
        "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

        Comment


        • #5
          For my guy, difficulty getting him to work into the contact (once you get him working through his back, he is quite happy to continue doing so) and being cold-backed in the winter. Albeit, a part of the contact issue can be attributed to training and temperament. He is also always worse to bring back into work after time off, again also partially a temperament issue as he is a sensitive and reactive TB who thrives on 5-6 days a week of work. Took x-rays on a whim (he's accident prone, so vet was already looking at him for something else) and found that he has kissing spine.

          I will add that he is not girthy, doesn't buck or rear under saddle/on the lunge, and any bolting is minor and spook-related, so not every horse is going to fit every possible symptom.

          *Edited to add: his KS involves 4 vertebrae where the back of the saddle hits. He loves jumping and doing polework and has no problem with either. However, like flexion's horse, he does require a good warm-up and lateral work isn't the easiest.
          Last edited by PiranhaBoy; Sep. 21, 2019, 07:31 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            My 6 year old changed topline and shape as he sprung out in the chest, got fat, and grew out of his saddle. Trying new saddles started making his back sore (only on one side and in one spot) and he started refusing to trot in saddles that were too curvy or porpoising in the canter in saddles that sat on the shoulder.

            A combination of finally finding the right saddle (an opposite fit than the saddle fitters and the textbooks advised), diagnosing the KS via ultrasound (3 vertebrae under the seat, when he went through a skinny period the next year I could actually see the raised area of the spine), and then doing steroid injections, stabilized him - 3 years later we haven't had to inject again.

            Related symptoms:
            - Very sensitive in the chest and girth area, nasty when tightening the girth
            - Bad at bending, doing lateral movements, especially anything that involves moving the haunches separately
            - Walks off when mounting, can't stand the twisting of the saddle
            - Takes forever to warm up at both walk and trot
            - Moves out better with a looser girth, I use grippy girths and saddle pads to accommodate this
            - The typical behavioral stuff: attitude, unwarranted spookiness, refusals, bucking after a jump
            - Difficulty with flying changes
            - It's impossible to comfortably sit his gaits, I always canter up out of the saddle and avoid sitting the trot

            After a lot of trial and error, my horse is a lovely ride in an unusual tack set up and I've just accepted his limitations.

            Comment


            • #7
              My horse was twisting his head around at the canter. Seemed unwilling to go forward, which was uncharacteristic for him. He’s normally very willing and cheerful.

              I thought it was maybe his teeth, but the vet palpated his back and he dropped about a foot. His back was injected and I had to get a new professionally fitted saddle. Also, his routine includes a 5-10 minute lunge of trotting as a warm up.

              No problems since then.
              Last edited by Bristol Bay; Sep. 22, 2019, 09:54 PM. Reason: VET not get
              A helmet saved my life.

              2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!

              Comment


              • #8
                My gelding with KS was always a bit girthy and would often display soreness when his back was palpated. He was VERY hard to put together and would resist contact. My chiropractor was actually the first to mention that he may have kissing spines because he didn't have much mobility in his spine.

                Luckily, his is fairly mild and previcox and robaxin keeps him comfortable, no injections or surgery were necessary. I also use BOT products on him and his warmup begins with cantering rather than trotting first.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I owned my mare for a little less than two years before her kissing spines was diagnosed. She was almost always anxious under saddle and we ran into back soreness issues here and there. I assumed saddle fit was the culprit and we went through numerous saddles and appointments with professional fitters.

                  She also resisted working into contact and grew increasingly angry (ear pinning, tail swishing, occasional kicking out) over time. After a couple of months of the behavior mentioned above, one day she just snapped. As soon as we picked up a trot, she pinned her ears flat back and started kicking out, bucking, and squealing. I initially tried riding it out, but the intensity kept increasing. When it became clear that the ride was turning into a rodeo, I pulled up, dismounted, and hauled her to the vet the next day to have her checked out.

                  Long story short, her back was x-rayed and kissing spines was discovered. Unfortunately, none of the typical treatments helped her and I opted against surgery. She is now retired from riding.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Can’t teally confirm or rule it out without a vet diagnosis based on imaging ( x rays). Had one showing the classic symptoms, did the dx work. Nope. It was something else that vet exam revealed. Sure it’s possible but don’t know if Ponies are afflicted with KS as often as horses.

                    IME, Ponies often don’t get any kind of slow and patient start when they first go under saddle. They get treated differently then horses often by less experienced “trainers” or DIY children, it can set them up for a lifetime of rebellion, they were never taught properly, just punished for not performing like a properly started horse.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ryansgirl View Post

                      I don't agree that horses with KS always fidget even on the ground and are irritable. Not the case with my mare or with a couple others I've known with KS. My mare is about as perfect as you can get for ground manners.

                      My mare started moving more up-down instead of forward. Became inverted. Very tense under saddle if I asked her to shorten at all. She was better if I stayed off her back as I ride very "lightly". And she bucked after a jump one day - a tiny jump and she is a horse who LOVED jumping and doing jumper courses. She never bucked before - she always had a ridiculously good work ethic.

                      I took her in to the equine hospital and had a full lameness workup done on her despite never being lame since day one of owning her. Once we saw xrays of her back it was clear what the problem was. She has three vertebrae that are basically touching and they are right under where the back of the saddle is. This was in 2007 and she's been a pasture pet since then.

                      The workup wasn't cheap but insurance covered most of it back then. Not sure how much you want to invest in a horse that isn't yours.
                      I did say I was generalizing, level of discomfort and attitude to it will always vary depending on how bad the condition is and how stoic the horse is.
                      its unusual that your horse preferred the inverted stance as that pushes the vertebrae closer together, working constantly in an inverted, hollow backed outline contributes to KS
                      surgery is far more successful now than it used to be though I suppose cost is a factor

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bristol Bay View Post
                        My horse was twisting his head around at the canter. Seemed unwilling to go forward, which was uncharacteristic for him. He’s normally very willing and cheerful.

                        I thought it was maybe his teeth, but the get palpated his back and he dropped about a foot. His back was injected and I had to get a new professionally fitted saddle. Also, his routine includes a 5-10 minute lunge of trotting as a warm up.

                        No problems since then.
                        That was how mine was diagnosed then confirmed on xray.

                        "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I would add that back problems can also be compensation for other issues.

                          My A/O horse was tentatively diagnosed with kissing spine by my chiropractor. Super sensitive back and got to the point where he would almost drop a foot if you touched his back. X-rays showed a pair of processes that were close but not touching.

                          I battled his back soreness for a couple years until we finally figured out his front feet were the issue. When his feet bothered him he’d try and hold his weight off his feet, making his back super sore. And explains why I kept chasing the back pain with no long term relief. Put the horse in pads and he’s much, much happier. Now I can maintain his back with stretching exercises and the occasional round of shockwave.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Ignorant question alert:

                            Can a horse with KS be trained for a driving career instead of a riding one (assuming they have the right temperament)? Or does that still aggravate the impingement?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The only symptom mine really had was stopping at jumps when he was ridded in too deep. Anytime he was tight and had to really rock back. This is a horse who LOVES TO JUMP and never says no to anything (jumped a picnic table the long way as a youngster when the rider pointed him at it to try to stop him/back him off). He was 10 years old, had been a reliable 3' hunter for years, and all of a sudden started stopping. In retrospect, he also could be girthy and a little tail swishy-- but nothing outside the range of normal. Brought him in, took x-rays, BAM... there was the answer. He's stoic. He would have jumped in pain forever if I wouldn't have said "this is NOT him."

                              A year later, he's had the ligament snipping surgery and was brought back to work and he's good as new. Better, actually. He MOVES better than he used to. He's not doing 3' anymore but that's more because I don't have any interest in doing that with him. He's jumping small jumps and being ridden 6 days/week and he's never looked back.
                              Last edited by vxf111; Sep. 23, 2019, 02:13 PM.
                              ~Veronica
                              "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"
                              http://photobucket.com/albums/y192/vxf111/

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                KS has so many symptoms, and not all horses with KS exhibit all symptoms... It can run the gamut from as subtle as a toe-drag, to outright "pissy attitude" undersaddle.

                                I have a gelding that exhibits none of the more traditional symptoms of KS; he's very pleasant to tack up, doesn't fuss or fidget, has never been girthy a day in his life, has never bucked with me, and has ZERO attitude under saddle.. but he has KS.

                                His symptoms were more subtle - he had difficulty (moreso than usual for a horse of his schooling) being through and truly on the bit at the canter. He lacked confidence in poor footing. He couldn't work through, but he was trying. He would start to grind his teeth, especially if we were doing lateral work. The last symptom was much like splitrockfarmnc - was an infrequent but inexplicable bolting that was so not like this horse, who would prefer to sit in the middle of the ring and sleep if he had his way. Like vxf111's horse, this was also a horse who would have worked in pain forever, and never gave me attitude or misbehaved. I chalked up the difficulty cantering to a greenness (OTTB) issue, but once he bolted I knew it was time for diagnostics.

                                Through-out my experiences working with horses with KS, my own and client's, here are the symptoms I've observed go away once the back was injected, operated on, or treated in some way:
                                Originally posted by KS Symptoms
                                - bucking
                                - bolting
                                - "checking out"
                                - inexplicable increase of "herd/barn boundness" in a horse with no prior history of it
                                - loss of condition and topline
                                - tail carriage - either out to the side, or held out "flat and up"
                                - tail swishing
                                - on the subject of tails - a horse that travels where the tail-hairs (not the vertebrae) swish "in between the hocks" and are knocked from side-to-side while staying within the hocks - this is a SORE backed horse
                                - kicking out, reluctance to accept leg contact
                                - ulcery behavior (and ulcers!) - including biting during tack-up
                                - stiffening of back when saddle is placed on
                                - increased breathing or heart rate during tack up
                                - tooth grinding undersaddle
                                - toe-drag
                                - diminishing performance
                                - stopping at fences
                                - increased spookiness, particularly in light/dark situations
                                - difficulty going downhill, or reluctance to go through uneven or poor footing
                                - traveling crooked undersaddle
                                - difficulty cantering
                                - difficulty lunging
                                - stiff neck (especially on lunge)
                                - inability to swap leads easily, or difficulty picking the right lead
                                - disunited canter
                                - weak or poor stifles, even needing management/injections
                                - sore suspensories
                                - snappy hocks
                                - tight/bracing in the neck
                                - change in posture, standing slightly under, or standing with hind hooves close together
                                - in severe KS cases, some horses don't want to pick up their hind hooves and stomp at flies on their belly - this I have only seen in two, very severe KS cases*
                                - infrequent rolling, "always clean", or, horses that roll only on one side
                                The above being in no way exhaustive, and I will add more if I think of it. Of course, it doesn't help many of these symptoms can also be symptoms of other issues... like EPSA/DSLD, cervical arthritis, poor shoeing, and ulcers..

                                A lot of the behaviors of a symptomatic KS horse, especially a generous and stoic one, will not be observable under-saddle. It will be observable by the person taking care of the horse, and in most KS cases I find there are just as many (if not more) symptoms in hand or management wise than while ridden.
                                AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by endlessclimb View Post
                                  Ignorant question alert:

                                  Can a horse with KS be trained for a driving career instead of a riding one (assuming they have the right temperament)? Or does that still aggravate the impingement?
                                  This is something I explored in-depth when my mare was diagnosed with KS. I used to drive and I navigate at CDEs a few times a year, so I would've been thrilled if I could've transitioned my mare from a riding horse to a driving horse.

                                  With KS, everything is so individual... there's no black and white answer. If the KS was mild, the horse was only showing moderate discomfort, and the impingement occurred in an area further back from where the harness saddle would rest, I would possibly be inclined to explore driving, but I would be on alert for any signs of discomfort. I would also move from a two-wheeled vehicle to a four-wheeled vehicle as soon as possible.

                                  With my horse, the remodeling in her spine was right behind where the harness saddle would sit, so I believe pressure from the harness saddle while in a two-wheeled cart would've probably caused her some level of discomfort. Her response to back pain was to kick and/or buck, which could of course be disastrous if hitched to a vehicle. With this horse, it didn't make sense to pursue driving, so unfortunately she's fully retired.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Had the Chiro out last week for a clients horse who needed to be adjusted badly .... I've seen a change in his willingness to cart his kid around, as always I call the vet in to make sure my horses are 100% ...chiro suggested an x ray of his back
                                    Took and x ray today and 3 of the vertebras are touching...its s simple x ray ...

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      nothing made me suspect KS.

                                      I have a 14yo WB mare who I've been doing in the 3' divisions on/off for the last several years. I've also shown her dressage (just through USDF first level, schooling 2nd). She's been sound for the 6+ years I've owned her, and is a fun, forgiving mare. The kind that doesn't mind when you miss the distance, and a blast to ride cross country/hunter pace.

                                      Due to a job change, I started riding her a lot less, and she lost fitness. I did notice that collection seemed harder for her, and she occasionally stopped at jumps which was unprecedented for her. It was so sporadic though, I wasn't really concerned. Then riding cross country one day, she hard stopped when I found a deep spot to a coop. I came off, broke my wrist, and started thinking things out. I realized all the stops had been at deeper distances. I figured hocks, maybe stifles, but stopping just was NOT this mare's style.

                                      I took her to an excellent sports medicine vet near us and had them do a full workup. Rads confirmed. She had two places that needed injections, and a few others that were close. The bottom line is that when she was fit, her muscling over her topline supported the spine enough that she had no pain, no problems. But when she lost fitness, it became enough of a problem to bother her in specific situations.

                                      Aside from injections, the prescription was for fitness work with lots of long/low and carefully building back the topline. However job requirements preclude that. So she is currently enjoying temporary retirement and we do the occasional low-key trail ride. She still feels 100% sound and happy, we just don't jump or ask for any real collection.
                                      A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's wine...wine does that...

                                      http://elementfarm.blogspot.com/

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Thank you EVERYBODY! This has been so so helpful.

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