My Horse Has Kissing Spine! What Do I Do?

by | May 30, 2024

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Wonder if your horse may have kissing spine? Or have you just received a “kissing spine” diagnosis from your vet? 

Don’t give up hope! Learn to improve this issue yourself while saving thousands of dollars on additional veterinary treatment options and medications. Let’s explore what causes kissing spine, its symptoms, how it’s diagnosed, and the holistic and traditional treatment options available.

What is Kissing Spine in Horses?

Kissing spine, or dorsal spinous process impingement is a common yet challenging condition affecting horses. Characterized by the abnormal proximity or contact between the bony projections (dorsal spinous processes) of the vertebrae, it can lead to significant pain and reduced performance.

Symptoms of Kissing Spine

The symptoms of kissing spine can vary but commonly include:

  • Back Pain
  • Behavioral Changes
  • Reduced Performance
  • Postural Change

An official diagnosis can only be made by a veterinarian, but you may notice these indicators of kissing spine in your horse. Diagnosing kissing spine typically involves a combination of clinical examination and imaging techniques such as physical examination, x-rays, ultrasound, or nerve blocks.

At Holistic Horseworks, we would agree that certain symptoms can often be seen in horses with kissing spine such as sore back, unwilling attitude issues, reduced performance, posture imbalances, or even bucking. 

What Causes Kissing Spine?

Several factors can contribute to this condition:

  • Conformation and Genetics: Certain horses may be predisposed to kissing spine due to their physical build and genetic makeup.

  • Poor Posture and Muscle Development: Inadequate muscle development and poor posture can contribute to the misalignment of the vertebrae.

  • Training and Workload: Intensive training, especially in disciplines that require frequent collection or high levels of athletic performance, can exacerbate the condition.

  • Injury: Trauma or injury to the back can lead to the development of kissing spine over time.

When the bony parts of the spine called the “spinous process” of the vertebrae—typically in the lower back, withers and rib cage regions— are too close together, they rub against each other, causing friction and heat. The body sends calcium to the area in response to this heat, leading to mild to severe calcification that happens between these vertebrae. 

Over time, this calcification can cause the vertebrae to become almost fused in certain areas. This can cause your horse pain, leading to a poor attitude towards work, inability to engage their hindquarters, being heavy on the forehand, reluctance to be saddled or move forward, decreased ability to collect from back to front, sore feet, bunny hopping at the canter, tail swishing, or bucking.

So, why are these vertebrae rubbing against each other instead of moving correctly? 

To understand this, we need to look at the root causes, not just the symptoms in the dysfunctional area. Often, when a horse cannot move freely with its front legs and shoulders, it’s due to the misalignment of one or both of the first ribs. Over time, the horse compensates for this lack of freedom in the front end by improperly using their lower back, pelvis, and hind limbs. This compensation leads to a very tight psoas muscle in constant contraction, shortening the area around the lumbar spine and causing the vertebrae to rub together, generating heat and calcification between the spinous processes.

As the condition progresses, the pelvis becomes unbalanced, and the sacrum’s movement is restricted. When the pelvis is unbalanced you may see your horse nipping at its hind end or rubbing its hind end repeatedly. The body tries to compensate for this by creating overly tight hind-end muscles, resulting in high levels of tension in the stifles, hocks, and lower leg tendons. This cascade of compensations can ultimately lead to other problems such as hock and stifle stiffness, lower leg tendon issues, roach back, restricted breathing, fetlock, and hoof soreness.

Managing Kissing Spine

Traditional methods and treatment for kissing spine can range from conservative management to surgical intervention, depending on the severity of the condition: rest and rehabilitation, medications, acupuncture or chiropractic, injections, or in severe cases surgery.

At Holistic Horseworks, our holistic whole-body approach to horse care teaches you skills to prevent or help horses revcover from this condition. By addressing the entire horse, rather than focusing solely on the affected area, and using our hands-on bodywork techniques, we’ve seen many horses with kissing spine show dramatic improvements!

As part of a successful rehabilitation program for a horse affected by kissing spine, the techniques and skills you learn in our hands-on horse therapy programs may help significantly improve this condition through:

Learn all of these skills and more by attending a hands-on horse bodywork clinic or online home study course! You will discover how to alleviate all areas of restriction and pain from head to tail that contribute to kissing spine and a wide variety of other horse health issues. Using our soft, gentle, and easy-to-learn methods, you can help your horse regain vitality, suppleness, and dynamic performance abilities, transforming them into a happy and contented partner once again.

Remember, the best thing you can do is to try. The worst thing you can do is nothing!

Hands-On Horse Bodywork Clinics (In-Person)

The reason why your horse is having these seemingly unsolvable issues is that most people you go to for advice— including vets, trainers, and many equine professionals— are only treating the symptoms, NOT the root of the issues. Learn how you can look at your horse from a better perspective, HOLISTICALLY! As well as what you can do to help your horse yourself right in your own barn that will turn them into the willing and agile equine partner of your dreams.

Level 1: Equine Musculoskeletal Unwinding Home Study (Online)

Learn how to keep your horse happy, healthy, and rideable through their 30’s while saving thousands on vet bills! The reason why your horse is having so many problems is that most people you go to for advice— including vets, trainers, and many equine professionals— are only treating the symptoms, NOT the root of the issues. And that’s the way it’s been for years and years. But if “the good ole’ ways” just aren’t working anymore, now is the time to start looking at things in a whole new way.

About the Author

April Love
Founder of Holistic Horseworks & Horse Healers Academy

Owner of Holistic Horseworks LLC, April Love empowers horse lovers to take healing into their own hands in order to keep their horses healthy, happy, and rideable through their 30’s while saving thousands of dollars on vet care. She has created a unique IICT (International Institute for Complementary Therapists) approved methodology that she teaches through in-person, hands-on clinics as well as virtual home study courses. April has also trained and vetted many instructors who share this practice worldwide.

As a gift to you, please enjoy a FREE copy of “Horse 101: Everything You Wish You Knew Before You Bought Your First Horse” 

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