Kissing Spine seems to be all too common today with so many horses diagnosed. We caught up with Clara Kavanagh about her horse Chili, who is currently in rehabilitation following ‘the ligament snip’, as she explains his symptoms & diagnosis, her decision and the recovery! 

The Early Days

“I started looking for my ‘dream horse’ last summer, this was a very exciting time for me as I had only ever been able to beg, borrow and lease ponies/horses in my childhood up until I finished my degree in Equine Management.

I purchased Chili in August 2018, he is a 6 year old Thoroughbred. I always thought about buying a racehorse and retraining them for a new career. Chili was last raced in June 2018 under the name Farrier Fury. I knew Chili was the right horse for me as he had  such a great temperament and once I got him home he was brought on very slowly and took to his new career like a duck to water. He has always acted like an absolute gentleman wherever I brought him! The plan was to gently start him over the winter with a goal to compete in our Riding Club Dressage Spring league and do some Retraining Racehorse to Riding horse classes in the summer of 2019.”

The Start of Our Setbacks

“Chili unfortunately got a stone bruise in February which I thought would be our only hiccup. However this was only the beginning of our setbacks. One day I went to tack him up for a short hack and noticed he was unusually girthy, and he was very grumpy, which isn’t like him at all. I called the physio to come take a look at him. The physio was concerned that he was showing a lot of stiffness over his back and sacroiliac region, the first thing that came to mind for me was Kissing Spine.  His whole temperament had changed, it was hard for me as it was like I was losing my best friend.

I was worried about Chili, so I rang our local vet. I had the vet out to give Chili a once over, the vet gave us advice to continue light work. I had people telling me that I must be imagining something was wrong or that I was silly spending money for the physio and vet to come out just because I had a gut feeling. I was starting to think, they might be right or I might be a hypochondriac the way I was worrying because even though the vet gave him a once over I knew something wasn’t right with him. I wanted to get a second opinion, so I rang Troytown Greyabbey Equine Hospital and spoke to their lameness/orthopaedic specialist and explained my concerns.  So I booked him in for an appointment the following week.


Chili spent about two hours having a full lameness diagnostic done which consisted of a trot up, lunging, flexion tests and x-rays. On seeing the X-rays it confirmed my fears, it was Kissing Spine, he had four processes touching. The vet confirmed that the kissing spine had most likely resulted from his racing career and his back conformation. Our choice was to have surgery (Interspinous Ligament Desmotomy, aka ‘The ligament Snip’) or to medicate via corticosteroid injections. Chili also turned out to have a bone chip on his near hind fetlock however it causes him no issues! I brought him back to the hospital for bone scintigraphy scans, this helped me decide that the surgical route would be in Chili’s best interest as he was still a young horse and he would benefit the most from the ligament snip. The specialist vet was optimistic that if the surgery and rehab was successful Chili would be more than capable of returning to a competitive career with a rehab time of 6-8 weeks.

This meant there was a small glimmer of hope for us, so I booked Chili in for surgery.

Chili spent 4 days at the Equine Hospital, the surgery went very well, and Chili began intensive hand walking by the nurses the day after surgery. I brought Chili home on 26th of April and have been continuing to hand walk him for 30 minutes twice daily. Chili has since had a check up at Troytown Greyabbey to remove the stitches and the vet could not be happier with his progress.  He has been an absolute pleasure to rehab so far, he really is my dream horse!

My advice to any horse owners that may be going through the same challenges as Chili and I faced would be to always trust your gut, you alone know you’re horse well enough to make the right choice regarding what is best for them.

If in doubt don’t be afraid to ask for help or a second opinion. I dread to think how long Chili might have continued to soldier on in pain had I not trusted my gut. I would highly recommend the Equilibrium Massage Pad to any horse owner. It is very easy to incorporate into your everyday routine warm-up/warm down and it has made a big difference to Chili! It was comforting to know that the massage pad kept him relaxed!

Chili is now starting week 4, he has started long reining in walk this week and will incorporate work in a Pessoa once the incision points on his back have had more time to heal. Our Physio has also been out this week to release any tension and do some laser therapy. I have been using Massage Pad daily after each session since the operation and it is honestly like having my best friend back! He is much more relaxed in himself and I have Troytown Greyabbey and Equilibrium Products to thank for that! Chili has another 4 weeks at least until he can begin work back under saddle but its a big step in the right direction!”

Keep checking back to follow Clara and Chili’s progress – we can’t wait to see them back in action! You can find Clara on Instagram here too (or search chili_clara_eq).

Do you have a real story you’d like to share? We love to hear how our products have made a difference to your horses lives.

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