Over recent years ‘Kissing Spine’ seems to have become a more widespread and commonly diagnosed condition.
The good news is that with the correct treatment and/or surgery many horses are making near to full recoveries and it doesn’t necessarily mean an end to their ridden career whether this is as a happy hacker or a competition horse. Many alternative therapies are also being highlighted as key to supporting the horse’s recovery of this debilitating condition.
What is Kissing Spine?
Kissing spine is a disease of the spine whereby the spaces between the upper dorsal processes of the vertebrate become reduced and the vertebrate actually touch, or ‘kiss’, causing bone to bone contact and in some cases damage to the ligaments within the spine which causes the horse great discomfort.
What are the Symptoms of Kissing Spine?
Signs indicating kissing spine may include poor performance or a sudden change in behaviour both on the ground and when ridden such as bucking, bolting, rearing, struggling to maintain a particular canter lead, stiffness through the back and hind quarters, reluctance to have the back area touched, groomed or a saddle placed on it.
How is Kissing Spine Diagnosed?
When the symptoms are realised a veterinarian should be consulted. He will assess the horse by seeing it trot up and/or schooled and then refer for appropriate treatment which could be x-rays, nerve blocks in the area, ultrasounds or scintigraphy (bone scans).
How are Horses treated for Kissing Spines?
Kissing Spine can be treated a number of ways such as corticosteroid injections, surgery or in some cases it can be managed or pain alleviated by more holistic approaches such as the use of acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, laser therapy or magnetic therapy. These methods may be fundamental to the horse’s recovery post treatment.
Surgery is commonplace with many new methods being introduced with the advancements of technology, for example key hole surgery or Svend Kold’s method which has been proven successful.
Where can I find information from owners whose horses have as kissing spines?
A number of websites and social media pages are available for horse owners with kissing spine horses to share their experiences – how they cope from when they first receive a diagnosis, through the treatment process to how they can assist the recovery of their beloved horse.
These websites may not include information from qualified practitioners such as veterinarians or physiotherapists so your own vet/physio should be consulted prior to trying anything new with your horse.
Two sites which may help support existing owners include a blog by Ruth Bishop, a 24 year old Riding Instructor from Cornwall whose Thoroughbred X, Adam, was diagnosed with kissing spines in January 2013 and a Facebook group called ‘Horses with Kissing Spines’ – Ruth’s Blog Horses With Kissing Spines – These sites provide horse owners a place to communicate with other owners whose horse has had kissing spines and see what recovery programme has worked best and what additional products they can buy to help make this time easier and keep their horses as comfortable as possible.
The Equilibrium Therapy Range has been mentioned across the internet with regards to how it can help with the aftercare of kissing spine patients, both the Massage Pad and the Magnetic Back Pad have been said to have assisted owner’s horses’ recovery. Massage therapy helps promote relaxation, improve back flexibility and can help to increase stride length and Magnetic therapy has been proven to have both positive effects in humans and animals in treating scar tissue, inflammation, reducing swelling, stiffness, muscle cramps and arthritis.
An owner, Charlotte Macey-Norris, whose mare was recovering from kissing spines said of the Equilibrium Massage Pad:
“Absolutely brilliant. My horse can’t live without it now! Would recommend to anyone, especially owners that have horses with kissing spine/cold backed/arthritic etc as this pad has helped greatly. I use it every day, and I switch between the high setting and the medium depending on her level of work for that day. Where she had the kissing spine operation she had a very unlevel back where she had 3 processes removed, I have found that the back pad has actually helped level her back out and you really wouldn’t notice she had the op now! Previous to this i had lunged for 17 weeks, worked on exercises to level the back area and nothing seemed to work other then the pad. The pad has also helped relax her muscles. She was very tender for a while on one side of her back just behind the saddle area. I had a chiropractor visit her for a massage, it went away for a while but then the tension came back. Using the pad daily has completely sorted this problem. I also find there is a massive difference in her movement when i use the pad. She is more loose and flexible. If i havent used it, it takes about twenty minutes of working her to get the same results of just putting the pad on before working her. The battery life is amazing. I have only charged it twice since i purchased it! Really nice fit. Sits nicely on her back.”
Ruth Bishop reviews the Magnetic Pad and Massage Pad in full on her blog and she says of The Magnetic Pad:
“The Magnetic Pad is also a fab product. He has it on overnight whilst he is stabled – then has a break from it whilst he is out. I have the magnets placed down the front and back of the pad as that’s usually where he gets a little sore. I’m very careful not to over rug him as the back pad seems to keep him really warm. The fit is perfect for him, really easy to adjust the straps and it doesn’t allow you to tighten the breast strap too tight (could become tricky for him to eat off the floor with it too tight!)”
Many owners of kissing spine patients on their forums list the Equilibrium Massage Pad as part of their recovery program such as using before and after exercise and the Magnetic Back Pad overnight to help heal the effects left after surgery to the back.