Kissing spines in horses *H&H Plus*

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    This article has been edited and approved by Karen Coumbe MRCVS, H&H’s veterinary advisor since 1991.
  • Kissing spines can cause severe pain and seriously affect a horse’s performance. Find out what the signs are and how it can be treated...

    It is thought that a horse with kissing spines typically feels consistent, low-grade pain from its back because the spinous processes (the sections of bone that point upward from the main vertebrae that carry the spinal column) press against or rub on each other during movement.

    The bones with the spinous processes run from the first thoracic vertebra (T1) at the horse’s withers to the last lumbar vertebra (L6) at the point of the hip, with the T13 to T18 bones being the most commonly affected. This is the area where the saddle and the rider are located.

    It is important to be aware that although changes on X-rays can be readily identified, they are insufficient to make a diagnosis. Many horses with changes on X-ray do not show any discomfort. This is certainly a challenging condition with more to it that might at first appear.

    Kissing spines in horses [1,365 words]: Typical signs | Diagnosis | Horses at risk | Treatment | Prognosis

    Typical signs of kissing spines

    The signs of kissing spines can be subtle and are non-specific, but may include:

    • The horse showing signs of discomfort (such as shifting weight, pulling faces, biting) when being groomed over the back or when pressure is applied to the back such as when the saddle is put on or girthed up
    • Changes to the horse’s normal temperament and demeanour when working or being prepared to work
    • The horse may become difficult to mount, refusing to stand still, running backwards or forwards when the rider’s weight is added