How Does A Horse Get Kissing Spine?

How Does A Horse Get Kissing Spine?

Do you have a horse with kissing spine? Then you know that this condition can be extremely debilitating, often causing your horse to suffer from severe back pain and an inability to move correctly. But what exactly is kissingspine, how does it happen and most importantly – how do we treat it? In this blog post we’re going to take an in-depth look at the phenomenon known as “kissing spine” and discuss ways on how best to manage its treatment in horses.

So if you’re wondering how your horse could get kissing spine, this article will provide insight into the causes and treatments as well as some tips on preventing its development.

How Does A Horse Get Kissing Spine

What is Kissing Spine in Horses?

Kissing spine is a condition in horses that results from an abnormal contact between the spinous processes of adjacent vertebrae, usually in the lumbar region. This abnormal contact causes pain and lameness due to inflammation of the dorsal ligaments and muscles that span between the affected vertebrae. It can also cause nerve damage and other complications. Treatment for kissing spine typically involves specialized physiotherapy, such as therapeutic exercises and massage therapy, as well as medications to reduce inflammation or correct any underlying metabolic problems. Surgery may be recommended if these treatments are ineffective. With proper management, most horses with kissing spine can return to full function with minimal discomfort.

How Does A Horse Get Kissing Spine?

Kissing spine is typically caused by changes in the horse’s conformation, such as a sway back or roached back. When these conformational changes occur, the spinous processes of adjacent vertebrae come into contact with each other and cause inflammation in the ligaments and muscles that span between them. In some cases, kissing spine can also be caused by an injury to the affected area or even abnormal bone growth. In rare occasions, it may be a result of arthritis or metabolic disorders. Regardless of the cause, if left untreated, kissing spine can lead to further problems like nerve damage and potential permanent lameness.

Typical signs of kissing spine

– Localized pain in the lower back area, usually around the sacroiliac joints where the spine meets the pelvis.

– Pain may increase when leaning forward, swiveling side to side, or bending backwards.

– Pain that radiates down into one or both legs can occur. This is referred to as sciatica and is caused by pressure on nerves leaving the spine.

– Stiffness and decreased range of motion in the lower back are common symptoms.

– Muscle spasms may also be experienced which cause sharp, shooting pains in the lower back region.

If left untreated, kissing spine can lead to more severe problems such as chronic pain, nerve damage, loss of functionality, and further spinal degeneration. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms so that an accurate diagnosis can be made and proper treatment can be provided.

Symptoms of Kissing Spines in Horses

– Pain in the lower back region, usually around the sacroiliac joints.

– Swelling and heat in the affected area.

– Stiffness and decreased range of motion in the lower back.

– Muscle spasms causing sharp, shooting pains.

– Nerve damage resulting in pain radiating down one or both legs (sciatica).

– Difficulty lifting hind limbs when walking or trotting.

– Lameness that is worse on certain surfaces such as hard ground or after strenuous exercise.

– Poor performance due to reduced mobility and discomfort while competing/working.

– Abnormal gait with a shortened stride and an asymmetrical pattern.

If your horse has been exhibiting any of these symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can provide the best chance of reducing pain and returning the animal to full function.

What Causes Kissing Spine in Horses?

Kissing spine is most commonly caused by conformational changes that lead to an abnormal contact between adjacent vertebrae, usually in the lumbar region.

Cause 1: Genetics and Breed

Certain breeds of horses are more prone to developing kissing spine due to their conformation. Commonly affected breeds include Thoroughbreds, Warmbloods, and ponies with a roached back or swayback.

Cause 2: Trauma

Traumatic events such as falls or impacts can cause the spinous processes of adjacent vertebrae to be pushed together leading to inflammation in the ligaments and muscles that span between them.

Cause 3: Unbalanced Conformation and Poor Fitness

An unbalanced conformation that places extra strain on the spine can cause joint surfaces to come into contact leading to kissing spine. Poor fitness, such as lack of exercise or muscle weakness can also contribute by placing increased strain on the spine and hindquarters.

Cause 4: Age Related Changes

In older horses, age-related changes in the spine can lead to kissing spine due to abnormal bone growth or arthritis.

Diagnosing Kissing Spines in Horses

In order to diagnose kissing spine, the veterinarian will take a thorough history and physical examination of your horse. Imaging techniques such as radiographs (x-rays) or ultrasound may be used to get a better look at the horses’s bones and soft tissues.

Treatment for Kissing Spines in Horses

Once a diagnosis is made, the vet will develop an individualized treatment plan tailored to address your horse’s specific needs. Treatment usually involves both medical and management changes that focus on reducing inflammation, pain, stiffness, and lameness while also addressing any conformation faults or fitness deficits that may be contributing factors.

Modifying Activity:

Modifying the horse’s activity level is often recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. This may include restricting strenuous activities such as jumping or running, and instead focusing on more low-impact exercises such as walking and light trotting.


Anti-inflammatory medications may be used to reduce pain and inflammation in the lower back region. Other medications such as muscle relaxants may also be prescribed to help relieve muscle tension and spasms.


In some cases, surgery may be recommended to correct conformation faults or remove any bony growths that are causing rubbing between the vertebrae. Surgery is usually reserved for more severe cases and should only be considered after all other treatment options have been exhausted.

Joint Injections:

Joint injections may be recommended to help reduce inflammation and improve mobility. These may include corticosteroid injections or hyaluronic acid (HA) injections which can help lubricate the joint and reduce friction between the vertebrae.

Shockwave Therapy:

Shockwave therapy can be used to reduce inflammation and stimulate healing in the affected area. This form of treatment uses sound waves to penetrate deep into the tissue and help break down scar tissue or muscle adhesions that may be causing rubbing between the vertebrae.

Laser Treatments:

Laser therapy is often used to reduce inflammation and promote healing in soft tissues such as muscles and ligaments. The laser helps stimulate blood flow to the affected area which can help speed up the healing process.


Some horses may benefit from acupuncture treatments which involve the insertion of sterile needles into specific points on the horse’s body to stimulate energy flow and improve circulation. This can help reduce pain, stiffness, and muscle tension in the lower back region.

Physical Therapy:

Your veterinarian may also recommend physical therapy to help improve your horse’s range of motion, core strength, balance, and coordination. A qualified equine rehabilitation therapist can work with you and your horse on exercises designed to target these areas as well as improve overall fitness.

With proper diagnosis and management, kissing spines in horses can usually be successfully managed with a combination of medical treatments, exercise modification, and physical therapy. With time, most horses can return to their previous levels of activity. It is important to discuss all treatment options with your veterinarian and create a plan that works best for you and your horse.

The Prognosis for Horses with Kissing Spines:

The prognosis for horses with kissing spines is generally positive. With a combination of medical treatments, exercise modification, physical therapy, and careful management, most horses respond well and can return to their previous levels of activity. However, it is important to keep in mind that each horse responds differently to treatment, so it may take some time before you see any improvement. It is also important to regularly monitor your horse’s progress as they may need additional treatments or lifestyle modifications over time. With proper management and care, most horses can live long and healthy lives even with this condition.

Some Tips On Preventing Kissing Spine Development

Carefully evaluate your horse before buying and look for signs of Kissing Spines such as asymmetry, muscle atrophy, or gait abnormalities.

Make sure to provide proper nutrition for your horse by feeding a balanced diet that meets their specific needs.

Maintain regular dental checkups and deworming schedule to prevent malocclusion from developing.

Ensure that your horse receives enough exercise and is not overworked or under exercised.

Have your veterinarian conduct conformation assessments on a regular basis to identify any changes in the structure of the spine or hindquarters region.

Monitor your horse’s weight regularly and adjust their diet and exercise routine as needed to maintain a healthy body condition score.

Have your horse’s back checked regularly by a qualified equine chiropractor or physiotherapist to identify any misalignments, strains, or spasms before they become serious issues.

Take regular breaks during exercise and make sure that your horse is not over-stressed or working above its abilities.

Limit jumping activities and provide adequate warm up and cool down periods for performance horses.

Provide plenty of turnout time in an environment with good footing to reduce the risk of spinal strain from standing in stalls for extended periods of time.

Make sure that saddles fit properly and adjust stirrup length as needed to reduce stress on the horse’s back.

Take steps to reduce the risk of injury from slipping or other accidental falls.

Keep your horse’s coat well groomed and provide massage therapy as needed to help improve circulation and maintain muscle tone in the lower back region.

Invest in a quality mattress for your horse’s stall, making sure it is firm enough to provide adequate cushioning without being too soft which can cause soreness over time.

Use proper handling techniques when lifting and loading horses into trailers or other vehicles to reduce strain on their muscles and spine.

Have your farrier check hoof balance regularly and evaluate your horse’s posture to identify any underlying issues.

Utilize a variety of treatments such as acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care to reduce tension in the spine region.

Make sure to provide plenty of quality hay which is beneficial for digestion and can help promote muscle tone in the back region.

Provide joint support supplements designed specifically for horses with Kissing Spines or other related conditions if needed.

Evaluate your horse on a regular basis for signs of pain or lameness and consult with your veterinarian if any changes are noted that could indicate a need for further treatment or lifestyle modifications.


Is kissing spine a problem in the show ring?

Kissing spine, or scoliosis, is a musculoskeletal deformity that occurs when the vertebrae of a horse’s spine curve forward and to the side. This can cause pain during training and performance, which can make it difficult for horses to compete. Kicking or lunging are particularly dangerous activities for a horse with kissing spine because they put additional pressure on their back. Because of this, many owners opt to remove their horses from competition rather than risk further injury.

However, not all horses with kissing spine experience pain or difficulty performing. Some horses have no problems whatsoever and continue competing as though nothing were wrong. Others will develop problems over time as they age and their bodies begin to deteriorate naturally.

How did the horse get kissing spine in the first place?

Kissing spine is often caused by an injury to one of the vertebrae during normal development of an unborn foal in utero. The resulting misalignment can cause muscles and ligaments to pull on bones improperly until they fuse together into an abnormal shape permanently after birth. It is possible for these misalignments to be caused by other factors such as poor nutrition or lack of exercise during childhood development. Additionally, genetics can play a role in the development of kissing spine. Horses with narrow backs and short necks are more likely to develop this condition due to the increased strain on their spinal muscles. Regardless of the cause, it is important to regularly monitor your horse’s spinal health and take steps to reduce the risks associated with kissing spine.

Is kissing spine common in racing events like steeplechase?

Kissing spines are not only common in steeplechase races but also across all types of horse racing events. Many trainers believe that it is best to avoid training with your horse if he has been diagnosed with kissing spines because doing so may cause further damage to his back muscles and vertebrae.

How do you test whether your horse has kissing spine?

The first step in diagnosing kissing spine is to take a thorough history of your horse’s symptoms, as well as take a thorough physical exam of the animal. You will want to pay special attention to how your horse moves, whether there are any abnormalities in gait or behavior, and any pain or discomfort that he may indicate when you touch him around his neck or back region.

Where is kissing spine normally found on a horse?

Kissing spine can be found anywhere along the spine of the horse. It is usually located in one of three places: between the withers and the back, between the hips and the back, or on either side of the vertebrae in front of the dorsal processes. It is more common for it to be located on either side of the vertebrae in front of dorsal processes than in other areas of the body because this area is not protected by muscle or skin as much as others are.

Is Kissing Spine genetic?

Yes! If you have any concerns about whether your own horse could be predisposed towards developing kissing spine due to his family history (his parents both had it), speak with an equine veterinarian before breeding him so that they can advise you on the best course of action. Additionally, it is important to be aware that if your horse does have kissing spine, it can be passed down to his offspring if he is bred. Therefore, it is essential that all horses with kissing spine are monitored closely and treated appropriately in order to reduce the chances of them passing the condition on to their offspring.

Coclusion On How Does A Horse Get Kissing Spine

In conclusion, kissing spine is a painful and serious condition that can impact a horse’s quality of life. The exact cause of kissing spine is still unknown, however it is commonly believed to be caused by incorrect conformation or trauma to the back. A horse’s diet, management and environment must also be considered when assessing the risk factors for this condition. If you believe your horse may have kissing spine, it is important to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. With the right diagnosis and treatment plan, some horses with kissing spine can continue to lead happy and productive lives. To ensure your horse remains healthy, regular check-ups with your vet are essential so any issues can be identified early on before they become irreversible.

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