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Kissing Spine In Horses: Therapeutic Saddle Pads Can Head Off Vet Bills


Often overlooked, under-treated and misunderstood.

Kissing Spine in horses is frequently associated with bad behavior.

Here at ThinLine, we are committed to making life better and happier for horses. After several years of working with veterinarians, trainers, and owners we have consolidated information on Kissing Spine in horses and put together a plan of action to help combat this disease.

Therapeutic Saddle Pads can head off vet bills. Sometimes just a tack change can successfully alter the course of KSD.

Great information on KSD in horses.

My horse is behaving badly and I cannot figure out why.  I am afraid the veterinarian will say it is kissing spine disease, and I do not want to think about surgery. What can I do?

If you are beginning to suspect your horses’ unhappiness may be associated with pain, and generally speaking, it is.  We have set forth the easiest methods for you to check off your list before entertaining more aggressive treatments.

Alternative modalities such as acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, mesotherapy and/or massage can have a role here. Use them as a first-line treatment as well as in a more supportive role. “In my opinion, if we have a case of significant bone reaction along with kissing spines then the benefits of chiropractic may be minimal and possibly counterproductive; however, acupuncture or mesotherapy can reduce the pain and dysfunction. There are a number of individuals in our area that practice equine massage and are frequently recommended”. (Frank Frantz, Burlington Equine).

Training and Physical Therapy:

Again physical therapy should be considered the essential component for the management of this condition. Using exercises that help to build core strength and ones that allow the back to lift are the main concepts. Lunge work often with side reins, using a Pessoa system, belly lifts are all designed to help strengthen the back and pelvic muscles.

When we refer to building core strength it’s not the back muscles that are over the spine but rather the ones adjacent to the spine (multifidus muscles), the ones that go from under the spine to the hips (psoas muscles) and the ones that run along the abdominal wall (abdominal oblique muscles) that we try to strengthen. These are the muscles that work to lift or flex the back versus the ones on top that extend the back.

Of course, the physical therapy piece of the puzzle is easier than it sounds and may take months to fully appreciate the benefits. “I find that combining it along with some type of therapy that makes the horse more comfortable is the best way to go.” (Frank Frantz, Burlington Equine).

Saddle Fit:

Calling a certified Saddle fitter in your area should be one of the first things you do with any horse who is showing discomfort with tack.  Always check your horse after a good ride and make sure they are not exhibiting pain.  Gently press fingers on either side of the spine from wither to croup. Your horse should not react by lowering his back. Some horses are ticklish, so do try a baseline with this after a few days off.  Simply google the saddle fitter nearest you. Saddle fitters are money well spent with all horses.

Whether the culprit is saddle fit, less than perfect training, or the onset of a spinal issue we know for certain the comfort of the horses back needs to be addressed as quickly and as simply as possible. Both pre and post-surgical horses find relief in ThinLine’s therapeutic saddle pads and saddle fitting shims.

Veterinarians recommend ThinLine. 

Any ThinLine pad will help with equine sore backs. Choose the one that fits your riding style.  Take comfort in our years of research with Vets and Kissing Spine horses. 



Kissing Spine Equine Rehabilitation and Schooling:

From Horse and Hound UK:

Equine surgeon Bruce Bladon points out that a colleague in Sweden who has operated on a lot of kissing spines in horses cases has more recently had excellent results — without surgery — with horses sent to a rider experienced in equine rehabilitation and re-schooling.

“This makes sense,” says Bruce. “We’re talking about the normal flexibility of the spine, occasionally resulting in the edges of the bones ‘kissing’. It’s easy to imagine how a different rider or saddle, or increased muscle tone as a result of physiotherapy and a change in work, might prevent this.

 “It’s also easy to see how the results of schooling a horse could be so different, depending on the psychology of the rider,” adds Bruce, who believes that kissing spines surgery can, in some cases, have the effect of a placebo.

“The difference in attitude between a rider concerned that their horse is behaving like it is because it has an underlying disease, and a rider who knows that their horse has had surgery for this disease and is now ‘cured’, will be considerable — and quite rightly so.

“But it is major surgery and this has kept a ‘lid’ on the use of the procedure — no-one wants to do it unless they really think it will be beneficial.”

More information about Kissing Spine Disease from a top Veterinarian:

By Randy Frantz of Burlington Equine Veterinary Services, LLC, Vermont

Dorsal Spinous Process (DSP) impingement or “Kissing Spines” is a condition recognized as a significant issue for horses. What constitutes the problem is debatable and how to make a conclusive diagnosis can be an elusive process. The following article will discuss the anatomic findings, diagnostic process, therapeutic options, and prognosis.

The Vertebrae:

In order to understand the issues behind DSP impingement, you have to understand a few anatomical factors. Generally, the problem is located in the thoracic section of the vertebral column – the area where the rider sits. Less commonly, the involvement of the lumbar vertebrae behind the saddle area can be the source of the problem.

As you can see the attached picture to the left, the thoracic vertebrae begin with the withers and go through the saddle area.

Diagram of 2 Thoracic Vertebrae with attached rib. The DSP’s are in a normal position, parallel to one another

The part of the vertebrae that we are interested in is the vertical part that projects up and should be evenly spaced from the adjacent process. In the following picture, two dorsal spinous processes are seen with the correct relationship.