For those deeply involved in the equestrian world, ensuring the health and well-being of our horses is paramount. One condition that requires our attention is known as "kissing spine". In this guide, we will delve deep into understanding this ailment, from its symptoms to its treatment.

What is Kissing Spine?

Kissing spine, medically termed as "over-riding dorsal spinous processes", is a condition seen in the equine world. It is characterized by the dorsal spinous processes (the bony protrusions rising from the vertebrae) coming into close contact or rubbing against each other. This situation can lead to significant discomfort and pain for the horse, impacting its performance and overall quality of life.

Interestingly, the exact cause of this condition varies, with factors ranging from genetics to external injuries playing a role. What's more, the condition can manifest differently in different horses, making it essential for riders and owners to be aware of the nuances associated with kissing spine.

Symptoms of Kissing Spine

Recognizing the signs early can be instrumental in ensuring timely intervention. While the symptoms can vary depending on the severity, here are some common indicators to watch out for:

  • Back pain: Often, this is one of the first signs. The horse may express discomfort when the back is touched or when saddling.
  • Stiffness: The horse may exhibit reduced flexibility, especially when asked to bend laterally.
  • Reluctance to perform: Horses may become hesitant to jump, run, or even move forward, especially if doing so exacerbates the pain.
  • Behavioral changes: Often dismissed as mere mood swings, sudden bouts of rearing, bucking, or even unexplained aggression can be indicative of the underlying pain associated with kissing spine. Recent studies have shown a direct correlation between the condition and behavioral shifts.

It's essential to remember that these symptoms can also be indicative of other conditions. Therefore, a thorough veterinary check-up is necessary to rule out other potential ailments.

For those looking for solutions to manage equine back pain, our range of equestrian supplements can be a beneficial addition to the horse's regimen, complementing the treatment plan prescribed by the veterinarian.

Causes of Kissing Spine

Understanding the root causes of kissing spine can help in devising better preventive measures. While the exact etiology can be multifactorial, some common causes include:

  • Poor saddle fit: An improperly fitting saddle can exert undue pressure on the horse's back, potentially causing or exacerbating the condition. Research suggests that routine saddle fitting checks can help prevent such issues.
  • Trauma or injury: Falls, accidents, or even abrupt movements can sometimes lead to injuries that may result in kissing spine.
  • Poor conformation: Structural issues or inherent physical characteristics can predispose certain horses to this condition.
  • Overuse or overexertion: Just like humans, pushing horses beyond their limits can lead to musculoskeletal problems, including kissing spine.
  • Genetics: While still under research, some breeds or familial lines might be more prone to develop this condition.

Diagnosis of Kissing Spine

Once the symptoms are recognized, obtaining a definitive diagnosis is crucial. This typically involves:

  • Physical Examination: The veterinarian will manually assess the horse's back for signs of pain, swelling, or other abnormalities.
  • Radiographs (X-rays): These provide a clear picture of the spine, allowing for the identification of overlapping or touching spinous processes. X-rays are considered the gold standard in diagnosing kissing spine.
  • Ultrasound: This can be used to visualize the soft tissues surrounding the spine and determine the extent of inflammation or injury.

Treatment Options for Kissing Spine

Treating kissing spine requires a multifaceted approach, tailored to the horse's specific needs. Some common treatment modalities include:

  • Rest and Rehabilitation: Ceasing strenuous activities and allowing the horse ample time to recover is often the first step.
  • Medication: Anti-inflammatory drugs can help in reducing pain and inflammation. Always consult with a vet for the appropriate medications.
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises and stretches, under professional guidance, can aid in recovery and prevent recurrence. Products like supportive equestrian apparel can also be beneficial during this phase.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, where conservative treatments don't provide relief, surgical intervention might be recommended to remove or reshape the affected dorsal spinous processes.

Whichever treatment route is chosen, consistent monitoring and regular follow-ups are crucial for the horse's recovery and to prevent potential relapses.

Preventive Measures for Kissing Spine

Prevention is always better than cure, especially when it comes to equine health. Implementing certain practices can mitigate the risk of your horse developing kissing spine:

  • Regular Check-ups: Periodic veterinary examinations can help detect early signs or predispositions to the condition.
  • Saddle Fittings: Ensuring that the saddle fits perfectly and doesn't cause undue stress on the horse's back is essential. Consider investing in high-quality riding equipment that aligns with the horse's anatomy.
  • Balanced Exercise: While training is essential, it's crucial to strike a balance. Overtraining can lead to multiple musculoskeletal issues, including kissing spine.
  • Diet and Supplements: A balanced diet, supplemented with equestrian supplements, can boost the overall health and resilience of the horse, indirectly reducing the risk of various conditions.

The Importance of Awareness

Given the potential impact of kissing spine on a horse's quality of life, awareness among riders, trainers, and owners is paramount. Recognizing the signs, ensuring early intervention, and implementing preventive measures can make a world of difference. Resources like Just Horse Riders provide invaluable information and products to assist in this journey.


Kissing spine, though challenging, is a condition that can be managed with the right knowledge and resources. By understanding its intricacies, from symptoms to treatments, and by ensuring our horses receive the best care possible, we can pave the way for happier, healthier equestrian experiences. Always remember: the well-being of our horses is a shared responsibility. With dedication, love, and the right tools at our disposal, we can ensure they lead comfortable, fulfilling lives.

For more insights, products, and solutions related to horse care and equestrian needs, visit Just Horse Riders.

Asked by You: Common Questions on Kissing Spine in Horses

What are the signs of kissing spine in horses?

The signs of kissing spine can be subtle or quite evident, depending on the severity of the condition. Common indications include back pain, stiffness, difficulty in bending or flexing, reluctance to jump, reduced performance, and behavioral changes such as bucking or rearing. Regular checks and being attuned to your horse's behavior can help in early detection.

What can be done for kissing spine in horses?

Treatment for kissing spine varies based on its severity. For mild cases, rest and anti-inflammatory medications might suffice. Physical therapy, including specific exercises and stretches, can also be beneficial. In situations where conservative treatments don't yield results, surgical intervention might be considered. This may involve removing or reshaping the affected dorsal spinous processes. Always consult a veterinarian to determine the best course of action.

Can you prevent kissing spine in horses?

While not all cases of kissing spine can be prevented, certain measures can reduce the risk. Ensuring a well-fitted saddle, regular veterinary check-ups, balanced exercise routines, and a nutritious diet supplemented with equestrian supplements can boost overall health and resilience. Being proactive in horse care can make a significant difference.

Is kissing spine degenerative in horses?

Kissing spine itself is not inherently degenerative. However, if left untreated, the condition can worsen over time, causing increased pain and potentially leading to other secondary issues. Early detection and intervention are essential to prevent the condition from progressing and ensuring the horse's well-being.

Do you have more questions about kissing spine or horse care in general? Visit Just Horse Riders for a wealth of information and resources.