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Horse Care and Comfort

devastated-Kissing Spine!


I have had some devastating news last week and it took me a while to come to terms with it.
My wonderful 5year old has been diagnosed with a Kissing Spine.
I will go back to the beginning...last week Don came in from the field and bunny hopped with forelegs so I thought maybe he’s foot sore but generally seemed fine and went for a light hack. Then Friday morning he came out of the stable and appeared stiff which is very unusual for him. My instructor had a quick look at him said he was fine and tack up. My instructor offered to ride him first to go through key things then for me to get on a repeat which we have done before. When my instructor mounted Don appeared fine, like normal. He took 3 or 4 steps forward and suddenly took flight and began to rear, buck and instructor stayed on for a good minute or 2 but he then continued to behave like this down the yard rearing then butting a large hay bail...he was totally out of control. Luckily no one was severely hurt but Don was very lame once he stopped. Anyway, few hours later once everything had calmed down I took him in the paddock to examine and lunge and he was little stiff but I did find that he was very sore when applied pressure on back, his response was to back up and throw his head in the air.
The vet came the next day and he was lame in walk but not in trot and it wasn’t consistent. Then in a trot to walk transition right rein he was lame also but not on the other. At the time the vet was confused and was convinced it was something to do with the foreleg. So on Friday, he went to the vets practise for the day and had a number of tests including scans & xrays.
The dorsal spine is causing friction in the withers area...the dossals are very close together causing cysts and small legions apparently there are many compared to the equal separation of vertebrates along the spine. Apparently his spinal skeleton hasn’t grown at the same rate as his body and could really do with growing a few more hands. (he is just 5 years old...not likely now at 16.2hh)
The vet didn’t say the words; KISSING SPINE but I believe what he is describing is however I hope to speak to him Friday.
Don was sent home with Beut to give him pain relief and reduce the inflammation in the area of his withers.
Donny is very stiff still even after four days of Beut! But he is walking with front legs better however a trip or uncontrolled movement seems to hurt...Am i doing enough at this point? I don’t want him to be in pain!
Some friends have suggested to have him destroyed but I cant give up on him yet!
The vet said after 3 weeks on beut I need to either get on him and see if he has improved or pay someone to do it-obviously knowing how he may react. If he reacts badly then he will then receive anti flamm injections into spine area under sedation. After few months if this doesn’t work he will go to NewMarket for a special scan to identify the exact hot spots of pain and discomfort...apparently the vet and I will discuss options then...I presume this mean surgery!
I’m hoping one day I can ride my brave gentle giant in dressage and xcrountry comps but it doesn’t look great at the moment.
Ps: My horse has had his back check (professional massage) on 3 separate occasions in the last 12months but only behaviour like described and xrays sounded alarm bells.
Maybe my horse was broken too soon before h is skeleton was developed who knows but I feel for him!
Anyone else got success stories?
Or any advice?
What sort of questions do I need to ask my vet or do I just go with the flow?

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed

I am sad to hear that your horse back is suffering. Having dealt with my own back problems for years I can sympathize with your horse. I am also sorry it took so many incidents for the horse to finally see a vet. This is not a criticism of you but rather trainers that always want to tell their clients that there is nothing wrong with your horse. I respect my trainer very much, but I will always use my own judgement and usually I have been correct. Horses are fairly stoic animals and do not show pain like other animals nor can they tell you if they hurt.

I did some research for you and here is a article that should give you a good idea of what to do and what to expect.

I know this is a long address but copy it and paste it in your browser. Just so you know most vets and doctors for that matter will want to take a very conservative approach to this spinal problem. I suffered for almost 8 months in sever pain and taking enough pain killers everyday to put most people out for weeks. Finally had surgery and woke up and had no back pain, could walk without pain and no more pain killers!

I hope this give you some comfort and direction. Good luck and keep us informed on how your horse is doing.


MaggieF, Melbourne - Australia
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed

Emma - I am so sorry to read your story. It is so very hard on you and Don. Dennis has given you the best advise from first hand experience. So pleased your suffering was fixed by surgery, Dennis and that you are now back riding. That is a huge success story so let's hope Don can have similar success. Thinking of you Emma at this very tough time.

Kicki -- Sweden
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I am really sorry to hear this. I have a young horse who is diagnosed with (possible) Wobbler's syndrome as well as sacrilization in the lumbar vertebrae, so I can guess at how you feel right now.
Dennis gave you an excellent link and I can't offer other advice than that - only hugs for you and and Don.
Please, do not take this upon you. It is most likely a skeletal issue and probably has very little to do with how or when you broke him.
Don't give up on Don just yet - there is help for kissing spines, but it takes lots of time, patience and (sadly!) money.
Do keep us posted!

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed

Hi Emma,
I did some research on Kissing Spine. My heart goes out to you and your horse, Don.
As Kicki said, don't give up.
From what I've read it's similiar to MS in humans.
One good thing I read is anti-inflamatories and surgery can give them relieve and that's good.
One source said not riding them for a while can also help.
There is a lot of good information out there.
My thoughts are with you,

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed

Hi Emma
So sorry to hear about your horse, I really hope he is feeling a little better by now. Just a thought about the bute - when my boy had a very serious injury last year, with lots of pain and massive inflammation, the vet started him on bute but then moved him onto Metacam. That did a better job of helping him on the road to recovery. I know all horses and conditions are different but there might be some mileage in asking about it.
All best wishes,

Emma D

Thank you so much for your responses and Thanks for the link Dennis it was very useful and informative. I’m going to contact my vet tomorrow as he promised to send the xray & scan images and hasn’t yet done so which he has arrowed the hot spots identified so far.
After a week or so on bute he seems a little better and I have moved him to a new yard which has amazing facilities plus safer grazing, a horse walker, indoor/outdoor soft surfaces & my favourite of all A ROUND PEN...! He has settled really well but since he started on the bute I have struggled to get him to eat it in his feed. I have used Golden Syrup (which I am not happy about as it’s not very healthy) but worked for a while and I have tried Molass syrup and isn’t keen! I always add water to his feed and even tried garlic! If I don’t put the bute in he will eat it! But he knows if he waits long enough he’s either going to get grass in the day and hay at night. Usually he always eats his feed right away. Sometime, if I feed him out of my hand he will eat some but he’s hesitating.
Any ideas how to get him to eat this medicine?
I believe he is having spasms as well and he is holding his right leg up the vet said it seem strange but soon as I massage his leg and working up to the withers he’s fine and walks on. It’s just so sad it hurts me to see him in pain and feeling uncomfortable. Don will do absolutely anything for me and I know he doesn’t want to hurt me, himself or anyone else as he has such a kind, chilled out nature.
He is a happy horse and trusts me more than I ever thought...when we moved yards this weekend he was rather confused to see & hear monkeys & parrots (it is an equine/animal care college as well) all I had to do was give him a pat and lower his head follow by a rub on head, 12 months ago he would have properly ran.
I’m prepared to wait and get him right! I want him to reach his full potential whatever that maybe tonight he was excited to see the saddle on his neighbours door and kept nudging me I think he’s beginning to get bored so we are going to have to both be patient.
I'm going to ask my vet about Metacam I believe we can get it in a gel and squirt it into mouth or feed. Thanks Gillian!
Will keep sending updates!
Kindest Regards
Emma & Donny

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed

There seems some really positive news in there Emma, it's great to hear you have such a lovely relationship with Donny.
My horse was the same with the bute - tried adding all sorts and it always took ages for him to finish the feed! With the metacam he ate it with no problem - it has a quite pleasant smell and taste (yes, I did taste a bit to see what it was like!!) My cat has it occasionally as well and the vet stresses it must always be taken with food - can't remember if this is important with horses too.
If the metacam doesn't work out, I believe Danilon (Suxibuzone) acts in a similar way to bute and I found horses will eat it much more readily than bute as it's sweet. So that could be something else to ask about.
I think your horse will know you're doing your best for him and will take comfort from that,
Very best wishes, Gillian

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed

I give my horse bute by crushing it in a pill crusher the I put it in a syringe with water to dissolve the bute. Place the syringe in the corner of his mouth and as far back as you can then squirt the bute in. That way you know he got the full dose

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed

Emma, how much bute was reccomended?
For Star she had to take two small scoups twice a day.
Powder form from your vet in vanila flavor, is easy.
What I did first is get her use to the taste of molasses by putting it on the spoon and letting her lick that.
If your horse does not like molasses try honey, on the spoon first.
Once he takes that and looks forward to it add a bit of the bute, by mixing the two throughly in his feed bucket, no feed, just the bute and sweetener.
Give this to him before you feed him, he'll be more likely to finish it all. Then give him his feed right away, he will link the two together.
As you increase the bute, increase the amount of the sweetener.
Before you know it he will look forward to you putting it in his feed bucket, well mixed.
Star loved it, I put lots of sweetener!!!
Hope the bute works.

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed 400 lessons completed 450 lessons completed 500 lessons completed 550 lessons completed 600 lessons completed 650 lessons completed

I have a horse on Vitex Berries which has a very strong smell I use Grandma's all natural unsulphured Molasses. Mix the powder,molasses and water and let it soak for several hours and then pour over feed and mix completely and give it.Honey would work too.