Kissing spines or spinous process impingement is where the large spines which stick upwards from the vertebrae in the horse's back rub together and cause low grade inflammatory changes in the edges of the bone where they meet.
Affected horses show signs of poor performance, reluctance to jump, unpredictable behaviour when being ridden and sometimes extreme stiffness.
Other symptoms or signs of equine kissing spines are irritability when the girth is tightened or when the horse's back is brushed during grooming, rearing, bucking or bolting.
X-rays of this part of the back are fairly easy to obtain as the bony processes involved are near to the surface of the horse's back.
The interpretation of the X-rays must be cautious since many normal horses and ponies have some signs of bones changes in between the spines of the vertebrae.
Kissing spine is most often seen in the rear vertebrae of the horse or pony's thorax.
The confirmation of the diagnosis of kissing spine, which show that it is the contact of the spines of the back causing the pain, can be proven by the injection of a local anaesthetic into the space between the bones. This acts as a nerve block
If the horse or pony is then observed under saddle there should be a dramatic improvement following the injection of anaesthetic if the horse's problems are being caused by kissing spines.
The treatment for Kissing Spines is either prolonged rest, or surgery. Some vets recommend cortisone injections.
A long rest can sometimes be the best way to cure or treat a horse with kissing spines.
Surgery involves surgical reshaping of the spines of the vertebrae so that they no longer rub together as the horse flexes his back.
The overall success of this surgical operation also depends on the follow-up rehabilitation program.
An alternative treatment is to try physiotherapy. This can involve ultra sound, acupressure and the use of a tens machine.
Kissing spines often affect top performance horses. These horses can often be wonderful rides for owners who are less competitive and won't demand so much physically from them.