Long term management of 'kissing spine' in horses

kissing spine Aug 14, 2023

Owning a horse that has been through kissing spine treatment/rehab is a really unique and unfortunately difficult part of horse ownership. 

Having been through it myself as a horse owner (in addition to working with many clients horses), and through a lengthy rehab process with my horse, I am fully aware of all of the ups and downs of the process, the changes that need to be made, and the emotional toll it can take on the owner. 

The reality with owning a horse that has had kissing spine, is that it’s going to be a lifelong commitment to maintaining your horse and ensuring they are exercised correctly, they are strong enough to do the work asked, and that they are pain free. 

The ‘end’ of your initial 12 week plan (or similar) isn’t the end of the situation. 

But by opening our minds to this fact can help us with building a plan for our horse that works for the long term, rather than struggling further down the road, so to speak. 

One of the phrases that I use regularly in my kissing spine work with clients and my groups, is that you will need to maintain a ‘rehab state of mind’ forever with your horse. And this does help! 

What I mean by this is many things! From working out how this might have occurred for your horse in the first place, to trying out new ways of exercising your horse, to learning new skills, to working out a long term exercise plan for your horse that’s going to work for you both, and potentially building a new team of professionals around you and your horse if specifically needed…there’s a lot to consider and look at, if you want to keep your horse pain free and able to remain in exercise long term. 

Not to scare you off of course with the above!  

But some of it is a mindset shift…recognising that things will need to be different, but that when you get the pieces in place that your horse needs, kissing spine doesn’t have to be a retirement situation - in fact your horse can be better than ever after rehab if you really dig down to the foundations of the issues in your horses body...and this bit does take time and effort. 

The most important piece of all of this that you can keep focussed on, is your long term commitment to your horses core strength. As in, core strengthening exercises in the stable 5 days per week forever type commitment. 

Keeping your horses core muscles strong will keep his/her back strong, will maintain space in between the DSP’s (dorsal spinous processes), and will increase the size of the multifidus muscles (the small postural muscles that sit alongside the DSP’s). And all of this, once your horse is correctly strengthened, can be easily maintained! 

Each horse is individual, and of course, your vet, physio, and farrier/trimmer are your first port of call for your horse. But some exercise based considerations are as follows…: 

  • Maintain core strength: weave core exercises into everything that you do with your horse! 
  • Develop correct posture and horse working over the back 
  • Develop good topline muscle 
  • Some non ridden exercise days per week 

In addition to the exercise part of the long term 'kissing spine' plan for a horse, there is plenty that we can do/alter within the care and management side of our horses life, to improve the situation too. Increased movement, weight management, keeping their back warm, increasing warm up time prior to ridden work, exploring diet/nutrition, are all ways that you can go even further towards helping your horse in the long term. 

There are many parts to managing a horse long term that has been through 'kissing spine' and they can become a moving target, as in the horse improves in one area and then something else needs attention, it's life with horses to a degree, but certainly after something as significant as a spinal condition, there is quite an amount of time for the horse to adjust, and potentially quite a lot of change that needs to happen. 

But one thing is for sure, your horse didn't do any of this on purpose and it's down to us as owners to take responsibility, make their life as comfortable as possible, so going the extra mile to learn more about what you're dealing with, and treating / managing your horse as a 'kissing spine' horse for the long term will keep your awareness on maintaining your horse as best you can. As well as managing your own anxieties etc around it...we can take responsibility for ourselves in this too by reaching out for help, and I wholeheartedly recommend this if you're struggling...don't be stuck or alone in it. (Please ask me about my groups if you would like this sort of support). 

***If you would like all of my specific recommendations from both an exercise planning and management perspective AND my core exercises routine, check out my new Ebook Bundle here (it's at the top of the Ebooks page): Ebooks

And if you need further help with your horse, do get in touch, you can book a zoom with me to discuss it all, or join my online training group where many of the members are progressing through varying stages of the 'kissing spine' journey successfully by following my sympathetic, effective core strengthening programme. Get in touch through the Contact page here on the site if you need help. 

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