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Managing horses with Kissing Spine in the winter

Winter (in the UK anyway) is a difficult time with horses, but especially horses that have been diagnosed/treated for ‘Kissing Spine’. It’s crucial to continue your rehabilitation / strengthening work, but there are lots of factors in the way.

Tip 1: Work routine

One of the most crucial pieces of the jigsaw for a horse with ‘Kissing Spine’ is for them to be kept in regular exercise. And in particular during your initial rehabilitation.

You will undoubtedly have to change your exercise routine over the winter due to the weather and short daylight hours.

So a useful exercise is to have a brain storm about all the different types of exercise that you could do with your horse on your yard, when the weather/daylight starts to get in the way.

Here are a few ideas that you could use to keep the continuity over the winter:

  • Long reining
  • Lunging
  • Hand walking
  • Hand walking over poles
  • In hand exercises / groundwork
  • Horse walker
  • Have someone help you a couple of days a week to exercise your horse?

The regularity of exercise is one of the most important things to consider, so now is the time to start planning.

Tip 2: Keep warm 

It might seem like a simple tip, but horses with Kissing Spine do feel the cold more, so the winter months can take some more planning.

Keeping your horse warm, especially prior to exercise, ensures that the muscles work optimally so you will get more out of your exercise session.

  • Ensure both their turnout and stable rugs are warm enough for them.
  • Neck attachments for rugs.
  • Use leg wraps for when they are stabled.
  • Exercise sheets to keep their back warm during exercise, especially if cold or raining or windy.
  • Changing which clip your horse has, consider reducing the clip to the minimum level, so from a full clip to a trace clip, to keep the body and especially the back warm.

Tip 3: Keep muscles strong 

I have seen horses at the KS diagnosis point many times that have lost muscle, either all over their body, or along their back. And a lot of times it’s this loss of muscle, for whatever reason, that brings the spinous processes closer together due to weakness, causing ‘Kissing Spine’.

We tend to judge what we can see on the outside of the horses body in terms of muscular strength, but there is so much more going on inside the body. There is a set of small strong muscles called the Multifidus, that sit along the spinous processes, these are ‘postural muscles’ and these muscles also need to be targeted through proper core engagement. 

So it’s important all year round to keep a horse with a Kissing Spine diagnosis strong muscularly, but especially as we head into winter we need to plan how we are going to be able to do this with short daylight hours and bad weather.

Tip 4: Keep core strength

This is the MOST IMPORTANT thing that you need to do with horses with Kissing Spine, and especially in the winter when your exercise regime may be disrupted with your horse, you need to find ways to maintain core strength to support your horses spine.

Luckily there is quite a bit you can do in your stable/barn on a daily basis to maintain core strength. I’m a huge fan of ‘carrot stretch’ exercises - they are simple but super effective, if done properly!

In my online training, I show you HOW to do core strengthening effectively, to ensure that you horse is actually lifting his core and not just grabbing the treat (it’s a bit of an art!), and I include ‘cheating from the horse’! You can actually make quite a difference to your horses posture and core strength by implementing core exercises daily.

But they are only one exercise - I teach a full corrective exercise online programme 'Strength & Straightness' so that you can put in place a full core strengthening plan with your horse, along with support in my members group! 

***If you would like to know more about my online programme Strength & Straightness, click below. The core exercises that I teach within the programme can help you to get through the difficult winter months with some effective daily work to keep your horses core and back strong***

CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS: Strength & Straightness Online Training

***PLUS if you prefer reading, check out my popular Ebook 'Kissing Spine - Rehabilitation & Prevention Strategies' which is 58 pages of anatomy, common signs and treatment, posture, rehabilitation techniques, groundwork, ridden exercises, long term management and GOALS for rehabilitation. Click here for more details: Kissing Spine Ebook 

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