CASE STUDY: Kissing Spines

Read our case study about a horse who diagnosed with kissing spine and her subsequent rehabilitation.

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I’ve owned Elle since she was 10 months old. Elle was lightly backed as a four year old, by myself, and then turned away for the winter.

As a five year old she was started back in work well but then wasn’t happy when asked for canter, both on the lunge and ridden. She was worse on the right rein and would always put her head between her legs, arch her back and buck. She didn’t look like a green horse, or a horse having a bit of fun. She actually looked scared, her nostrils flared and she sweated profusely.

Over the coming weeks her kind and loving temperament changed dramatically. Initially she wouldn’t be caught in the field, then wasn’t happy about having her rugs changed, over time she became progressively worse and to the point she would charge at me in the field, with her ears back if I entered the field. She also lost a huge amount of weight, almost overnight.

This is when I referred her to Jacqui at Scarsdale Vets.

Elle’s Diagnosis

When Elle was diagnosed with a Kissing Spine, it was bittersweet. I was so relieved that a problem had been found but extremely worried about the procedure, aftercare and rehabilitation.



The day after the operation I was dreading visiting her, not knowing what to expect, but my loving mare was back – she was so affectionate and so calm.

She stayed at Scarsdale for a week and then returned home for 6 weeks box rest. We isolated her so she couldn’t see the other horses coming in and out, it was important to keep her as calm as possible. During this time she also had her staples removed, she just stood there as calm as anything whilst they were removed.


Jacqui recommended the water treadmill for rehabilitation, so following box rest she immediately went to Bennett Equine in Tutbury for a month.

She settled well and the following weekend I went to visit her, I couldn’t believe the difference in just a week. I watched her work on the water treadmill and she seemed at ease.

Even though she was starting to get stronger, they advised to take her home and let her graze (and just be a horse).

She had the summer off and we returned to Bennett Equine for a further six weeks. During this time, she was also visited by an ACPAT Chartered Physio.

I was advised to start gentle ground work with her which was initially disastrous. Even though she was physically fit, she had lots of other issues. She would explode at the slightest thing and still bucked.

A friend recommended that I spoke to the Dutch Trainer Frans Koesman. Frans has been teaching us now for just over a year. It has been hard, but it has been fun. I have worked her nearly every day for the past year. Not for long periods of time, just short but often.

We slowly got her used to being lunged again, we have worked with raised poles and then moved on to long reining. All this was over 5-6 months.

She changed shape dramatically over the past few months and the time came to get a new saddle fitted. I normally travel to Throstle Nest, but David was very sympathetic and came to us. After two visits she had a new saddle.

Even though she had been ridden before, we started her back into work by lying over her back and walking her around on the lunge. Then I slowly lent over, sat up and got off. We did this a few times then Frans started walking me around on the lunge.

Six months later (at time of writing), we are now doing working trot, sitting trot, collected trot, medium trot, shoulder in, and working on our canter work.

Every day I have to pinch myself, we don’t take anything for granted and take each day as it comes.

There have been lots of good days and lots of bad days, and buckets of tears, but with the right team of people behind you (vet, physio, farrier, instructor) and lots of hard work and time, it is possible, IT can be done!

We still have a long way to go, but it has been a good experience and we hope to be out competing this summer.

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