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Kissing Spines: Kiss It Goodbye! Brought to You by Banixx

Kissing spine syndrome is a back disorder in horses that causes pain, stiffness and soreness. It’s often complex to diagnose and a challenge to treat because it affects horses in different ways.

Courtney Cooper, a five-star eventer and breeder who is proudly sponsored by Banixx, describes her mare’s “very, very bad kissing spines” in a recent YouTube interview:

“I have a homebred mare and she got to the point where, we could get on her, we could tack her and I could get on her on the mounting block, but when I went to close my leg, she wouldn’t go anywhere with the rider on her back. She was violent about it,” Courtney said.

Kissing spines may invoke behavioral changes as Cooper mentioned, or increase sensitivity to touch or routine care. Horses may have reactions such as:

  • bolting
  • bucking
  • edginess
  • head tossing
  • kicking out
  • lameness
  • rearing
  • reluctance to jump or move forward
  • resistance to training
  • stiffness and soreness
  • unwillingness to be groomed

Courtney Cooper and Rock Star. Photo by Amy Dragoo.

How Is Kissing Spines Diagnosed?

The medical term for “kissing spines” is overriding dorsal spinous processes (ORDSP). These are bony projections at the top of each vertebrae along the horse’s spine that overlap or touch (hence “kissing”) rather than being spaced evenly. This can cause inflammation, pain or soreness where the bones rub together. Most horses have 54 vertebrae along the spinal column, however this can vary by breed from 51 to 58 vertebrae. Vertebrae that are commonly affected are between (T) 13 and 18, with (T) 15 the most affected. This one is located directly under the saddle and the rider’s seat.

An estimated 40% of horses have the condition but it is more common in Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Warmbloods and dressage horses.

Interestingly, these horses often continue to perform and compete at high levels with the condition. The underlying cause for this syndrome is not known. The role of heredity is unclear or if certain horses are predisposed to the condition. It may be related to external factors such as poor saddle fit or improper training or problems with the rider; however, the research remains inconclusive and there are no known ways to prevent it.

Dr. James M. Hamilton, DVM, an equine sports medicine veterinarian, diagnoses about 50 cases of kissing spines annually at Southern Pines Equine Associates in Southern Pines, North Carolina. He says that some horses are prone to kissing spines due to having a long back and short vertical pelvis which can cause the vertebral column beneath the horse’s topline to take unnecessary stress.

“It is prudent to make as strong an effort as you can to get a specific diagnosis. There are many cost-effective ways of doing appropriate diagnostics that give a clear source of the lameness, how best to treat it, and some sense of prognosis,” Dr. Hamilton said.

To diagnose kissing spines, your horse’s veterinarian will most likely obtain X-rays or radiographs, an ultrasound, bone scan or magnetic resonance image (MRI) to get a complete picture of the severity of the condition. The difficulty with the diagnosis is that some horses do not show any outward clinical signs for kissing spines, while others exhibit behaviors that may be attributed to other health problems unrelated to back pain.

“The radiographic findings are not necessarily indicative of how the horse reacts,” adds Cooper, who operates C Square Farm, a horse sales program and training operations based in Pennsylvania and South Carolina. “And so you can have horses that radiograph poorly but will never have a problem with it. And you can have horses that radiograph well and will have a problem with it. And so I think it really comes down to does the horse show palpable sensitivity and then how do you manage it?”

Photo courtesy of Southern Pines Equine Associates.

Effectively Treating and Managing Kissing Spines

The first line of treatment for your horse is to make her feel comfortable. One of the best ways to treat or potentially cure kissing spines is to give your horse an extended rest for a minimum of three to nine months and to incorporate other approaches to maximize comfort and manage kissing spines syndrome in the long term. These medical and therapeutic interventions may include:

  • acupuncture, chiropractic, massage and physical therapies.
  • bisphosphonate drugs, which prevent loss of bone density in horses four years or older
  • extracorporeal shockwave therapy, a noninvasive, nonsurgical approach for chronic and painful orthopedic problems
  • mesotherapy which stimulates the middle layer of the skin on the horse’s back that can help stop the pain and spasms
  • steroidal injections at regular intervals to reduce inflammation
  • surgical methods such as:
    • inter-spinous ligament desmotomy (ISLD) which relieves pressure and increases space in the affected areas
    • bone shaving, trimming or removal of the problematic areas to allow for more room and movement

In addition, you may need to add to these initial and ongoing treatments to support your horse with massage blankets, tack fit to ensure that the saddle, girth and pads are fitting properly and a daily physical therapy routine.

At one time, kissing spine syndrome was considered a career ending condition. But great strides have been made in digital imaging and surgical and medical treatments. Courtney’s horse had surgery, underwent rehabilitation and made a full recovery. The mare resumed her career, competing at the two-star level. Courtney says horse owners can feel confident about doing a good job finding effective treatment and managing the condition.

“You know there are always extreme cases, it’s sort of like anything. But for the most part I think people have gotten to the point where they can manage and it’s inspiring them to do massage or riding work or mesotherapy, or injections, or shock wave or surgery. I don’t think it is like it used to be,” Courtney says.

Different treatment modalities with ongoing maintenance may take time and persistence until you find the right regimen for your horse. It is estimated that 85% of performance horses that are treated for this condition recover and continue on with successful careers. It is important to remain patient and try different methods until you find what works for your horse. Your horse will be free from pain — and she just might kiss you for it!

Brought to you by BANIXX – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx.

Detecting and Treating White Line Disease in Horses, Presented by Banixx Horse & Pet Care

White line disease in progress. Photo courtesy of Banixx.

White Line Disease is a hoof infection caused by fungi, bacteria, or a combination of both that destroys tissue connection within the hoof. The disease gets its name from a powdery, crumbly, white residue that is visible when the hoof is trimmed. This residue is made of the hoof’s disintegrating white line area. White Line Disease is also known as Seedy Toe.

The fungi or bacteria enter the hoof via old nail holes, cracks and other weak points. Once inside, they slowly erode the layers of connective tissue or laminae that make up a healthy hoof and hold the coffin bone in place. The coffin bone is the largest bone in a horse’s hoof and helps shape the hoof wall. The destructive organisms lead to cavities and weaknesses within the hoof. If left unchecked, the hoof slowly disintegrates from the inside out and requires professional care to treat it.

Detecting White Line Disease

If you see white residue, take swift action to get it diagnosed by your farrier or veterinarian to prevent worsening internal separation of the interior hoof laminae. But here’s the tough part: you can’t actually see the infection. Even though the disease enters from the outside, it doesn’t spread to the hoof’s exterior, it only attacks the vital internal hoof tissue. The pathogens that make up White Line Disease are anaerobic, meaning they cannot tolerate exposure to oxygen. That makes the interior of a horse hoof the perfect place for them to thrive without interruption. Perhaps a more accurate name or description for this hoof infection is “hoof wall separation” since the infection separates the white line hoof tissue from the interior hoof laminae.

Luckily, this disease is not fast-acting. It’s a sneaky infection that has the tendency to be easily overlooked. When White Line Disease is caught in the early stages, it is easily and quickly treatable. As with so many infections, early detection is key to successful treatment without complications.

Treating White Line Disease

Most veterinarians and farriers agree that the most effective treatment for White Line Disease follows a two-step process. First, begin with an x-ray of the affected hoof. An x-ray will assess the damage and determine the extent of the infection. This step must not be skipped, as there are no visual cues you can rely on to accurately assess the infection’s severity. It is important to determine how far inside the hoof the damage traveled which can affect the integrity of the hoof. No hoof, no horse!

The second step is to resect the affected area of the hoof (either by drilling holes or hoof removal) to expose the offending organisms to oxygen and treat with a solution, such as Banixx.

In minor cases, conventional procedures call for the infection to be first dug out using a small pick, hoof nippers, a knife or a Dremel-type tool followed by the chemical treatment. More advanced cases might require the removal of the diseased tissue (this means the hoof tissue) to expose the disease’s anaerobic pathogens to oxygen that spells their demise.

Some success has been achieved with an easier and less invasive process such as drilling access holes at the top of the infection site. A time-honored practice in more complicated cases is the removal of areas of the hoof wall. However, removing large areas of the hoof wall will compromise hoof stability and likely result in your horse needing a special custom shoe. While this doesn’t sound particularly frightening, there is danger if your horse loses this shoe.

A common issue with the traditional method of trimming away affected hoof tissue is that it simply isn’t comprehensive enough. If even the littlest smidge of white line disease infection is left, it will multiply and you’ll be back to square one.

Banixx has even proven to be effective at eradicating stubborn, long-afflicting White Line Disease thanks to its unique pH level which completely inhibits the growth of any fungi or bacteria.

Applying Banixx for Treatment

To apply Banixx the hoof must be awash in the solution. You can set up this treatment via a medicine boot or via a homemade device which possesses an entry point where you can re-apply Banixx. A clean, used, saline IV bag (obtained from your vet) may serve well for this purpose if a medicine boot is not available.

In summary, with Banixx, you change the pH of the hoof environment to arrest infection but render no damage to healthy hoof tissue. This method also avoids accidentally exposing your horse to potentially harmful chemicals such as copper sulfate, formaldehyde or certain chemicals found in iodine-based treatments. Banixx is safe for your horse and you, as well as safe for the environment.

Preventing White Line Disease

Although White Line Disease may be a common problem, do not disregard it as a “minor disease.” If allowed to progress, your horse may require extensive hoof repair, treatment, and rest – that means no riding potentially for months while incurring significant expense. Keep your horse’s feet current with a qualified farrier; it’s a much more cost-effective solution.

White Line Disease loves to grow in mostly warm, moist climates, although it’s not uncommon for horses living in dry climates to suffer from it. It can affect both shod and unshod feet, and it can affect one hoof as easily as it can affect multiple. Even horses being reared under the most sanitary conditions can succumb to it.

Remember that regular hoof care and good hygiene are your best defense against White Line Disease. Moreover, it’s vital to note that even with an “abnormal” hoof confirmation, a defensive, well-thought out trim job goes a long way to avoiding this disease. Additionally, knowing what to look for, such as the appearance of crumbly, white granules in the area where the firm white line used to be or an unexplained lameness that suddenly develops can serve as a signal to investigate more deeply. Any hoof cavities that you discover should be quickly disinfected with a high-quality antifungal/antibacterial product such as Banixx with follow up with your farrier and possibly your veterinarian. Early detection and effective treatment will greatly simplify you and your horse’s life!

Brought to you by BANIXX – The #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx