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PPE & Kissing Spines

I have searched and read a bunch of threads, but still thought I’d get a sense of the collective COTH feeling towards “unexpected” kissing spines detected on a PPE. Horse in question is 7 years old and has fairly low miles. However, he was in consistent work from early spring last year to until the beginning of March of this year and was 100% sound throughout. Work was appropriate for his relative greenness (breeder starts them very slowly and carefully) - he was showing at 0.90m and was schooling up to 1.10m with a few grid jumps at 1.20m with no problems. He has now done basically nothing at all for nearly 4 months due to Covid19 and a soft tissue injury (which has no long term effects on soundness) and is just coming back into work. This makes him within my meager budget, otherwise I could never afford something so nice. He is at least an 8 mover both naturally and under saddle, has a solid/reliable and safe jump, a wonderful AA-friendly temperament, and an excellent work ethic. I have been shopping a fair bit and nothing else in my price range has come even close to capturing my interest the way he does.

I am looking to event up to Training level (1.0m) and dressage up to 3rd level but in no particular hurry to get to those levels!

In my 30 years of horse buying experience for me and my family, my general philosophy has been to not put a huge amount of weight to PPEs as they are just a moment in time. I have had horses pass with flying colors who then developed career ending navicular in a very short period of time and those that definitely didn’t pass with flying colors that were sound for many years. I did not do a PPE on my current horse - she was 4 and barely started when I bought her, but I am now having to semi-retire her for SI issues that wouldn’t have been caught on PPE.:frowning:

Horse I am now vetting has clean basic x-rays from last fall and flexes perfectly all around. I chose not to do any additional leg or feet x-rays during the PPE as neither the vet nor I thought there was anything to be gained by doing so. I decided to have back and neck x-rays done just to have a baseline and in case something unexpected showed up…which, of course, it did! He has mild kissing spine with 4 thoracic vertebrae touching. The vet, breeder, and current trainer were all stunned - he shows no back sensitivity and nothing in his movement now or from videos spanning the last 18 months in work or his entire life would suggest a back issue or back pain. I know the breeder and trust her and the vet 100% so there is nothing being hidden here.

My gut instinct is to still buy him. My gut instinct is almost always correct, but horse-related emotions can cause “issues”, so…am I crazy?! Just read a fairly comprehensive research study showing 39% of horses who never showed signs of back pain or issues were found to have KS. I also lean towards “better the devil you know” - at least I know what I might be dealing with and can take steps to mitigate the issues in both riding and general management. But equally, I know 2 people (and have read multiple stories) of horses retiring at a young age from KS…so am I really stupid to “take on” that risk??

TIA for reading this epic novel and sharing anything thoughts you might have! :smiley:

I own a KS horse with his KS successfully resolved with surgery. I bought him with 30 days on him at 3 and his issues didn’t really start materializing until he was 11… but the problem was probably there the whole time to SOME degree, he’s stoic and loves to work and didn’t start saying no until he really couldn’t soldier on. He gave himself soft tissue injuries in the front feet trying to keep the weight off his back and I think he put more wear and tear on his hocks as well trying to shift the weight.

The horse you’re looking at already had a soft tissue injury so that makes me nervous all alone. What injury?

The low miles worry me too. You don’t really know how this horse will hold up.

Saddle issues can complicate things. I think an ill fitting but trendy saddle exacerbated my horse’s issues. But, in retrospect, there had been small signs off and on for years. There’s a spectrum between a pain free back and a crippled horse. Correct work and use of the equicore can help, but nothing is a guarantee.

I love my horse and I’m thrilled how he’s come through this with flying colors but I won’t buy another KS horse. I will take a chance on a lot but unless I was willing to retire the horse I would keep looking. Resale will be tough and it could be nothing or it could be serious and you never know when an issue will rear its head.


Weird…it tells me there is a response…got an email to that effect too…but I can’t see a response…??

I wrote a long answer and it’s showing as unapproved

OK, well at least that explains it…I was so confused! But bummer :frowning: I did have one post I wrote on a different thread a few days show as “unapproved,” but it eventually showed up (twice, I think). The forums seem very glitchy to me recently…

I don’t know what to do to make the post show up?

Apparently it is an ongoing problem according to this thread: https://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/forum/technical-assistance/help-forum/9667195-what-s-the-deal-with-unapproved-posts/page15

I think you can tag the @Moderator 1 in that thread and ask them to approve the post, or you might be able to see it (not sure where?) and you can apparently try copying and pasting it again into the thread. Sometimes links cause the “unapproved” issue…

If you have enough options I would pass on this horse. He’s not in hard enough work to know if it will bother him. It’s one thing if you own the horse already and have to manage it, but why buy a problem. Also, it can be a condition dangerous to the rider if pain leads to bucking or other behavioral symptoms.
you say that your budget is meager so I ask what will you do if you can’t ride him in a year? Pay to retire him and buy another? What budget will you have then?


My vet has done numerous successful KS surgeries (including my horse) and we have had conversations about exactly this situation. If I found a horse that I absolutely loved, and that was in full work showing no signs of KS, but had it turn up on the PPE, it would not be an automatic no for me. Presumably the seller would understand this condition is a deal breaker for almost all buyers and the horse’s price would be reduced to reflect this. If my vet thought he could correct the situation, I might well take a chance on the horse and plan on doing surgery at some point (either immediately after purchase so as not to give the situation time to deteriorate and/or start to cause behavior issues or as soon as there was any radiographic or behavior indication it was getting worse.) But again, I’d only take the chance and go through the hassle for a horse I loved and whose price had been reduced enough to make it worth me bearing all the risk.

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He has mild kissing spine with 4 thoracic vertebrae touching.

Four vertebrae touching, sorry, it’s a no from me. I’ve been down the kissing spines road, and it is not a fun one.


I would seriously pass.


Pass. Don’t knowingly buy trouble like this. He might be fine or you might end up retiring him in a year. Too much risk for me anyways.


Wait, so did my post go through eventually? It looks like it did…

Yes it went through! Thank you. I should have been clearer - The soft tissue injury was a puncture wound from a piece of wire he managed to find and stab himself with!

I have a kissing spine horse. He is dangerous under saddle and has never been rideable. I’d personally hard pass.


You don’t want to buy problems. Fortunately you thought to get the back x-rays, found the issue ahead of purchase. I would pass and condider how lucky you were to avoid his future problems.

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I own a KS horse and just vetted out a pretty much unbroke 3 year old with it, whom I turned down. I may be okay with taking on another one though, with the following conditions:

  1. I was reasonably sure the horse was currently working comfortably at the level or higher than what I was buying him for.
  2. I was prepared to keep the horse in consistent work year round with regular checks of saddle fit and chiro or body work care.
  3. I accepted that he would probably need care such as shockwave, mesotherapy, or injections in the near future and for life.
  4. I was reasonably sure I was buying the horse for life and not as a resale project.
  5. The seller was ready to negotiate on the price based on the findings of the x-rays.
  6. I was reasonably sure there were no other issues present. There seems to be a lot of other things going on with KS horses. I belong to a KS group on Facebook and there seems to be a disproportionate amount of problems in the hind legs of these horses, including soft tissue issues.

Based on the fact this horse has had recent time off and has a soft tissue injury, along with the KS, I would pass. Just too many red flags. I know the frustration of trying to find a low level event horse for a reasonable price; they just don’t seem to exist!


I’ve had KS horses and while it’s not necessarily a deal breaker for me, I would hesitate on this one, because he has low miles and is currently not in real work. If the horse had several seasons under his belt at the level you want to compete and was showing no symptoms, and you were comfortable with the possibility of surgery/injections/shockwave down the road, I would say go for it. KS does not have to be career ending, especially when it is discovered by accident (like in a PPE) and not as a result of back pain diagnostics. However, this horse hasn’t shown yet that he can hold up to the amount of work you plan to do, which makes this riskier, IMO.


I know this is a delicate subject but we need to be realistic, consider your weight aswell as your riding ability.
My horse has early stages kissing spine, they’re not quite touching and so there’s no remodelling yet but they’re very close and it’s probably not far off. I’ve gotten pudgy in my older age and it has affected my riding ability in getting my horse to lift his back. He is noticeably more comfortable with lighter weight riders.

If you’re a tiny little thing and can ride him with his core engaged to round his back, you will have more luck than if you’re a heavier rider and/or aren’t able to get him to lift his back while you’re on board.

Me personally, I wouldn’t buy him. Perhaps if I had acreage and was able to retire an unsound/unworkable horse with no trouble but I can’t, I agist, and that means I can’t buy unsoundness. Keep your future in mind. If you need to sell this horse, how much luck do you think he’ll have finding a good home?


Thanks to everyone who responded. I am sure many of you will shake your head in disbelief, but I went with my gut instinct (after extensive research and discussion with multiple vets and my trainer) and agreed to buy the horse. :eek: Here was my thinking:

  1. The location - T8/9 to T11/12 - this is significantly further forward than the vast majority of kissing spine cases that become symptomatic/clinically significant.
  2. The research - at least one large study demonstrated 39% of horses with no back issues whatsoever had radiographic evidence of kissing spines (and many other, small studies support this finding). In addition, a high percentage of cases that do present with clinical symptoms are resolved with treatment that I am willing/able to provide.
  3. Resale or retire - I have no intention of reselling and can probably afford to retire him to pasture if truly necessary. I also negotiated his price down a fair bit.
  4. PPE - No other issues were found on PPE.
  5. Work - While he has only just come back into work after time off due to a puncture wound (and Covid19), he was in work for over a year at approximately the level I want him to work without any soundness or soreness issues.
  6. Preventative Care - I am (and always have been) super vigilant about saddle fit, body work (including things like Pulse Electromagnetic Field Therapy as I am a practitioner), and biomechanically correct work, and I ride consistently year round. I am also a fairly light weight and balanced rider compared to the size of the horse in question.
  7. I still haven’t been unable to find a horse I like even half as much for anywhere near my budget. :o

While I hope I will eventually be able to report back that I made the right decision, I also promise to return to this thread and admit that you were all were right and I made the wrong decision if that turns out to be the case! Only time will tell.:cool: