Young prospect who had kissing spine surgery - am I insane to consider?

Going on a trip later in the month to look at a few prospects, not a great market right now honestly. One of the more interesting prospects is a young mare who had the bone shaving surgery for KS as a four year old. The seller is very transparent and said that the surgeon who did the work was open to answering any questions and sharing images with my vet. The mare looks sound and robust in the videos and the trainer said the surgery completely resolved the behavioral issues that caused them to explore back pain when the horse was started. The surgery was relatively limited in scope and few vertebrae were affected. I believe this is a credible seller who is acting in a way that shows sensible liability management and also just basic honesty.

I have a pretty good track record dealing with SI/back issues and I’m not one of those people who expects an immaculate PPE. I have a mare I purchased a few years ago with bad shivers, a lateral walk and a left hind swelled so badly it looked like a huge sausage almost up to the stifle. But, she’s been an amazing horse and with thoughtful work, supplements and corrective shoeing the shivers are almost imperceptible, her fat leg is totally fine, her walk is amazing and about every six months I have to shoo away someone who offers to buy her.

I’m wondering if this nice filly I’m about to see, who is pretty ideal in every other way, could be another diamond in the rough like my wonderful mare, or if I’m insane for even considering this horse? I’d love to hear everyone’s perspective.


Hard hard hard hard pass. The biggest pass youve ever done. Run.


How many vertebrae is “few”?

How much space is between the vertebrae now? Was anything injected after surgery to help the vertebrae maintain separation?

How young is “young”?

Concerned that you are starting to see what you want to see instead of what is really there - reading a bit of rationalization leaking through.


Thank for this, tell me more please!

Totally fair questions on the details of this surgery and recovery, but I don’t know yet. As that info comes out though I’ll share here. The mare is 5 now, had the surgery at 4.

I’m definitely seeing what I want to see and hardcore rationalizing. Not even kidding when I ask this group to shake some sense into me if this is truly madness. To be super truthy about the depths of my “follow your heart” ways, based on the delightful, old soul expression on this mare alone there is a very strong like 70-80% chance I will buy this mare in my present frame of mind. Bring me back down to earth, seriously.

Also, to sense check my assumptions - if this mare turned out to be non viable as a riding horse, I’m assuming that KS significant enough to require a surgery would also rule out breeding. Shout if I’ve got that wrong, I’d love to be wrong lol

I would go into it with that assumption. KS seems to be a still murky intersection of nature/nurture/crap luck but in a horse that young I’d lean towards nature if the symptoms were severe enough to identify that young.

If I owned land and would enjoy this horse enough as a pasture ornament for 20+ years, I’d take her for free. As someone who boards, even free it would be too big of a risk for me. KS is a whole different world than a lateral walk or a swollen leg.


I too am a boarder and probably always will be. This is great perspective, thank you for sharing.

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Same feelings here.

I also wouldn’t breed her because I think that’s not right for a few reasons, personally.

If the horse was older (teens maybe) and had the surgery and had successfully come back into work for a year or two, I might be more likely to consider the horse (as a riding horse).


Have a friend with a young TB who had KS surgery. Now, she is a bit of a hypochondriac in regards to her horse, but he will never be right. She brings him back into work (slowly, properly, with the correct tools and progression), and then he relapses. Over and over and over.

I know my current mare has “close” spinous processes so it’s something I have on my radar, but she exhibits none of the symptoms.

I would never expect to be able to bring a horse whose symptoms were so severe as to require surgery back into real work.


The bone shaving surgery has a significantly better long term success rate than the ligament snipping surgery. (70%+ go back to full work). But I probably wouldn’t buy a horse that young that had had it so recently. An older horse that was several years out and competing successfully at the level I wanted to compete would be different. I guess it does also depend on your long term goals for the horse-- if you are looking for an UL prospect that is a bit different than a more all around type.


I would offer up a different story … a friend has this procedure done on a horse of hers at 8, and the horse has fully returned to dressage work at the intermediare level.


There are two different types of surgery (soft tissue ligament snipping or bone shaving). Which one are we talking about here? How many affected processes? Which ones? What were the behavioral issues? How discounted is the price? What are your goals? Too many question marks for an outside person to intelligently advise.

I will say that I had the ligament snip done on my horse at age 11 who is had since he was 3. He rehabbed well and is better than he EVER was. Way way better. Like— a new horse. Would I buy one again exactly like him, maybe, but I have a farm and can retire one and my goals are not lofty. So I think it’s a very personal choice.


There was a fairly downhill OTTB at my barn, about 5 yrs when he arrived. Was bought by a rider who wanted to do some jumpers and eventing. Rider was the type who didn’t work on correct flatwork, had a heavy seat, etc. Horse started little bucks at canter departs and sometimes when landing off a jump. I had flatted him several times and didn’t buck with me or another rider. She had him checked out and vet diagnosed KS, did spinal injections, rest, etc.

I felt he could be helped significantly with correct riding (lifted back, engaged hind, etc.). She just didn’t get it and kept spending $$ with chiro, massage, accupuncture and continued to ride him as she always had, so the back pain issue hung around. After a few years he was sold to another rider with full disclosure. New rider has had no issues as horse is ridden correctly. He moves beautifully on the flat, does Novice eventing and no longer bucks. I think he is 14 now.

It would not be insane to get a well-regarded vet’s opinion on the X-rays FIRST before falling in love and ignoring the medical facts.


Researchers confirmed in early 2021 that Kissing Spines IS hereditary. Link below. I would not consider it ethical to breed a horse with KS, IMHO.

Researchers Confirm Kissing Spines is Hereditary – The Horse


Is the horse in work now and happy? If so, it wouldn’t really bother me depending on the rads.

A lot of upper level eventers have kissing spines and do just fine, without surgery. Some horses are more sensitive but I think if you work them properly and have good care with saddle fit, massage chiro etc its not a big worry.


Such a good point, a lot of horses who are miserable or difficult under saddle could be helped in a big way if the riders just focused a bit more on their own training and position, aids etc. I see this a lot.


Not experienced in KS, but having to board, to me, makes the risk tolerance much smaller.


100% this.

Always buy the soundest horse you can afford.


Hard pass.

Bone issues in horses that young (there was another thread here recently about a 3 year old with fusing hocks) make me think there is something fundamentally wrong with that horse’s body. Something isn’t working correctly and it seems likely that will affect other joints/bones in the body sooner than later.

Maybe this horse will be fine. I would let someone else take the risk.

I bought a barely three year old horse without a vet check (many years ago - I learned that lesson). I retired him from jumping at 11, and everything except hacking out at 12 because he had a fixed bone chip in one hock caused by an accident some time before I got him. I had to euthanize him when he was 18. I freely admit this experience affected my risk tolerance.


I think the risk tolerance , how the new owner will deal with the downside of a worst case outcome, is the decision-maker here.

If an owner can retire an unsound horse to pasture for 20 years, then it may be a kindness to give a horse a chance with a guaranteed safety net for both owner and horse.

If an owner is a boarder and really can’t afford, or doesn’t want, to maintain an unsound horse, that’s a different issue. There really isn’t a safe next stop for a horse with chronic pain issues. Or a horse that looks healthy to ride but isn’t. In all honesty the boarder scenario may come down to the willingness of the owner to euthanize a seemingly healthy, young(ish) but un-rideable horse to be able to move on, and if they know of a vet who will do it. (Some vets will not.)

And then there is the cloudiest case of all. The horse is on and off. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. With no advance messaging of how long each stage will last. Maybe if ridden a certain way, horse manages - maybe that is also on and off. Is the horse sound to use, or not?

This is maybe the most difficult situation of all. An owner never knows if one more treatment will fix this horse - or not. If the horse is good to go on the trail ride or the next show - or not. Many last-minute disappointments in store.

OP, I don’t think you are insane at all. I think you are good-hearted and optimistic. Nothing wrong with that! And you are wise to check in with some experienced advice. Good luck, whatever you do.