My friends might remember my TB mare Katy, who I evented to Novice level (where she proved to be the straightest, bravest, most honest xc horse I have ever sat on, raising my hopes ridiculously high) then retired prematurely to breed a foal and to give her terrible feet time to grow, as my vet (different one to now), my farrier and I all thought they were most likely to blame for her bilateral lameness.
A few years on, new feet duly grown (and now a respectable size 6 horseshoe up from a risible pony-sized 4, on a 16.3), I brought her into work again this spring. She is the sweetest, most biddable mare, loves her work, the sort you can put a saddle straight on after a year off and go up the road without a qualm.
She has never reared or bucked in her life (well, apart from one 20 second rodeo show to tell me that she did not like a WOW saddle, unfortunately), and shows no pain at all on palpation of her back. However, she was incredibly tense under saddle at anything apart from a walk, and at one point, in walk on a lovely arena surface, for no reason at all, went vertical. Afterwards she was as apologetic and careful, if that doesn’t sound crazy, as any horse could be. Her stride in the field is long, in the arena, on the lunge or under saddle, it is ridiculously short. Something was definitely not good.
A devastating diagnosis, definite kissing spines. Because she has never bucked or reared it had never really done more than cross my mind, only to be brushed away… the other horses I’ve dealt with who had KS very definitely showed major symptoms of back pain and did not hide it as she does.
She has other problems too (slightly lame on RF on tight circles, plus something going on in shoulders/chest area), so surgery really isn’t a sensible option to put her through, unfortunately. She looks comfortable out as a field ornament, but her ridden days are definitely over, and so the little bit of hope I was holding out (that she might come back to event) is now extinguished, which is very sad, as she loved her work and loved her XC.
It’s a reminder to me to keep an open mind and explore all the simple/main possibilities first. Big thanks to my super vet Irene at Tower Equine for picking up on this one, and to Veterinary Thermal Images, which showed the areas of increased and decreased circulation and started pointing the finger at Katy’s back…
Edited to add: the vet injected local anaesthetic into 8-10 points in the mare’s back around the KSs, and her back and hind end started working much better, but the front end still looked pretty awful, honestly, so this decision is not being undertaken lightly!