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Kissing Spine...What is it? What about my saddle fit?

Posted by Kristie Block on

What is kissing spine and how may it affect saddle fitting?

Kissing spine is “overriding dorsal spinous processes” (ORDSP). What does this mean? Two or more of the spinous processes are touching or rubbing (the bones you feel in the horses back). Affected horses are most commonly dressage horses, however any breed or discipline can experience kissing spine. It is mostly found in performance horses and can go easily undiagnosed in horses that are not often ridden. This is likely because kissing spine usually ends up affecting performance.

Presenting signs can be but not limited to soreness to the touch that can go along the wither to the tail, unexplained lameness, acting cinchy, decrease in performance, experiencing saddle fitting issues, and may appear stiff.

Kissing spine can be diagnosed using x-ray. Without surgery it is a permanent issue that will require treatment/maintenance throughout the rest of the horse’s life. Treatments/maintenance can include corticosteroid injections, shock wave therapy, exercises to build muscles around the back to assist in support, and correcting saddle fitting issues.

Think about it this way. While humans and horses may not have exact back anatomy, try to imagine yourself or someone you know with degenerative discs in their back. That pain is terrible and often leads to surgery. If that’s the pain your horse is experiencing, if a saddle change can help, wouldn’t you?

How can we at Block Saddle Company help? We are not veterinarians and the above is just a brief description of what we have learned about Kissing Spine. If you come to us with a horse that has sore spine or a horse that is diagnosed with Kissing Spine, here are some things we will try to accomplish in the saddle fit.

-The saddle is making equal contact throughout the tree
-The saddle is not sitting anywhere along the spine
-The angle in the bars are correct so the horse can get adequate movement     throughout the shoulders
-Assure that the rider is riding symmetrically not adding pressure to one side of   the saddle or the other
-Help you to understand exercises and drills that can be performed to build the   muscles along your horses back

This may become a process and there are certain things you may have to work on with your horse before we are able to help you with a good fitting saddle. We emphasize that you attempt to take care of your horses back pain before being seen for a saddle fitting. It is difficult to assure proper saddle fit if a horse is currently sore. Remember… horse first, sport later!

These are things we try to assure with all saddle fittings, however when it comes to a horse with Kissing Spine, we would take extra precautions to assure that the saddle is sitting far enough away from the spine to not make issues that may not cause issues in a horse that was not experience that form of back pain.


(Photo are retrieved from and 


                               Healthy dorsal spinal process versus Kissing Spine. 

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