Senior horse returns to ring after Kissing Spine
Wrangler with Nicolazzo, AQHA. Photo courtesy of the Nicolazzo family.

The story of a senior horse who made a tremendous comeback after being diagnosed with Kissing Spine.

In 2018, an 11-year-old quarter horse named Wrangler was brought into Cornell University Hospital for Animals’ equine hospital after bolting at a competition and showing obvious signs of discomfort. An assessment confirmed he had Kissing Spine – a painful condition in which the vertebrae touch or grind against each other. High-definition X-rays revealed he was suffering from this condition in 11 of his vertebrae, and that four had fused together completely. Wrangler’s caregiver, Anjanette Nicolazzo, suspected she would never perform with her beloved companion again.

Dr. Elaine Claffey, a surgeon with Cornell’s Equine Hospital, performed an operation on Wrangler’s vertebrae to provide more space between them. A long recovery period was ordered, during which Nicolazzo worked to rehabilitate his strength and endurance. Ten months later, Wrangler returned to Cornell for an orthopedic exam. He was free of pain, and his incision had healed perfectly. Exactly one year after his surgery, he was cleared to be put under saddle again.

Today, Wrangler and Nicolazzo are back in the show ring. The duo recently competed at the all-American Quarter Horse congress in Columbus, Ohio, winning the championship in the Hunter Under Saddle division and placing in the Top 10 in all other divisions. “Having him at shows in general, win or lose, means we’ve won,” says Nicolazzo.

Click here to watch the video featuring Wrangler’s case.