There are many different types of bandages and wraps we use on our horses legs. Knowing what type of wrap to use and when can help our equine athletes perform and recover better! There are several main types of bandages used on horses legs, exercise bandages, polo wraps, shipping bandages and treatment bandages. All types of bandages have the potential to harm a horse’s legs if applied incorrectly. It is important to practice all types of wraps so that you can assure that you are supporting your horse’s legs properly and avoiding the risk of injury.
- Shipping Bandages – Shipping bandages are mainly used to prevent bumps and scrapes on your horse’s legs while traveling. Shipping bandages also offer support and can help reduce stress and improve circulation, especially if your horse is traveling for a long time. A shipping bandage is applied in a similar way to a standing bandage, with a quilt and an outer bandage. The quilt can be a pillow wrap, a no-bow type with a foam lining and the outer wrap is typically a knit fabric or a brushed flannel that gives support and keeps the lining in place. A shipping bandage should be wrapped further down the horse’s ankle than a standing bandage to protect more of the leg and bell boots may be used as well to prevent the horse from stepping on his shoes or heels.
- Standing Bandages/Treatment Bandages – Standing bandages are worn when the horse is at rest in his stall. Typically a standing wrap gives support to the tendons and are used after strenuous work. The wraps help improve circulation and reduce swelling. A quilt and an outer knit bandage can be used, similarly to a shipping bandage. The one main difference is that a standing bandage is not wrapped all the way down past the horse’s ankles. It is important to wrap the outer bandage to cover the pillow quilt to prevent the horse from grabbing the wrap and undoing it. Poultices and other treatments and dressings can be used under a standing bandage.
- Polo Wraps – Made from a soft fleece material, polo wraps offer light protection for the legs during riding, lunging or turn out. Polo wraps must only be used in dry conditions because they can absorb water easily, which can cause them to slip. They can also pick up burrs and twigs easily so they are not advised for and kind of cross country schooling or riding. Applying a polo bandage should be done by applying even pressure and never pulling tightly around the horse’s tendons. Like with all types of wraps, make sure that you are wrapping “Tendons-in or a breaststroke” motion will prevent the bandage from causing unwanted pressure on the horse’s legs that can result in a bandage bow.
- Exercise Bandages – Exercise bandages are similar to polo wraps. They are used when the horse is at work but they can offer more support and cushion because they can be used with a bandage liner. They are generally stretchy and do not absorb water so they can be used in more weather conditions and riding scenarios. Exercise bandages should be applied with extreme care and only by an experienced horseman to prevent injury.