As an owner, it’s very likely you will need to apply horse bandages at various times, and this means you need to know the correct horse bandaging techniques.
Horses’ legs are often put under a lot of pressure and tend to be prone to injury. This is because their lower legs are quite delicate, consisting mostly of bone, tendons and skin, while having to support the animal’s considerable weight and size.
It probably doesn’t help that we humans put horses through their paces in various sporting activities as well! This factor also makes us responsible for caring for our horses as best we can for the sake of their health, wellbeing and comfort.
Part of this responsibility involves applying horse bandages correctly to the legs. The type of bandage to use and the application technique depends on the situation.
Here’s an overview.
How to fit horse bandages for exercise
Horses can injure their limbs during exercise and training. For example, they might brush or knock one leg against another, or else hit their legs on objects during jumping activities.
Horse exercise bandages are designed to protect their legs during exercise and prevent injuries happening in the first place. These bandages are applied to the lower legs between the hock or knee, and the fetlock. It’s important to stick to this area of the leg to avoid restricting movement.
Exercise bandages consist of a layer of padding material next to the leg and a top layer of bandaging.
- Bandage wrapping should be done from front to back, using a clockwise motion on the right leg and anti-clockwise on the left.
- When complete, a small amount of padding (e.g. 2-4cm) should be visible above and below the bandage.
- The padding and bandage should sit as evenly and smoothly as possible around the leg.
- It’s important to avoid wrapping too tightly or loosely. If too tight, the bandage could constrict blood flow and create pressure points. If too loose, it could slip and fall off.
- Bandage pressure should be as even as possible, which means the pressure applied on one leg should match the opposite leg. For this reason, it’s a good idea for the same person to apply the bandages to both the right and left legs on a horse.
- The padding and bandages should be removed after exercise. You may need to cool your horse’s legs using water and/or cooling bandages.
Steps to apply:
- Preparation – make sure the legs, bandages and padding are clean and dry.
- Apply the padding – do this by rolling the piece of padding firmly but gently around the area to be bandaged and hold in place.
- Put on the bandage – starting from the top just beneath the edge of the padding, wrap down the leg using a spiral motion. Stop just above the bottom padding edge then go back up again, overlapping each layer about halfway. This can also be done in reverse – i.e. from the bottom up and back again.
- Fasten off the bandage with Velcro or tape to hold in place.
Using polo bandages or wraps
Polos are specially-designed exercise bandages made from a stretchy material that conform to the shape of the horse’s leg, making them very versatile. If you use polo wraps, you may not need the additional padding.
When you first use polo bandages, you may need to wind them in reverse, so that the fastenings are in the centre. You can then apply them to the horse’s legs in the same spiral pattern as for standard exercise bandages.
Applying stable and travel bandages
Stable and travel bandages help protect a horse’s legs while standing still or when travelling – e.g. in a horse float. They are used to protect against knocks and bumps, to prevent leg swelling, and to keep the legs warm and comfortable.
These bandages can be longer than those used for exercise, as there is no need to avoid restricting leg movements. They usually run from the hock area down to the hoof. They are applied in the same manner as exercise bandages, except that they can be wrapped higher up and lower down the leg.
How to bandage a horse wound
If your horse suffers a wound to the lower leg, you should contact your vet for advice and/or to assess the wound and provide treatment.
In the meantime, you may have to do some equine first aid. This requires cleaning and disinfecting the wound (e.g. using a dilute betadine solution), applying a compression bandage if necessary to stem the bleeding, and then bandaging up the leg.
Depending on the type of wound it will probably need a few layers before the final bandaging – such as a sterile gauze pad, roll gauze, brown gauze and padding. In any case follow your vet’s directions.
A type of self-adhesive bandage is often used for the final layer. To apply, wrap around the leg above and below the wound site using a firm even pressure.
You may need to change the bandage regularly – e.g. every 24 hours or so. This also enables you to check the wound to see how well it’s healing.
Lastly, once a scab forms you may be able to remove the bandage altogether and leave the leg alone from that point, but do be guided by your vet.