Horses can be vulnerable to leg injuries and problems during exercise, training, travel, or even when they are standing still for long periods. For this reason, there are horse bandages available not only for use on wounds, but also to prevent injuries occurring in the first place.
If you use horse bandages, it’s essential to use the right type of bandage to match the situation. You should also ensure bandages are applied correctly, as putting them on the wrong way could end up doing more harm than good!
Here’s an overview of the different types of horse bandages and when to use them.
The aim in applying exercise bandages is to protect the horse’s legs from any cuts, scrapes and bruises it could acquire while working – e.g. due to knocks with obstacles or from self-inflicted kicks. These bandages can be especially useful for young or unbalanced horses or when training a horse in new movements.
Exercise bandages are generally made from stretchy material such as crepe and are applied on top of padding for protection, before being secured with tape or Velcro. They run from just below the hock down to the top of the fetlock. Suitable types of padding material include reusable absorbent cottonwool or you can buy pre-cut squares or pads.
The bandages are generally applied to the horse’s legs using a winding movement down the leg and then back up again before being fastened.
The way exercise bandages are applied can make all the difference to a horse’s health and safety. To start with, they shouldn't restrict leg movements, and this is why they are generally shorter.
They shouldn't create pressure points on the legs either, as this can reduce circulation and lead to swelling. This can happen if the bandages are applied unevenly or too tightly. At the same time, the bandages shouldn't be so loose that they could come undone, which may lead to accidents if the horse trips.
The same level of pressure must be used across all the legs to prevent strain on one side or the other and an uneven gait.
Polo bandages for horses
Another type of horse exercise bandage is the polo bandage or wrap. These are specially-designed bandages for horses that can be used without additional padding. They are so-called because they are used in polo matches. However, they can also be used on horses for dressage and show jumping.
Polo bandages need to be wound in reverse before being applied, so that the ties are on the inside. They should then be wrapped around the horse’s leg in a similar way to bandages and fastened near the top below the hock joint.
Different people may use different techniques of wrapping the bandage though – e.g. in terms of starting and finishing points. The most important things are that the wraps are put on correctly, are neither too tight nor too loose, are as wrinkle-free as possible, and are applied evenly across the limbs.
Cooling bandages for horses
Exercise, especially combined with bandages, can lead to overheated legs in a horse. This can in turn lead to bowed tendons and other problems, and discomfort.
To cool your horse’s legs after exercise, you should remove the bandages and give your horse a hose-down, or apply cooling bandages.
Cooling bandages contain a cooling gel that draws heat away from the limbs. This can reduce the risk of inflammation and pain after workouts, and improve comfort for the horse.
When applying a cooling bandage, it needs to be lower in temperature than the legs to be effective.
This type of bandage helps keep the legs warm and protect them against swelling or ‘filling’ while the horse is stabled and standing still. They can also be used in injury cases – such as to hold a wound dressing or poultice in place or to keep an injured area clean.
Because stable bandages are often left on the legs for hours at a time, extra care must be taken to apply them correctly. You need to avoid putting them on too tightly or too loosely, or leaving exposed padding that could catch on objects.
If a stable bandage is used on a wound, a bandage should also be applied on the opposite leg. This helps prevent strain on the uninjured leg.
Travel / shipping bandages
When a horse is being transported in a trailer, it could suffer leg injuries if the driver stops too suddenly or travels on uneven roads. Shipping bandages help to provide protection against bumps, knocks and bruises that could result from this.
They are usually longer than exercise bandages since the horse will be standing in a stationery position during transport. They can run from just above or below the hock, all the way down to the foot.
Treating a horse’s leg wound may involve applying a stretchy bandage on top of a dressing to keep the area clean and aid healing. Wound bandages will also need to be changed regularly. However, in the case of any horse injury, you should always follow your vet’s instructions.
There are many different types of horse bandages. The main thing is to use the right kind of bandage for the circumstances, and take care when to put them on correctly.