Bandaging a horse’s leg wound, wrapping for exercise or support during travel poses a few dangers if done improperly. Here’s how to keep your horse safe.
There are many reasons to wrap or bandage your horse’s legs. Bandaging can provide both protection and support for the horse while working, traveling, resting or recovering from an injury.
Rules of Leg Wrapping
- Always wrap a horse’s leg from the inside around the front of the leg. This means wrapping clockwise on right legs and counterclockwise on left legs. Doing so prevents tendon damage.
- A leg wrap has the correct amount of tension if you can get two fingers under it below the pastern and one finger under the wrap at the top.
When to Use Leg Bandages for Horses
Leg bandages are beneficial for several reasons:
- Provide support for tendons and ligaments during strenuous workouts.
- Prevent or reduce swelling (edema) after exercise, injury or during stall rest.
- Protect legs from concussion and impact.
- Shield leg wounds from contamination and aid in healing.
Steps for Wrapping Horse Bandages
If you have never bandaged a horse’s legs before, ask your veterinarian or an experienced equine professional to demonstrate the proper techniques. Practice under his or her supervision before doing it on your own.
Follow these basic wrapping guidelines:
- Remove dirt, debris, soap residue or moisture to prevent skin irritation and dermatitis.
- Start with clean, dry legs and bandages. (Avoid wrapping wet legs.)
- If there is a wound, make sure it has been properly cleaned, rinsed and dressed according to your veterinarian’s recommendations.
- Use a thickness of an inch or more of soft, clean padding to protect the leg beneath the bandage.
- Apply padding so it lies flat and wrinkle-free against the skin.
- Start the wrap at the inside of the cannon bone above the fetlock joint. Do not begin or end over joints – as movement will tend to loosen the bandage and cause it to come unwrapped.
- Wrap the leg from front to back, outside to inside (counterclockwise in left legs, clockwise in right legs).
- Wrap in a spiral pattern, working down the leg and up again, overlapping the preceding layer by 50 percent.
- Use smooth, uniform pressure on the support bandage to compress the padding. Make sure no lumps or ridges form beneath the bandage.
- Leg padding and bandages should extend below the coronet band of the hoof to protect the area (especially important when trailering).
- Extend the bandages to within one half inch of the padding at the top and bottom.
Allow the horse ample time to become accustomed to leg bandages before trailering, riding or leaving alone in a stall.
Dangers of Unsafe Bandaging
It is essential that you use proper leg bandaging techniques. Applied incorrectly, bandages might not only fail to do their job, they can cause discomfort, restrict blood flow and potentially damage tendons and other tissue.
- Wrapping too tight creates pressure points.
- Wrapping too loose does not provide proper support.
- Wrapping too loose may endanger the horse.
- Slippage may cause circulation problems. Rewrap daily to avoid.
- Dirt or debris may enter bandage and cause skin irritation. Rewrap daily to avoid. Or seal openings with a loose wrap of flexible adhesive bandage such as Elastikon adhesive tape.
Reasons to Rewrap Legs Daily
- Examine legs for signs of heat, swelling or irritation. Problem areas are usually wet with perspiration.
- Alleviate circulation issues that could have been caused by bandage slippage.
- Avoid skin irritation by cleaning dirt or debris.