We have a love/hate relationship with polo wraps. They look great on the horse (for the same reason we like horses with ”lots of chrome”), but they’re a pain to launder and to re-wrap for storage. Most of us turn to boots if we’re going to use leg protection on our horses when we school in the ring.
There are several reasons, however, why polos can be preferable over boots. If a horse has an open sore on its leg, then a boot can make it worse, especially if dirt and sand gets trapped between the boot and leg. Some horses simply won’t accept boots, especially if they have chronic swelling in a leg, but all horses will accept polos.
Polos are basically just cleaner than any other protection you can use on your horse’s legs, and a horse that tends to get skin infections (such as scratches), should be wearing polos rather than boots. Dirt can be shaken out easily, and they can be washed and dried quickly. They also provide warmth for legs that are being rehabbed, such as from a suspensory injury. A horse that’s reluctant to do lateral work because he hits himself may be more confident when wearing polos. You also get a custom fit on the horse’s leg with a polo no worries about size beyond length, if a horse or pony is fine-boned, and a pair of scissors solves that.
The purpose of wearing polos or boots at all is to prevent injuries from something hitting the lower leg, the likely culprit being another hoof. If a horse wears shoes, it’s a good policy for him to wear leg protection during competition (if rules allow), for schooling and for turnout. Polos were basically invented to help prevent leg injuries from polo mallets.
One thing polos won’t do well is provide support. If you feel your horse’s legs need support (on the advice of your vet), turn to sports boots that are made especially for that purpose. However, research has not confirmed that even sports boots provide enough support to make a significant difference.
Polos aren’t a good idea if you’re going to be getting them soaking wet, such as trail riding or riding through water for any reason. We also prefer boots for jumping, distance and speed work, and turnout. But as protection during basic ring work, polos are hard to beat.
To make the job of washing them easier, always take a brief moment to double back the Velcro onto itself before you finishing taking off the wrap. This reduces tangling. If you’re going to regularly wash a lot of wraps, go to the dollar store and invest in a small mesh lingerie bags, placing one or two wraps in each bag. The bags also work great for transport and storage.