Wrapping legs is a skill that every horse owner should have, and preferably before they actually need to do it. There's no need to routinely wrap a horse's legs, but situations that call for it include:
- Protecting and covering an injured area
- Providing warmth to stiff/old tendon, ligament or fetlock problems
- Control of swelling and movement with acute injuries
- Protection during shipping
Improperly applied wraps can do a lot of damage. The blood supply to the tendons in the back of the horse's leg is easily compromised if the wrap is too tight, if it is applied with uneven pressure or if it slips down and bunches up as a result.
- Choose the right bandage for the right circumstances. A horse needs a different bandage for the stall vs. when you're riding him.
- Practice getting the correct tension on the bandage because if it's too tight it can injure his tendons, but if it's too loose it will slip.
- Clean the section of the leg to be wrapped and then brush the hair so that it lies smoothly.
- Which direction you wrap a leg isn't critical, so pick which works for you, whether you're left- or right-handed.
- Learn to judge where to start the outer bandage so that you finish wrapping at the top of the leg.
How much tension to use when applying a wrap depends on the materials and is something you just have to learn by experience. A properly applied bandage will stay in place without slipping and will lie snug against the skin, but not snug enough to indent it. You should be able to slide a fingertip between the bandage and the leg.
Practice first with a regular stall wrap, also called a stable wrap or standing wrap. This will have an inner layer of cotton or fleece and an outer bandage to hold that in place. The inner cottons are available in pony/mini sizes, 12" or 14" lengths. The 12" cottons are for front legs, where the cannon bone is normally shorter than behind. Your outer bandage will need to be between 9 and 12 feet in length and 4 to 6 inches wide.
First, make sure the leg area that the bandage will cover is clean. Brush the hair so that it is lying smoothly.
You can find several different sets of instructions on how to wrap legs properly. One frequently quoted says to always wrap from outside to inside, front to back, going clockwise on the right leg and counterclockwise on the left. However, if you're right-handed, the counterclockwise wrapping is awkward, making it difficult to apply smoothly, and vice versa if you're left-handed.
The important things to remember when bandaging are:
- Always start the wrap over bone, not the tendons.
- Bring the wrap around the front of the cannon bone first.
- End the wrap along the cannon bone as well.
If you are right-handed, start the wrap on the left leg on the outside of the cannon bone, wrapping clockwise. On the right leg, start the wrap on the inside of the cannon bone, again going clockwise, to come across the front of the cannon bone first. If you are left-handed, reverse this.