Properly applied wraps have many uses. Improperly applied wraps can be a disaster. Wraps that are too tight, or not applied with even pressure, can interfere with circulation to the tendons and result in a bandage bow. The only way to become proficient at wrapping a leg is to practice.
Your own lower leg, ankle to below the calf, can be a reasonable approximation for practicing at home. It also has the advantage of allowing you to know firsthand how much pressure you are applying and if it is even. Wrinkles in the wrap also cause pressure points on the leg that can interfere with circulation.
Some guidelines for applying wraps are:
- Inspect the wrap for wrinkles/ridges and bunched up fill material before applying. Make sure, by putting some tension on the wrap, that you will be able to smooth these out during application.
- Start the wrap in the groove between the back of the cannon bone and the suspensory ligament.
- Hold the wrap so that the rolled up portion faces away from the leg, not against it.
- Start wrapping across the cannon bone first, not the tendons, and apply even pressure (this is the most important thing to remember). Snug up the wrap as you come across the cannon bone, not the tendons.
- Check for wrinkles/ridges every time you come around the leg, and smooth out any that you find.
- Never apply wraps (except cold-therapy wraps) until a horse has been thoroughly cooled out after a work.
Measuring for Wraps
Wraps are sized by the length of their short side. To find your horse's size, measure from just below the front of the knee to just below the fetlock. Back legs usually are longer than front. If your horse is an odd size, e.g. 13", go up one size to 14" rather than too short. If wraps will be used during shipping, get them a bit longer to help protect the pastern and remember to always use bell boots for coronary band protection.
Hot and Cold Therapy Horses work hard, and their tendons, ligaments and fetlock (ankle) joints can use a little pampering. Your wraps can help you provide that therapy.
Heat soothes pain and increases mobility in areas of chronic injury. Try moistening your wrap with a little water or a mild leg brace and heating in the microwave before application, or use hot tap water, or brace that has been soaking in a bucket of hot water to warm it.
A layer of plastic over the wrap, under your outer bandage, will hold the heat. This is a nice modification of standing stall wraps for overnight use in horses that tend to be stiff in the morning, and can be used to help relax stiff areas while you are shipping to a trail ride, show, race, etc.
Cold is the most potent inflammation buster out there. It's more work than a pill or shot, but more effective and far safer. If you don't have ice boots, your wraps can do the job. Saturate wraps with witch hazel and put in the freezer for at least an hour.
If you have the Vet-a-Pren wraps, you can use plain water. You can't take your freezer with you away from home, but you can take ice and a bucket, or use the water from your cooler. Soak the wraps in ice water. Depending on how hot the horse's leg is, they will cool for from 15 to 30 minutes.