They’re not the priciest item in your barn, but they’re the one of the most important to choose properly. Bandages are used to secure wraps to the legs and provide protection or support during exercise and shipping. The best choice for one function may be totally wrong for another. In fact, you could do harm to your horse if you misuse one or apply it incorrectly.
Bandages come with several different names. Basically, we consider a ”bandage” to be the outer layer on the horse’s leg, whether there’s a layer of cotton underneath or not. If you see bandages labeled as ”standing,” these bandages are designed specifically to be used when the horse is not being exercised. They’re typically light, thinner and longer than bandages used during exercise.
”Polos” are used during warm-up and low-level exercise. They provide more padding than support. Polos can double as standing bandages, too, of course.
A bandage that claims to be a ”support bandages” is designed to stabilize the lower leg and fetlock, protecting against excessive twisting or overflexion.
And the newest to the market are ”combo” bandages, which offer both padding and support.
When applying a bandage over a wrap or cotton, start by tucking the loose end of the bandage just underneath the end of the wrap, then apply in the same direction as you did the wrap, adjusting tension for a smooth, wrinkle-free fit. Start at the lower middle or bottom third of the leg, above the fetlock, wrapping the lower leg (going down the leg) first, then work your way up to the top, overlapping each layer of bandage for about one-third to half its width.
If you need fetlock support, the most effective way to get it while maintaining flexibility of motion is to angle the wrap down in the direction of the sesamoid on the opposite side from where you’re starting. This means wrap from outside to inside, ”cup” the sesamoid, then come across the front of the fetlock and dip down to pick up the other sesamoid, creating what looks like an X in front.
Bandages should end at the top of the cannon bone, just under the knee. Be careful not to end directly over the tendons or put excessive stretch on the bandage when finishing. You should be able to insert your fingertip between the top of the bandage/wrap assembly and the horse’s leg. Always check after an hour or so to make sure the leg is not swollen above or below the covered area and that there has been no slipping. All wraps should be re-done a minimum of once every 24 hours, unless your veterinarian directs you otherwise.
Wraps During Exercise
Polos are designed for use during warm-up and exercise as a light protection against bumps or taps and to keep the tendons and ligaments warm. They also work fine as a standing wrap, with more stretch than the traditional flannel but less than most synthetic standing wraps and provide an extra layer of padding. The only drawback is that they hold shavings, straw and manure more readily, but the debris is easily removed with a hard brush.
Some riders wouldn’t dream of exercising or turning out their horse without bandages, but there are also millions of horses that go through their lives without ever seeing a bandage without any consequences. The point is, exercise bandages aren’t a necessity.
The down side of bandaging is that they can slip and injure the leg, or even come loose and cause an accident. Horses that are coming close to hitting their legs may actually be more likely to hit with the bulk of a bandage. Bandages also add weight that can change how the horse moves. These problems happen often enough that if you’re putting on bandages just because they look nice, you might want to reconsider.
That said, leg protection is warranted on jumpy horses, horses working at speed, over jumps or performing intricate movements or sudden changes of direction. Under these circumstances, it’s critical that the bandage be applied by someone skillful, and the ends should be reinforced with tape to guard against loosening or unraveling. Horses at high risk of hitting themselves may be better candidates for boots since they offer more protection. Boots are also a better choice if you aren’t proficient in wrapping.
The Equine Textiles Turf Knits worked well as standing wraps and did double-duty as cold-water wraps. Their slightly narrower width also works best with horses that need fetlock support from their standing wrap.
In the polos category, where padding is the goal, there’s not much to differentiate the Vac’s from Equine Textile’s Keeneland Polos, except a slightly lower average price for the Equine Textiles, making them our Best Buy.
For top polo pick, we really liked the Pro-Soft Polo from Kavalkade. This wrap provides foam padding and a stretchy elastic bandage in a one piece assembly for a combination of both good padding and light support. The Climatex was a close second here.
The Saratoga bandage is the ultimate in firm elastic support for horses working at speed, however, its use should be left to experienced bandagers. If the horse needs a combination of protective padding and moderate to strong support, you can’t beat the Climatex wrap. It’s more expensive than simple polos, but less than boots and weighs a lot less than boots. Unless the horse is really hitting himself hard, the Climatex gives you the best of both worlds, making it our overall bandage choice.