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.
For routine care after working, we recommend at least 30 minutes of cold wrapping starting as soon as the horse is stripped and bathed. It only takes a few minutes to put on the cold wraps and they can be doing their job as the horse is being cooled out. For inflammation control in injuries, keep the legs cold-wrapped for as many hours as possible for the first few days after the injury.
One of the most important things in using wraps safely is to avoid wrinkles. The materials used in wraps have a certain amount of both stretch and ”memory.” After many uses on a leg, you’ll notice that if you always start with the same end against the leg, this end will eventually become thinner and will conform better and better to the contours of the individual horse’s leg.
If wraps are stored folded, like towels, creases develop at the folds. Always store your wraps rolled, and launder before storage. Store them in a plastic storage bag, storage bin or other dust-free container.
Again, there’s no substitute for practice. Be sure to have a knowledgeable professional check your work and help you learn. If your horse has an injury or wound, skill is particularly important. Don’t hesitate to ask for help rather than risking complicating problems if you are not comfortable applying the wrap.
If you want to go with an all-in-one wrap, and it’s going to do double duty as a shipping wrap, we’d go with the Kensington Combo Pillow Wraps. The outer layer is extremely tough and will take a lot of abuse while effectively protecting the horse’s legs.
Otherwise, Vac’s Quick Wrap No Bow gets the nod for conforming to the leg the best, with least chance of wrinkling, and a secure closure. They stay in place well.
For versatility, easy application, safety for the leg and even a good price we couldn’t beat the Vet-a-Pren wraps. A close second is Vac’s New Jersey No Bow.
If you don’t use leg wraps often and aren’t proficient in applying them, use a pillow wrap. Our choice in this category is the Wilkers Custom Horse Care Combo wraps with high-quality materials and workmanship.