An Easy Guide to Bandaging Your Horse

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An Easy Guide to Bandaging Your Horse

There may be any number of occasions when you will need or want to bandage your horse’s legs. Bandaging can provide both protection and support for the horse while working, traveling, resting or recovering from an injury.

No matter your reason for bandaging, it is essential that you use proper leg bandaging techniques. If applied incorrectly, bandages may not only fail to do their job, they can cause discomfort, restrict blood flow and potentially damage tendons and other tissue.

It is often said that it is better to leave a horse’s legs unbandaged than to bandage them incorrectly. Fortunately, there is nothing complicated about learning to do this. It simply takes the right materials and a bit of practice.

Reasons To Bandage

Leg bandages are beneficial for several reasons:

  • Providing support for tendons and ligaments during strenuous workouts
  • Preventing or reducing swelling (edema) after exercise, injury or during stall rest
  • Protecting legs from concussion and impact
  • Shielding leg wounds from contamination and aid in healing.

Materials You’ll Need

A proper leg bandage generally has two or more layers; an ample amount of padding secured by a support bandage and sometimes a protective outer layer. If a wound is involved, gauze pads or a sterile, absorbent dressing may be required as well. You should always keep bandage materials in your barn first aid kit but if you are running low, make sure to purchase them from your veterinarian or their online pharmacy.

Padding is essential for protecting limbs. At least an inch or more of soft, cushioning material should be placed between the limb and the bandage to help disperse the pressure evenly and prevent blood flow from being restricted. Roll cotton, sheet cotton, or leg quilts work well and are lightweight and comfortable. Generally, the longer a bandage is to remain in place, the greater the amount of padding needed.

There are many choices of bandaging materials, including track or polo wraps, cotton flannels, roll gauze or bandaging tapes, Elastikon and similar products. The bandaging material should be at least two inches wide to avoid a tourniquet-like effect and allow for sufficient overlap as the leg is wrapped. Using stretch fabric makes joint bandaging easier, allows for movement, and is less likely to cut off circulation as long as it is not pulled too tightly.

Learn The Proper Way to Bandage

Preparing for the Bandage

  • Remove dirt, debris, soap residue, or moisture to prevent skin irritation and dermatitis.
  • If there is a wound, make sure it has been properly cleaned, rinsed, and dressed according to your veterinarian’s recommendations.
  • Use a thickness of an inch or more of soft, clean padding to protect the leg beneath the bandage.
  • Apply padding so it lies flat and wrinkle-free against the skin.

Wrapping the Bandage

  • Start the wrap at the inside of the cannon bone above the fetlock joint. Do not begin or end over joints – as movement will tend to loosen the bandage and cause it to come unwrapped.
  • Wrap the leg from front to back, outside to inside (counterclockwise in left legs, clockwise in right legs).
  • Wrap in a spiral pattern, working down the leg and up again, overlapping the preceding layer by 50 percent.
  • Use smooth, uniform pressure on the support bandage to compress the padding. Make sure no lumps or ridges form beneath the bandage.
  • Be careful not to wrap the legs too tightly, creating pressure points.
  • Avoid applying bandages too loosely. If loose bandages slip, they will not provide proper support and may endanger the horse.
  • Leg padding and bandages should extend below the coronet band of the hoof to protect the area (especially important when trailering).
  • Extend the bandages to within one-half inch of the padding at the top and bottom.

Caring for the Bandaged Area

  • Check bandages daily to make sure they are securely in place and not cutting off circulation.
  • If there is a potential problem with bedding or debris getting into the bandage, seal the openings with a loose wrap of flexible adhesive bandage such as Elastikon adhesive tape.
  • Rewrap the legs every 1-2 days to minimize the chance of circulation problems caused by slippage, or skin irritation due to dirt or debris entering the bandages.
  • Before rewrapping take a few minutes to examine the legs for any signs of heat, swelling or irritation. Problem areas are usually wet with perspiration.
  • Allow the horse ample time to become accustomed to leg bandages before trailering, riding or leaving alone in a stall.

Please Note: If you have never bandaged a horse’s legs before, ask your veterinarian or an experienced equine professional to demonstrate the proper techniques. Practice under his or her supervision before doing it on your own.

Talk With Your Veterinarian

If you think your horse may have injured himself you should put in an immediate call to your veterinarian. Most horse wounds get worse when left untreated and when your vet’s phone number is right at your fingertips, there is no reason not to give them a call. Carolina Equine Hospital services equines in the Piedmont Triad, and while the office may be open Monday-Friday, there is always a vet on call for after hours emergencies. When in doubt, talk it out with your vet.