Some horses may go their entire life and never have a bandage put on their legs. Other horses have bandages put on their legs every single day.
First, the names of these bandages and their uses are:
- Standing Bandages: these are in two parts. There is the under bandage that goes next to the leg and the outer bandage that goes over the under bandage and can either be made of flannel or a nylon type of material. You can use special pins to finish up the bandaging or most bandages now have Velcro. The under bandage can be quilt like, or sheep skin as well as other design types and different materials. Usually for horses, the front leg bandages would be twelve inches, fourteen inches for the back legs, ponies maybe ten inches for the front legs, twelve inches for the back legs. The purpose of these bandages is that performance horses have tremendous stress not only put on their body but also their legs. Liniments and poultices are used under the bandages in order to give the horse some relief from the stress. Knowing how to apply bandages properly is crucial as you can very easily cause severe damage to your horses’ legs, the most common would be what is called a bandage bow which involves the tendon. Take your under bandage and roll it up. Take the outer bandage and if it has Velcro, start at the Velcro end, roll the bandage in towards the strip that the Velcro attaches to. Try to roll the bandage as tight as possible keeping the edges flush. Stand on the left side of your horses leg, bend down facing the side of the leg, taking the under bandage with the way you are going to unravel the bandage facing the front of the horse on the inside of the leg with your left hand. Take your right hand, hold the bandage close to the horses’ leg right under the knee, at the same time using your left hand to start unraveling the bandage towards the front of the horse and then towards you, then switch hands still holding the bandage tightly, using your right hand to take the bandage around the back of the leg across the tendon to meet the beginning of the bandage, switching hands again until you come to the end of the bandage. Hold the end of the bandage with the right hand while taking the outer bandage with left hand, starting on the opposite side of the leg, going in the same direction, towards the front and then towards you then to the back, unrolling in a downward motion until you get to the end of the bandage and start your way back up to the top making sure you finish covering the whole bandage. The most important part is, when you are rolling the second bandage, snug the bandage up JUST A LITTLE against the cannon bone. NEVER pull the bandage snug against the tendon. When you finish, you should have a neat looking bandage that is not so high that it is over the top of the knee, and not so low that goes past the bottom of the ankle or is around the pastern. It must not be too tight, and you should easily be able to put your finger under the outer wrap, in between the layers without forcing it. This is CRUCIAL that you do not have the bandage too tight across the tendon. The object is for the bandage to be snug enough to stay up on the horses’ leg without falling down but not too snug that it will cause damage to the leg. It is not easy when you are first learning, but with practice it will become very elementary.
- Polo Bandages: These are used while the horse is being exercised. This protects the leg and in the very cold climate, I feel is important in keeping the ligaments and tendons warm and supple. These bandages are kind of fuzzy and thick and they all have Velcro. You apply these in the same manner and precautions as the standing bandage except that you only have one bandage to apply. The only difference is when you come to the bottom and are going around the ankle, you do what is called a figure eight so you do not interfere with the horses motion and keeping it comfortable for them. The way you do this is very simple. When you come to the top of the ankle, instead of bringing the wrap around in a straight line, go down and around the bottom of the ankle and up the other side and when you look at the front of the bandage, you should see an upside down V. Some people like to go around and do another figure eight over top of the previous one, then back up the leg and use the Velcro to secure the bandage. Most horseman will also put a pin at the top. Having a polo come off in mid-stride is EXTREMELY dangerous. Only those that have practiced putting on bandages should be applying polo’s.
- The other two important bandages are ace bandages and vet wraps. Some people use ace bandages instead of polo’s and are applied in the same manner with the figure eight at the bottom, usually one or two pins are used to secure the bandage. The pins would be put on the top of the outside of the leg, just under the side of the knee. Vet wraps are usually used when horses are racing. These bandages are very tough and durable and take quit a beating on the race track but they get the job done and are also applied with a figure eight. Vet wraps are used a lot when putting a specific bandage on a horses’ foot. This of course would usually be because of an injury or perhaps an abscess and the horse would be in the stall.
These are just some of the basic bandages that I am familiar with and they all have their distinctive uses. So my advice to you in getting a good grade for applying bandages is, practice makes perfect.
Please be sure to comment or let me know if this article was helpful. I would love to hear from you! Bev