If you’re a horse owner, you’re already familiar with some of the reasons bandaging a horse’s legs is such a good idea, and you likely already know that the more you practice this technique, the better you’ll be at it. Although the overall concept of bandaging a horse’s legs is relatively simple, it still needs to be done properly every time because if it isn’t, you can do more harm than good for your horse. In addition, once you determine the exact reason you’re using the bandages in the first place, you’ll be able to decide on the exact type of bandage or wrap you need.
If you’ve never wrapped your horse’s legs before, don’t panic. Getting useful tips and suggestions from your veterinarian is a great way to get started, and it’s also good to remember that you won’t be an expert the first time you attempt the task. It takes practice to do it right, but the good news is that you can always unwrap the legs whenever you need to if you notice that the wrap or bandage isn’t going on there perfectly.
For these and many other reasons, don’t worry if you don’t apply the bandage the right way the first time. After all, your horse isn’t going to mind if you have to wrap and rewrap to get the job done correctly, so take your time and keep practicing until you get it right.
Tip #1: Make Sure You’re Using the Right Type of Bandage or Wrap
Most horse owners get started by determining what type of bandage or wrap they need, and again, that decision is affected by why you’re wrapping the leg in the first place. As a general rule, horse owners wrap their horse’s legs for one of the following reasons:
- To treat injuries, including any type of tendon or ligament injury
- To cover wounds so that no dirt or grime gets into them and causes an infection
- To prevent swelling and fluid from building up in the legs
- To prepare the horse for shipping to another location
Owners usually choose some type of standing wrap, also called a stable wrap, to wrap the horse’s legs, although if the injuries aren’t severe or you’re more interested in preventing an injury from happening, you can also use polo wraps. Once again, a little assistance from your vet will help you determine which type of wrap or bandage will work best in your situation.
If you’re researching standing wraps, keep in mind that they have to be made by a reputable company, and you can find this out by doing a little online research. Some of the highest quality standing wraps include the following:
- Classic Equine standing wraps: these are thick, quilted wraps that have bound seams to prevent any dirt or dust from getting in between your horse’s leg and the wrap itself. They come in a set of four and sell for around $40, making them both affordable and effective. Their well-made design ensures a more even application with just the right amount of pressure for your horse.
- Polo/Stable Wraps: Set of 4: these bright-yellow fleece wraps come with 2” fastener tape to make for a perfect fit for your horse, and their 4.5” x 9’ design means they can accommodate horses of all sizes. Lightweight and easy to use, the wraps come with a sunflower design that makes them not only efficient, but attractive as well.
- Tough-1 standing wraps: these wraps come in a set of four for just under $29, but don’t let the low price fool you. They are made out of fine-gauge knitted material for the ultimate in comfort and support, and they are available in a variety of colors, including purple and bright pink. Their 5.5” x 9’ size also makes them perfect for accommodating all sizes of horses.
- Toklat legs wraps: set of 4: available in five different colors and either a 6 x 9 or 6 x 12 size, these wraps are perfect for a variety of uses. They include Velcro fasteners to make sure they are neither too tight nor too loose, and they are low-maintenance because you can keep them clean simply by placing them in the washing machine and allowing them to air dry afterward.
Standing wraps can be made out of many different materials, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, but again, your vet can help you decide which material is best for your needs.
Tip #2: Make Sure Your Horse’s Legs Are Clean and Dry Before Applying the Bandage or Wrap
Okay, this is likely one of the most important tips for all horse owners who want to wrap their horse’s legs, because without the leg area being perfectly clean and dry, it simply won’t matter how good of a job you do at applying the bandage to your horse’s legs. This is especially important if you’re covering the horse’s legs because it has some type of injury or wound, but even if it doesn’t, the leg area needs to be cleaned thoroughly and dried before you start to apply the bandage or wrap.
How should this process be started? It isn’t that difficult, especially if you keep in mind that all dirt and other debris needs to be removed from the horse’s legs before anything else is done. If your horse does have a wound of some type, it needs to be cleaned, rinsed, and dressed before you start on the rest of the leg. Remember that every spec of dirt and debris needs to be removed thoroughly, including soap residue, grass, manure, and even sweat and other types of moisture.
Just how do you go about doing this? First, you can use warm water and a mild soap to clean the leg; in fact, baby shampoo is just perfect for this task. If any type of debris is left on the leg, your wrap can make that area more irritated, even resulting in dermatitis in some cases. This is one of the reasons why cleaning the leg area properly is so important.
If your horse has an open wound on its leg, you have to make sure it is properly taken care of before you do anything else. If the wound is an extra-deep one, it is recommended that you check with your vet to make sure it is properly cared for before going any further. For basic wounds, however, cleansing it with “tamed” iodine, that is, betadine, works wonders. You’ll have to dilute the betadine first, and always go by the instructions on the packaging for the best results.
Drying Off the Leg Is Important
After you’re done with this step, take a clean dry cloth and brush it over the leg to get the leg completely dry. A damp wound area can make healing a lot more difficult, and if you decide to air dry the area after drying it with the cloth, that’s even better. Just make sure you get the leg completely dry before going any further, as this is one of the most important tips you’ll ever get regarding leg-wrapping for your horse.
As you’re drying off the leg with the cloth, make sure you get all of the hair on the leg to lie flat, because any bundled-up hair can work just like a piece of dirt or grass – it can cause irritations once the wrap is applied, causing a lot of problems for both you and the horse. Before you get to the next step, it’s important that the leg be dry and flat because this will work best once the bandages are applied.
Finishing the Care of the Wound
Once you’ve gotten to this point, you have to add an antibiotic to the wound. Most vets recommend either a topical antibiotic, such as sulfadiazine, or a triple antibiotic ointment. These ointments protect the wound from possible infections later on, and if you aren’t sure which one you should choose, you should contact your veterinarian for further assistance.
Finally, place a non-stick sterile pad over the wound so that it is well-protected from now on. Once you start applying your bandage or wrap, that bandage or wrap will keep the sterile pad in place, keeping it supported and protected the entire time. If you’re unfamiliar with some of the cleansing products and ointments made specifically for horses, below are a few that you can consider.
- Vetericyn Plus wound and skin care gel: this microbial gel is applied after you clean the wound and installs a protective barrier to protect the wound and prevent infection. The product is perfect for horses of all ages and will never sting or burn. For the best results, apply it three to four times per day until the wound heals.
- VetOne chlorhexidine flush: a perfect microbial flush that protects against viruses, bacteria, and yeasts, it contains 2% chlorhexidine gluconate that is both soothing and non-staining. It is great for general cleansing of wounds and can even be used as a topical antiseptic if you like. For just under $11 you can get an 8-ounce bottle, and it can be used on dogs and cats as well as horses.
- Farnam Blue Lotion antiseptic wound dressing: this is a quick-drying antiseptic lotion for all types of wounds. The dauber top allows you to easily apply the lotion for those animals that do not like aerosol products, and it helps with minor cuts and abrasions, saddle sores, and even harness galls, among others.
- Underwood Horse Medicine topical spray: easy to use and able to heal wounds quickly, this spray is good for flesh tears, rips, punctures, and any type of minor or major cuts. With this product, your horse’s wounds won’t have to keep it down for long, because before you get through the first bottle, it will likely be completely healed.
Once both the wound and the leg are completely cleaned, rinsed, and dry, you can proceed to the next important step – wrapping the leg.
Starting the Wrapping Task
If you decide to place padding underneath the wrap, you have to be just as careful applying this as you do the wrap itself. In fact, this is one of the most important tips you’ll ever get when it comes to wrapping a horse’s legs – because it all starts with the padding. Take soft, clean padding that is at least 1” thick and wrap it around the leg.
Tip #3 – No Wrinkles or Creases Should Ever Be Found in the Padding or Wrapping
When it comes to wrapping the pad and bandage around the horse’s legs, making sure they are both applied smoothly is of utmost importance. Why? Simply put, any type of crease or wrinkle – even the tiniest ones – can cause pressure points to form on the horse’s legs, which can cause problems such as irritation, swelling, and of course, pain. This is why, if you discover a wrinkle while applying either the padding or the wrap, you should unwrap it and start over again.
Just how do you start the wrapping process while making sure the end result is a smooth one? By following the tips listed below, for starters.
- Never start wrapping on a joint or tendon. Start the wrap on the inside of the cannon bone right above the fetlock joint. Starting on a joint almost always results in the bandage becoming too loose and even becoming unwrapped eventually.
- Always wrap from front to back and outside to inside; use a counterclockwise motion in the left legs and clockwise motions in the right ones.
- Use a spiral pattern while you wrap, and work down the leg first, then up again. Always overlap the preceding layer by 50%.
- Throughout the wrapping process, use very smooth and uniform pressure so that the underlying padding can be compressed properly and so no ridges form.
Of all the main tips regarding the proper way to bandage a horse’s leg, the most important one is to make sure the wrap is completely smooth and wrinkle-free in the end. Any wrinkle or crease can cause more damage to a horse’s legs than if you had left the leg unwrapped, so if you forget everything else you were taught, always remember this one.