At some point, nearly every horse will need a leg wrap or bandage. But an inappropriate bandage can cause as many problems as a well-applied one can prevent, warns Jeff Hall, senior equine technical services veterinarian at Zoetis animal health. So, before you reach for the nearest roll of VetRap, review these basics:
1. Evaluate the need. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, situations where leg bandages are beneficial to your horse include:
• providing support for tendons and ligaments during strenuous workouts
• preventing or reducing swelling after exercise or injury
• protecting legs from impact
• shielding wounds from contamination and assisting in healing
For more severe cases or if you are in doubt, it’s always wise to consult your veterinarian.
2. Keep your horse and yourself calm. If your horse is nervous, frightened or won’t cooperate, you’re not as likely to be cool and calm either. Your horse — not you — may need a little help to calm down.
That’s why Hall advises using a mild sedative. Dormosedan gel is a safe, effective product available by prescription from your veterinarian. It’s an FDA-approved oral sedative to be administered underneath the horse’s tongue via an easy-to-use dosing syringe. Note, however, it’s not labeled for use in a number of situations and equine health issues.
3. Now that all parties are “cool,” clean. “Its best if the leg is clean and dry prior to applying the bandage,” notes Hall. Shavings, straw, dirt and moisture can irritate the skin and increase the risk of a wound becoming infected.
4. Now comes the wrap. Wrap the leg evenly and firmly, but not too tightly. Use uniform pressure, as you want an even distribution of compression along the leg. Uneven tension in a bandage’s securing layers can potentially cause tendon damage.
Avoid incorporating frayed bits of padding that contain wrinkles or bunches. These can cause pressure points under a bandage. Overlap layers of bandage by 50% to avoid having edges of the wrap digging into the leg.
5. Be ready to quickly back off. For safety, avoid kneeling or sitting on the ground while bandaging and wrapping. Instead, crouch and always be ready to move out of the way if necessary.
Some horses initially resent wraps on their hind legs, especially over the hocks. It’s best to apply these while in a safe position in case the horse kicks out.