All Wrapped Up
Wrapping a horse’s legs is very important. You get a variety of benefits from proper leg wrapping, but basically, we wrap for three reasons: protection, support, and therapy. Let’s look at these.
SUPPORT. We want our horse’s legs to have support, especially during hauling. When you horse reaches his destination he will feel fresher.
Therapy. We use the wraps to get rid of any puffiness or soreness, and to tighten up the tendons in the leg.
Protection. We need to protect the legs when we are hauling a horse. During the haul, or while loading or unloading, he could bump his legs or be bumped by another horse
Wrapping must be done properly to achieve the full benefits, so follow these basic rules when you wrap your horse’s legs.
First, I use an extra thick bandage. These are called “no-bow” bandages, because the thickness and puffiness keeps you from getting them too tight across the horse’s tendon and helps prevent the possibility of bowing a tending from wrapping too tight.
I also use wraps that don’t stretch. It is important that they don’t stretch so that you may wrap the leg evenly. With the wraps that stretch, you are more likely to get it tight in one spot, and that could cause a bowed tendon. We have even seen people who go to the fabric store, buy material they knew would not stretch, and make their own.
Another rule to remember is the direction you should wrap. Remember, from the inside out, front to back. This means on the right legs you would wrap clockwise. On the left legs, it would be counter clockwise. The direction is important, because the pull on the tendons is more supportive in these directions.
When wrapping, we like to wrap from the knee to just below the ankle. Race horse trainers wrap under ankle, closing the wrap, but I prefer to just wrap around the ankle, leaving the underside of the ankle open. I feel this leaves the horse more flexibility, and he is able to move more comfortably with the wrap on.
If I have a big run coming up, I will wrap my horse daily for about a week prior to the event. I want my horse to feel great when I make my run, so I will be wrapping to insure that I take out any soreness or puffiness, while the wrap tightens the tendons.
Each night I will brush and clean my horse’s legs. Afterwards I apply a leg brace (a brace is a liniment used to treat muscles, tendons, and joints). I prefer Cool Pack Green Gel, but whichever product you use, make sure it is cool and soothing to him, but will not blister. The best way to test a product is to try it on your own skin. See how it feels to you. If it feels good and doesn’t irritate your skin, then it will likely feel the same to your horse.
I apply the brace with my hands, rubbing down in the direction of the hair growth. I don’t want to rub in the opposite direction of the skin growth because this could possibly irritate the skin underneath the hair. I just smoothly massage it in a downward motion.
Once I have applied the brace, I get the bandage, which I have wrapped into a tight roll in the opposite direction of which I will wrap. Having the bandage in a roll makes it easier to put on smoothly and evenly. I’ll wrap the bandage around the leg in the direction that I will put the wrap, then hold it in place with one hand until I start the wrap.
To begin the wrap, I tuck the end of the wrap just under the end of the bandage and hold it in place with one hand until I have made one wrap around the leg, so that it covers itself and holds the wrap secure.
I always start in the middle of the leg, wrap downward, and then wrap back up so I will end up at the top of the wrap, near the knee. This is where the Velcro will attach, and when it is fastened high like that there is less likelihood that the horse will brush against it with his other leg and undo the wrap.
Throughout the wrap, I want to wrap smoothly and evenly. I want the wrap to be secure, but not tight. I will leave the horse wrapped all night, and then remove the wraps each morning. When I wrap to haul long distance, I wrap in the same manner to protect the horse’s legs on the long trailer rides.
Another thing I like to do before wrapping the legs (or anytime I suspect soreness) is to use water on the legs. I’ll get the hose and run the cool water over his legs for about five minutes per side on each leg. I want just a steady (not blasting) stream of cool water running down the horse’s leg. I’ll do the outside of the leg, then move around and do the inside. This cool water therapy feels good to the horse and really helps take out the soreness. This water treatment is good for your horse on a regular basis.
For protection only on short trips, I will sometimes just use a simple wrap with Velcro fastening. Once again, I like the thick, puffy wraps. These are about an inch thick. I will wrap it snugly around the leg from the knee to just below the ankle, making sure that the Velcro attachments are evenly attached so that I don’t have one that is tight and others loose. I want a snug fit that protects the horse but still allows him some flexibility in the leg.
Overall, wrapping a horse’s legs can be one of the most helpful things you can do to insure that your horse always feels like working, and doesn’t keep any soreness in his legs.
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 8, Issue 11