Boots and bandages, when used, for whatever reason, must be put on correctly or they will do more harm than good to the horse.
To use this equipment correctly, some knowledge of the conformation of the leg is necessary.
If you are ever unsure about how to apply this equipment, it is best to leave it off. Some horses require either boots or bandages, so you should ask an experienced person for help in putting boots or wraps on. Always start with a clean leg.
- Tendons run down the front and back of the leg. Excessive pressure should never be applied to these areas.
- The suspensory ligament is a commonly injured part of the anatomy which can be supported with correct use of boots or bandaging.
There are many kinds of boots available: splint boots, ankle boots, sports medicine boots, bell boots, and hock boots.
Splint boots protect the splint bones (lower leg) and ankle bones from interference by the horse or from hitting rails when jumping. Galloping boots are open in the front, supporting and protecting the back and sides from the horse kicking itself but leaving the front open. Some riders use these to make sure the horse does feel things like hitting a rail during a jump.
Ankle boots cover only the ankle, and provide protection but no support. It is common to see splint boots on the front legs and ankle boots on the rear legs, although they do now also make tall splint boots for the rear legs. The straps on splint boots should always be pulled toward the rear, to avoid damage to the tendons in the leg. Bell boots are used to cover and protect the hoof, and especially to help keep the horse from stepping on the back of a shoe and pulling it loose. Sports medicine boots provide protection and support to the tendons and ligaments. These should be sized carefully for the horse, and wrapped snugly. Although boots should generally have enough give to slide into place on the horse's leg, medicine boots can be wrapped with a little more tension. Bandages for Riding:
Polo bandages provide both support and protection, but must be applied carefully. Do not use polo wraps in wet or muddy conditions, as they can become waterlogged and very heavy. Polo wraps can be used to prevent stress injury or if a horse has injured a ligament or tendon to prevent re-injuring the leg.
Polo wraps must be applied with the tension from front to back on the leg to avoid pressure on the back of the leg. They should be applied firmly and the wraps pulled smooth, but not pulled tight. Beginning from the top of the leg, unroll the bandage around the leg, spiralling down at about half the width of the wrap. The wrap should fit just under the fetlock to provide protection, but must not cover the ankle, where it can interfere with movement. At this point beginning spiralling back up the leg, wrapping at even intervals to end at the same height as the first layer. The tab which was left out at the beginning of wrapping should be folded under before the last layer is wrapped around and the velcro tab securely fastened.
Bandages for Maintenance or Treatment:
Standing bandages are applied to the lower limb (or can be used on the upper leg for rare or serious injury) with bandage cotton or sheet cotton and a wrap. Standing bandages are good for support after strenuous exercise or injury, and can be used to hold a dressing over wound in place. They are also good for reducing inflammations like wind-puffs or minor injuries.
Poultice is a clay like product which can be applied to the hoof or limb. A standing bandage should be used to cover it on the limb, while a piece of wet paper or plastic wrap should securely cover the whole hoof, with a full breathable covering of bandage over it. Using wet paper over poultice can provide a gauge of how the poultice is working, because as it pulls heat away from the imflammation the wetness will dry. If the paper is still wet, therefore, it indicates that the inflammation has cooled. A spider bandage can be cut from an old towel or rag, sliced in on both sides toward the center to leave ties which can be fastened around the knee gently. Spider bandages are used to cover the knee or hock joints over a poultice or other dressing. A standing bandage should be applied to the lower leg under the spider bandage to prevent the spider bandage from slipping down. Bandages for shipping:
Specially manufactured shipping boots can be used to protect the horse's legs during travel, or a regular thick standing bandage can be used. The standing bandage should be applied as usual, except that it should be wrapped lower down to cover the coronary band. This should be left loose enough to leave the horse enough flexibility to walk up a ramp into a trailer, and should be paired over bell boots which cover and protect the hooves.