What You Need to Know About Equine Leg Bandaging

A poorly applied bandage can cause as many problems as a well-applied wrap can prevent. Remember the following.

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What You Need to Know About Equine Leg Bandaging
A well-applied bandage will look neat, even, and finished. | Photo: Erica Larson/The Horse
At some point, nearly every horse will need a leg wrap or bandage. However, an inappropriate bandage application can cause as many problems as a well-applied bandage can prevent. The key to successful bandaging begins with the proper materials and application. So, before you reach for the nearest roll of Vetrap, review some basic principles behind bandaging and wrapping legs.

1. Evaluate Need 

First, it is important to evaluate what and why you are bandaging. The American Association of Equine Practitioners says there are several situations where leg bandages can benefit your horse including:

  • Providing support for tendons and ligaments during strenuous workouts;
  • Preventing or reducing swelling after exercise or injury;
  • Protecting legs from impact; and
  • 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 to help determine your bandaging needs.

2. Complete it Safely 

You know you need to bandage, but what should you do if your horse is so nervous, frightened, or painful he won’t cooperate?

Oral detomidine hydrochloride gel is a safe and effective mild standing sedative available with a prescription from your veterinarian. This FDA-approved sedative can help reduce stress levels in emergency situations and make situations such as treating an injury or changing a bandage safer.

3. Focus on the Details 

Upon determining if bandaging is necessary, it’s important to pay attention to the details. Proper technique includes using the correct materials and wrapping the leg evenly with consistent pressure.

“It is best if the leg is clean and dry prior to applying the bandage,” said Jeff Hall, DVM, senior equine technical services veterinarian at Zoetis. “Also, moderate pressure should be used while bandaging to avoid overtightening. The key is to apply the bandage firmly but not too tightly.”

Other details to consider:

  • Keep it clean. Shavings, straw, dirt, and moisture can irritate the skin and increase the risk of a wound becoming infected. Start with clean dry materials and check the bandage frequently for damage, dirt, or moisture. Use uniform pressure, as you want an even distribution of compression along the leg. Uneven tension in a bandage’s securing layers could 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 material dig into the leg.
  • Ensure the bandage is smooth against the horse’s leg to avoid uneven pressure.
  • For safety, the person applying the bandage should avoid kneeling or sitting on the ground, and should instead crouch, ready to move out of the way if necessary. Some horses initially resent wraps on their hind legs, especially over the hocks, so it’s best to apply these while in a safe position in case the horse kicks out.

A well-applied bandage will look neat, even, and finished. Ask your veterinarian to demonstrate proper techniques and practice under their supervision before doing it on your own.


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