Leg Wrapping 101
Master wrapping your horse’s legs with advice from industry experts Tasha Welsh and Amy Armentrout, DVM, and follow along with the how-to videos.
Follow along with the how-to videos here:
Article and photos by Kailey Sullins
“If we wrap legs wrong, we could bow tendons, mess up ligaments and cause more harm than good,” said Tasha Welsh, professional barrel racer with $137,511 Equi-Stat reported lifetime earnings. “When you start wrapping make sure you’re doing it with someone who knows what they are doing.”
There are three types of wraps commonly used in horse care - polos, standing wraps and first aid. Polos are typically used for leg support during exercise or competition. Standing wraps are used to bring down swelling in a horse’s legs as well as for first-aid purposes, such as wound care.
“Learning to properly wrap a horse’s legs is important from a standpoint of basic first aid, because even if you don’t have the traditional, disposable bandaging material with you, it’s easy to always have standing wraps with you,” Amy Armentrout, DVM, said. “It’s a very important skill for any horse owner to have.”
Do’s and Don’ts
Hauling and Stalling in Heat: Welsh cautions against using heating liniments under standing wraps. Use a cooling product when hauling instead. Armentrout suggests for horses that stock up when stalled and require standing wraps to keep edema down that you only apply wraps at night and leave them off during the heat of the day.
Distance Recommendations: Welsh applies standing wraps on all her horses when hauling distances farther than three hours. Quick wraps or compression boots are a reliable alternative.
Armentrout says the reason standing wraps or compression boots are recommended when hauling long distances is because of the fluid build up hauling can cause in the lower extremities of a horse.
“Horses that are active and used to being in a pasture are prone to stocking up when you’re hauling long distances,” Armentrout said. “Wrapping can prevent a horse from stocking up and [reduce edema once a horse is stocked up].”
Time Allotment: Welsh stresses the importance of removing polo wraps as soon as possible to avoid overheating the legs. “It’s the last thing I put on right before I warm up. then, the first thing I take off is the wraps—fleece gets very hot, and you want your horse’s legs to stay cool,” Welsh said. “Standing wraps are designed to stay on longer, but I try not to leave them on longer than 12 hours.”
However, there are exceptions for injuries.
“In your average, normal horse, I would say 12 hours on, 12 hours off,” Armen- trout said. “If we’re talking injuries, some of those horses stay wrapped weeks to months at a time. There’s not a limit at which you need to stop, but on a normal horse you want to get that pressure off so their normal cellular processes, lymphatic system and vessels can work on their own.”
The Right Way: “There’s not necessarily only one right way, but there are certainly a number of wrong ways to put on a standing wrap,” Armentrout said. “I make sure the standing wrap is placed snugly so it doesn’t slip and cause problems. I tend to put them all the way down, because gravity pulls edema and swelling down, so it’s important not to forget the pastern and coronary band.”
Common Mistakes: “One of the most common problems is starting the quilt too loose,” Armentrout said. “You need to hold tension when you’re putting it on, because you’re going to apply the overwrap with compression. The purpose of a standing wrap is to have a level of compression, so if that bottom layer is really loose, when you’re trying to pull compression with the wrap it will bunch and wrinkle underneath. It’s not going to lay smooth and flat, which can cause irritation.
“When you’re wrapping a standing wrap, you definitely want to see padding or cotton above and below the nylon or polo. If you put nylon that doesn’t have any stretch in it directly on the skin you can actually cut off blood supply, and the same goes for when you’re wrapping with Vetrap or anything meant to compress. Those should never go directly on skin. There should always be 1⁄2 inch of padding above and below sticking out of the wrap.”