There are a variety of reasons for bandaging, ranging from injuries that require support or protection to exercise bandages and stable bandages.
Any supportive/medical bandaging should be done by a qualified person or under the supervision of your veterinarian, as bandaging too tight, too loose or unevenly can cause problems such as pressure points on tendons, causing damage to the tendons. Bandaging joints such as knees and hocks requires an expert’s help to avoid creating pressure points and injuring the joint. Hooves can also be bandaged in cases where you need to poultice for an abscess or bruising. All of these require qualified assistance from your vet, farrier or stable manager.
HQPony looks at the basics of putting on stable bandages and exercise bandages and gives you a guide on what to do and how to do it.
Stable bandages may be used for therapeutic reasons (such as helping to reduce the appearance of windgalls), poulticing after a hard session such as an eventing show, or to keep a pony’s legs clean overnight before a show.
Beneath the bandage, a bandage pad is wrapped around the pony’s leg. Take care that the pad overlaps on the side of the leg, avoiding creating pressure points over the cannon bone or tendons. The pad should overlap or close facing to the horse’s rear end. Until you are comfortable bandaging, have someone help you hold the bandage pad closed while you start bandaging the leg.
- Start bandaging at the top of the pad, with the bandage rolling from the front of the leg towards the back.
- Place the first round slightly higher so that you can fold the corner of the bandage down over the second round. This helps you to anchor the bandage and prevent slipping or the bandage rotating around the leg as you go.
- Bandage down the leg, taking care that the tension of the bandage remains the same the whole way. On each round of the leg, the bandage should overlap half of the width of the bandage.
- When you get to the fetlock joint, angle the bandage from the middle of the front of the fetlock joint, down around the back and up at an angle over the front of the fetlock joint, crossing at the midpoint, to create an inverted ‘V’ on the front of the joint.
- Bandage back up the leg the same way, keeping the same tension, and finish with the bandage closure facing towards the rear of the horse. This is to avoid pressure across the front of the fetlock joint as your horse bends it.
Stable bandages should be applied loosely enough that they aren’t tight on the leg, but firmly enough that they won’t slip.
- Roll your bandages yourself so that the tension is how you like it, and so the bandage is rolled the correct way for you.
- Smooth the bandage pads down to avoid creases and pressure points.
- Check that you can insert your index finger into the top of the bandage – then it isn’t too tight.
- Be careful of starting the bandage right under the knee where your horse bends his leg; a high bandage can put pressure on the tendons just under the knee. Leave a centimetre below the knee for the bandage – the pad can extend higher.
- Be careful of thick pads – they don’t wrap well without creasing and will slip easily.
- Keep your bandage pads smoothly stored to avoid permanent creasing of the filling.
- Wash your bandages regularly and always dry them so that they dry flat with no creasing or rolled edges.
- Always make sure that your pony’s legs are clean and dry before bandaging and that there are no shavings or bits of grass stuck on the pads or bandages (remember how grass stuck in your clothes or socks can hurt or irritate you).
Exercise bandages are not often used as there is such a wide variety of boots on the market. Exercise bandages are normally elasticated or made of polar fleece material or a combination of the two, as is seen in dressage bandages.
Exercise bandages are mostly applied without pads to make sure that they don’t slip. They are applied the same way as the stable bandage, although a little firmer. When bandaging the back legs, don’t go as low over the fetlock or the bandage will start to come loose over the fetlock joint as you work.
If you want to bandage your pony, then ask your instructor to help you do it, and practise until you have a good feel for it. The last thing that you want to do is hurt your horse when you are trying to help him.
Text: Mandy Schröder