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If you watch horse racing, you’ve seen some horses race with their legs wrapped and others running without wraps. Have you ever wondered what horse leg wraps are used for?
Horse leg wraps support tendons and ligaments, and protect against rundown abrasions and interference injuries. They are also used to cover wounds, keep flies off horses’ legs, and sometimes put on a horse because they add a little flair.
Horses wear wraps for a variety of reasons that aren’t apparent to most onlookers. There is a lot of thought that goes into deciding whether or not to use leg wraps on a horse.
Uses of horse leg wraps
Leg wraps come in a variety of styles and uses. Some wraps are made to wear during workouts, during transport, and others are designed to wear when the animal is hurt or in a stall or small paddock.
Before you use wraps for the first time, you must have an experienced person teach you the correct way to wrap a horse’s leg. Wrapping a horse’s legs incorrectly can seriously harm your horse.
Leg wraps are used to protect against injuries.
Leg wraps are optional in a horse race. Sport horses run with wraps on their front legs, rear legs, all legs, and sometimes no wraps at all. Does this tell you anything about the condition of the horse? No, it’s typically a choice the trainer makes based on his experience.
I know some trainers that run every horse under their care in rear wraps. And I see other trainers who don’t like to have anything on their horse’s legs unless necessary.
Rear leg wraps
Wraps on horses’ hind legs are commonly used by racehorse trainers and are called “rundown bandages.” Rundown bandages are used to prevent friction abrasions and interference injuries.
Rundown abrasions occur during a race when horses go down on the back of their fetlock area, hitting the ground and creating friction. Horses racing in deep tracks and horses with long pasterns are susceptible to rundown abrasions.
To prevent rundown abrasions, special pads made of felt are used to cover the rear fetlock area. The pads are held in place with Vet Wrap, a stretchy, self-adherent bandage.
Rear legs also protect against speedy cutting and scalping. Speedy cuts are a specific type of interference injury. (Interference injuries are explained in greater detail below.)
Speedy-cutting and Scalping,
“Speedy-cuts” occur when the foot of the front leg hits the rear leg, typically close to the knee or hock, rather than on the fetlock area. Speedy cuts happen when horses are running hard and are often severe because the horse’s shoe toe acts like a knife against the contacted leg’s soft tissue.
Speedy cuts can result in severe lacerations and tendon damage. Scalping is often used interchangeably with speedy cuts; however, it should be limited to contact of the forefoot with the hindlimb’s coronet band.
Front leg wraps
The front legs of a racehorse are typically wrapped to protect against interference injuries and provide tendon support. Interference injuries are caused when one of a horse’s limbs contacts another limb while running.
Horses’ legs are hit for various reasons, such as conformation, poor fitness, improper shoeing, or the horse’s stride mechanics. A perfectly healthy horse could misstep during a race and strike its legs against each other, causing an injury.
The severity of an interference injury can range from rubbed hair to a deep cut. Interference injuries can cause bruising, pain, and swelling, particularly in the fetlock joint area.
Brushing is an interference injury that occurs when the opposite limbs contact each other. In front limbs, the contact commonly arises from the knee to the horse’s hoof. In the rear legs, the strike is typically in the fetlock area.
The interference tends to increase with the horse’s turnover rate variation, although some horses’ contact decreases at higher speeds. So there doesn’t seem to be a direct correlation between higher speeds and high strikes.
Overreaching happens when the toe of a horse’s rear foot strikes the lower back of the front limb. A strike to this area can result in severe injury and downtime for the racehorse.
Often an overreach injury tears the heel’s bulb or catches the rear of the front foot’s shoe. Bruising and scraping often occur on the lower limb and can be minor but also may be severe.
Forging injuries can’t be protected by bandages, but it is a type of interference injury, so I included it for reference. Forging occurs when the rear toe strikes the sole of the horse’s front foot, usually right after the front foot leaves the ground.
Leg wraps are used to provide tendon support.
Some trainers believe that wraps add support to the tendons of horses’ legs when they run. However, no research has confirmed this to be a fact. But they do help provide support to weak tendons or tendons that have been injured.
It’s essential to be aware that leg wraps increase the temperature of a horse’s legs. This can be good and bad. Sometimes a vet may advise that heat helps tendons injuries, but often heat is more harmful than beneficial.
How long can you leave standing wraps on a horse?
It would be best if you didn’t leave standing wraps on your horse’s legs too long without removing them and rewrapping them. I typically don’t let them stay on for more than about 12 hours. But I know some people that change their every 24 hours without having any issues.
Leg wraps are commonly used to cover wounds.
Horses get injured no matter how careful we are. When they cut their lower legs, it’s often best to treat the wound, cover it with gauze, and wrap its leg.
Horse leg wraps are used when trailering?
It would be best if you wrapped your horses’ legs for a couple of reasons when hauling the animal. Horses need to move, or their legs swell. The pressure from horse leg wraps increases blood flow and reduces swelling.
It’s advisable to wrap a horse’s legs while in transport to protect it from acute injuries. The trailer is moving and jostling the animal, and it is likely to take a bad step that could cause an injury. Wrapping the legs protects against this.
Shipping wraps should be long enough to cover from the top of the pastern to the coronary band. You can buy shipping boots that protect better against acute injuries than most wraps.
Horse leg wraps are used to keep pests off a horse’s legs.
Fighting flying insects around a horse barn are never-ending. These pests aggravate horses’ entire bodies, including their legs. Some horses pound the ground with their feet to ward off horseflies.
Striking the ground to keep pests off their legs may seem like a good idea, but the constant foot pounding can hurt a horse’s legs. To prevent these pests from irritating your horse, you can wrap their legs.
There are special boots and wraps explicitly designed to protect against horseflies. But wrapping their legs with standard standing wraps works fine.
Leg wraps enhance a horse’s appearance.
Horse competitions are typically all about winning, but there is no reason not to look good. Some trainers go all out to make their horses look special. They use stylish braiding and colorful wraps to enhance their horse’s appearance.
Using unnecessary equipment is a risk not worth taking for many trainers. Wrapped legs aggravate some horses, and if not applied correctly, can come loose during a race.
Types of horse leg wraps
There are two primary types of leg wraps for horses, and they each have a particular use.
- Polo wraps: These wraps are typically worn for support during competitions and exercise.
- Standing wraps/Stable wraps: These wraps are used to treat swelling, give support to tendons, treat wounds, and apply pressure. Standing wraps have two layers, an inner layer of padding of thick quilted fabric that helps distribute pressure and an outer layer bandage to hold the inner layer in place.
Below is an instructional YouTube video on using standing wraps for horses.
When should you wrap a horse’s leg wound?
You should wrap almost all open cuts as soon as you clean them and apply antiseptic cream or gel to prevent infection.
Once your horse’s wound is bandaged, check it daily for infection. If you notice any complications or signs of infection, call your veterinarian.
How long does it take a horse wound to heal?
Generally, horses heal relatively quickly, one or two weeks, from superficial cuts. Stitching a laceration help’s it heal more efficiently because less new tissue and skin is needed to close the wound.
But remember horses are individuals and each wound is unique so healing times vary. If you’re concerned about the time it’s taking for your horse’s wound to heal contact a veterinarian.
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I love animals! Especially horses, I’ve been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn’t make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines.