Choosing to protect your horse’s legs with wraps or boots can help prevent injuries and support delicate tendons and ligaments in strenuous work. The vast number of options in leg protection can, however, be overwhelming to the inexperienced horse person. It is also very important to make sure your wraps and boots are applied correctly and fit well, so that you don’t inadvertently cause your horse injury. In this article we will explore the different options in leg protection and when to use them.
Polo wraps, so-named because of their long history on the polo field, are soft, slightly stretchy wraps usually made of synthetic fleece. They offer some support to the fetlock joint and suspensory ligaments but very little protection from knocks or brushing. When using polo wraps it is important to wrap them tight enough that they won’t slip down but not so tight that they compromise circulation and cause injury. The general rule is that you should be able to slip two fingers in the top of the wrap. There is also another type of bandage similar to the polo called a track bandage. Track bandages are more elastic than polos and offer better support. Polo wraps can be used for any discipline but are not recommended for trail or cross country, because of the high likelihood of slippage if they get wet.
Splint boots, also called brushing boots, are simple neoprene or plastic boots designed to protect the fragile splint bones from impact. They offer no support to the leg. These boots are commonly used for schooling when the rider is practicing lateral movements, such as leg yielding or turning on the hindquarters, because they protect the horse from accidentally kicking himself. Open front boots are also used to prevent the horse’s legs from impact, but are open on the front of the cannon bone, so that if the horse knocks a rail while jumping he feels it and is deterred from hitting the rail again.
Sports medicine boots, or sport boots as they are sometime called, offer both support and impact protection. They are made of limestone based neoprene, which a small percentage of horses are allergic to. They absorb concussion and offer the most support to tendons and ligaments, as well as moderate protection from knocks and brushing. Like polos it is important to make sure sport boots are not too tight, or they will cause injury to the leg. Sport boots are suitable for most any discipline.
All of these wraps and boots are for use during exercise and should not be left on a horse in the stall. Exercise caution if you choose to use leg protection for turnout; if your boots slip your horse could be injured. Ask a trainer or experienced friend to teach you how to properly apply your leg wraps and boots and make sure to buy the correct size for your horse’s legs.
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