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Summer finally seems to be here. With the warmer weather and clean, dry legs, it’s the perfect time to pull out your matchy bandages and go riding. But is this the best thing for your horse? After stumbling across a social media post from a vet last week I thought it was important to share these ideas.
Matchy craze has brought bandages back
I feel if it wasn’t for the matchy craze, bandages probably wouldn’t be as popular as they are today. There are so many fantastic boot alternatives out there now which are easier and potentially safer to use on the market. This makes me think that it is the style and the fashion of a matching bandage which draws the majority of people in. In a previous post I looked into whether the exercise bandage is outdated.
What is the problem with bandages?
Lack of research
The biggest issue with bandages is that there is so little research into the effect that they have on the horse’s limbs. It is common opinion that bandages can protect and support the limbs while working, but there is actually no research to back these ideas up.
While it is fairly reasonable to assume that a bandage will help protect the horse from minor injuries such as a knock. It is much harder to argue that they support the limb. In fact an article on TheHorse suggests that it is hard to even suggest where this support is coming from, let alone how this works.
While there isn’t a huge amount of research into the use of legware in horses, we do know that hot tendons are injured more easily. Horses limbs have developed over the generations to be able to keep the tendons cool to help prevent injury. Wrapping them in fabric traps a lot of this heat in, which in turn leads to the tendons warming up.
Due to the lack of research into this area, it is hard to decide if the potential protection a bandage can offer the horse is worth the risk of heating the tendons or not.
Finally, poor bandaging technique can damage the horse. Too loose and you run the risk of them coming undone or sliding down the leg. Which during exercise could be incredibly dangerous. If you bandage too tightly or too much over a joint, you could not only damage the structures over the bandage, but cut off blood supply and alter the horses natural gait, potentially putting strain elsewhere.
So should you use bandages?
I think this really depends on your horse and your own bandaging ability. If your horse doesn’t need the protection, then I personally don’t see the point in taking that risk on a regular basis. A one off for fairly low level work is a bit different.
If you know how to bandage correctly and are confident doing so, I would continue doing what you are doing. But I would consider the temperature and level of work the horse is doing. On a hot day I would be a bit more wary about deciding to bandage and if my horse really needed that protection, I would be tempted to go for a protective boot which tend to be a bit cooler than a bandage.
If you aren’t too confident in your bandaging but your horse needs some level of protection from injuries such as clipping themselves with their hooves or over jumps, then I would be looking at boot alternatives. Plus Le Meiux have just started doing matchy brushing boots for some of their matchy sets!