Equine First Aid Part 1 – The Basics of Bandaging a Horse

Almost everyone I know is concerned with correct bandaging techinique.     So, I am putting together a series of blog articles to help alleviate some of the anxiety you have when you bandage your horse.

  • Part 1:  The Basics
  • Part 2:  The Standing Bandage
  • Part 3:  The Shipping Bandage
  • Part 4:  The Wound Bandage
  • Part 5:  Tricky-to-Bandage Area Knee & Hock
  • Part 6:   Tricky-to-Bandage Area Forearm & Gaskin

Equine First Aid – Bandaging a Horse

Posted: March 16, 2015
bandaging the hock, equine first aid, sounded horse, equine injury, horse wound, horse shipping bandages, equi-health canada
By Jess Hallas-Kilcoyne

Bandaging - 1Just as every horse owner should possess, at the very minimum, a basic knowledge of areas of horse care such as nutrition, common illnesses, and hoof care, so too should they have at least a rudimentary understanding of the proper techniques for bandaging a horse’s legs.

There are a number of situations in which leg bandages may be necessary or advisable. Some of the most common reasons for bandaging a horse’s legs include:


  • Providing warmth and support to stiff or sore tendons and ligaments;
  • Preventing or reducing swelling after exercise or during stall rest;
  • Protecting legs from injury during exercise or trailering
  • Covering wounds to prevent contamination and facilitate healing.

Different occasions call for different types of bandages, but all equine leg bandages can be dangerous if applied incorrectly. In many cases it is preferable to leave a horse’s leg unwrapped altogether rather than bandage it improperly.

Bandaging Layers & Materials

In order to correctly bandage a horse’s leg, you must first be familiar with the various bandaging layers and their function, as well as the appropriate materials for each layer. Generally speaking, a leg bandage should always consist of at least two layers (padding and bandage), with wound bandages requiring a minimum third layer (wound dressing).

Layer 1: Wound Dressing – If a wound is present, the primary or contact layer should be a wound dressing. The appropriate dressing may vary depending on the type of wound and stage of healing, but the most commonly used wound dressing is a sterile non-adherent gauze pad.

Layer 2: Padding – The intermediate bandaging layer consists of soft, absorbent padding material to cushion and protect the limb, and to help evenly distribute pressure applied by the bandage. Roll cotton, sheet cotton, and combine cotton (also known as Gamgee™) are excellent padding materials, as are commercial cotton or flannel “pillow” or quilted wraps, which can be washed and reused.

Layer 3: Bandage – The third and outermost bandaging layer consists of the bandage itself, which secures the other layers and provides compression. There are many choices of bandage materials, including fleece, cotton, and polyester knit bandages with Velcro® fasteners, as well as flexible cohesive bandages, such as 3M Vetrap™, PowerFlex®, and Co-Flex®, which are frequently collectively referred to as “vet wrap.” Whatever material you choose, make sure the bandage is between four and six inches wide, as a narrower bandage can result in pressure points and general constriction of the limb.

Basic Principles of Bandaging

Regardless of the type and purpose of the bandage, there are several basic principles that are of critical importance when it comes to bandaging your horse’s legs safely and effectively.

1. Begin with clean, dry legs and bandages. Trapped beneath the bandage, dirt and debris can cause skin irritation and infect the wound (if one is present), while moisture can lead to a fungal infection.

2. Apply correct tension. The greatest challenge when it comes to bandaging a horse’s legs is achieving the right degree of tension. Applied too loosely, a bandage will not only fail to provide adequate support, but may slip out of place or come undone altogether. If the bandage slips and bunches, it can create pressure points on the back of the leg that can cause damage to the tendons, sometimes called a “bandage bow.” On the other hand, a bandage that is wrapped too tightly will impede circulation in the limb and can also result in a tendon injury.

The ideal tension for a correctly applied leg bandage is best described as “snug.” Essentially, the bandage should be tight enough to remain securely in place but not so tight as to restrict blood flow in the limb.

3. Make wraps smooth and even. The bandage and the padding underneath should lie flat and smooth, without any wrinkles, bunches, or ridges that could cause pressure points. Leg bandages are wrapped in a spiral pattern, and each wrap you make around the leg should overlap the preceding layer by about 50 percent to ensure consistent, even distribution of pressure.

4. Provide adequate padding. An inadequate amount of padding between the bandage and the limb can result in constriction on the limb, inhibiting blood flow and creating pressure points that can lead to injury. As a general rule, the layer of padding should be at least one inch in thickness in order to adequately cushion and protect the leg. Always make sure there is about an inch of padding showing above and below the bandage.

5. Wrap from front to back, outside to inside (counter-clockwise on left legs, clockwise on right legs). This ensures tension from the bandage is applied to the front of the leg rather than on the delicate tendons at the back of the leg.

6. Start the wrap over bone at the inside front of the leg. Never start or finish the wrap over the tendons, which may cause damage, or over a joint, as the constant movement will loosen the bandage and may cause it to bunch or unravel.

7. Wrap legs in pairs. While it isn’t necessary to wrap all four legs, standing bandages and exercise bandages should always be applied to both front legs, or both hind legs.

8. Check leg bandages frequently and re-bandage if necessary. As a general rule, standing bandages should not be worn for longer than 12 hours at a time, while wound bandages should usually be changed every day.

9. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian. If you have never bandaged a horse’s legs or are in any doubt about proper bandaging technique, ask your veterinarian to demonstrate the correct procedure and to supervise your first bandaging efforts.




Source Article:  http://www.horsejournals.com/horse-care/illness-injury/prevention/equine-first-aid-bandaging-horse, by Jess Hallas-Kilcoyne, March 16, 2015.