Horse First Aid – Bandaging
Incorrectly applied horse bandages can be dangerous and in many cases it would be preferable to not bandage rather than have the bandages applied incorrectly. If you are in any doubt about how to apply bandages correctly then we would always advise speaking with your veterinary surgeon to ensure that bandages are applied correctly.
There are a number of reasons your horse may require bandaging - common reasons include; supporting stiff or sore tendons/ligaments as well as maintaining warmth, reducing or preventing swelling post exercise, injury prevention during exercise or travelling, wound covering to prevent infection and promote healing.
Bandaging will usually consist of a number of layers which serve a specific function:
Primary Layer – where a wound is present this should be a suitable wound covering. The type of wound covering will depend upon the type of wound but generally speaking these will be non adherent eg. Melolin and will often contain ingredients which promote healing. Some will contain ingredients which ‘draw’ from the wound.
Padding Layer - an intermediate layer which cushions the area and ensures that the bandage pressure is distributed evenly across the area. Generally consists of a soft absorbent padding material. Cotton wool, Soffban or Gamgee are commonly used. When used purely for travelling etc then re-usable leg pads can be employed for this purpose.
Bandage Layer – the final layer secures the previous layers and provides compression. Cohesive bandage such as Easitape or Vetrap are commonly used though fleece cotton bandages are also available.
Before bandaging it is vital to ensure that the area to be bandaged is clean and dry – debris can lead to skin irritation whilst moisture can result in fungal infections etc. The next key aspect to bandaging is to ensure correct tension. Too tight and the bandage will impede circulation and can damage tendons etc. Too slack and the bandage will fail to provide adequate support, may come off altogether or slip and bunch. This can result in pressure points which again may impede circulation and cause tendon damage.
Wraps should be smooth and even – ensure there are no bunches or wrinkles which could result in pressure points. All layers should lie flat and if leg wrapping this should be done in a spiral fashion with 50% overlap between layers to ensure even distribution of pressure. In terms of padding you need to ensure adequate cushioning for the limb to prevent constriction by the final bandage layer – as a general rule at least an inch thick layer of padding should be used with an inch showing above and below the final bandage layer. For left leg wrap anti-clockwise, for right legs wrap clockwise – this will ensure tension is applied to the front of the leg rather than the tendons at the back. The wrap should start and finish over the bone as this should prevent the wrap loosening due to the constant movement on the joint.
If applying bandages for travel or exercise then horses limbs should be wrapped in pairs. Once bandages are applied they need to be checked regularly and re-applied as necessary. In any case bandages should be changed at least every 24hrs.