Nearly every horse – whether its a prize-winning thoroughbred or a hardy mustang – will require a leg bandage or wrap of some kind during its lifetime.

Leg wraps are commonly used to treat wounds as well as tendon and ligament injuries. They are also useful in preventing fluid accumulation and for protecting the limbs during shipping or performances.

According to Christy Corp-Minamiji, a large animal veterinarian practicing in Northern California, not all leg wraps are created equal. In fact, if not applied properly, they may even do more harm than good.

In a recent article for The Horse, Dr. Minamiji outlined the proper bandaging fundamentals to use when treating or preventing a variety of common ailments.

Wounds:

Applying bandages to wounds and surgical incisions “can prevent contamination, provide compression to minimize swelling, hold topical medications against the wound, reduce motion of the wound edges, and keep the exudates (pus) in contact with the wound.”

As gross as it may seem, the presence of pus is actually important for wound healing. Dr. Reid Hanson, professor of equine surgery and lameness at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says that many horse owners “see exudate and assume (the wound) must be infected, and so they get their iodine scrub and clean it,” but Hanson cautions that by scrubbing a healing wound, “they’ve removed all the good juice that allows it to heal.”

Instead, Hanson recommends using a gentle wound cleanser and applying a compression bandage to help prevent fluid accumulation in the limb. He usually covers his initial medicated dressing with a thick layer of padding and secures it with wrap material. If immobilization is required, Hanson recommends using a splint or bandage cast.

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