Whether you’re a weekend trail rider or an Olympic equestrian, odds are you’ve been taught that equine boots and bandages are essential devices for equine leg health and performance—but why, and which is better?
Both have their advantages when used properly. The science on how leg wraps and boots impact the inner workings of the equine leg is still emerging, but one thing is certain: Leg wraps can do more harm than good if used improperly. That’s why it’s so important to understand the differences between the two and choose wisely based on your horse’s job.
Choosing quality products is vital. Sedelogic tendon boots are designed to be custom molded to your horse’s legs, and they don’t cause overheating like other boots and wraps (more on why temperature is so important later).
Tendon Boots: Ideal for Impact Protection
Tendon boots can help support the lower leg by limiting fetlock extension and protecting the horse’s limbs from trauma and injury—especially during vigorous training and exercise. Most boots are made from leather or polyurethane, and there are different fastening systems.
Tendon boots help diffuse the force of an impact across the boot surface, reducing peak pressures that can lead to injury. They can be helpful for horses used in sports like jumping, polo, and reining, which come with a higher risk of injuries. Boots are also useful for preventing horses with large strides from damaging their front tendons with their back feet.
The jury is still out on whether tendon boots can prevent overuse injuries. Some believe boots can help protect the tendon running down the back of the horse’s lower leg during exercise, but this hasn’t been extensively studied. Conditioning, training, pacing, and shoeing are your best bets for preventing overuse injuries. That said, tendon boots are very useful for shock absorption and impact protection.
Leg Wraps/Bandages: Best for Injuries and Travel
Leg wraps are useful for injuries like cuts and gashes since they reduce bleeding and swelling. They’re also helpful for tendon and ligament injuries, as pressure from bandages reduces swelling and can aid healing.
It’s vital to evenly distribute pressure when using leg wraps. Uneven pressure can slow healing and even lead to bowed tendons. Use pillow pads under the leg wrap to evenly distribute pressure. Apply bandages with a regular overlap to avoid cutting off blood flow to the injured area.
Horses that stand in place for hours at a time can develop edema (fluid buildup) in the lower limbs. Equines are designed to be on the move all day—and movement controls blood flow. Fluid buildup can be painful and even put a horse at an increased risk of developing skin infections since edema causes the skin to become thinner and more fragile. Wrapping a horse’s legs for travel can even out the blood pressure in its legs and prevent fluid buildup.
Transport boots can also help prevent fluid buildup—and they have the added benefit of protecting a horse’s legs from injuries and trauma during travel (e.g., from getting kicked by another horse or jostled around the trailer).
Many riders place wraps on all four limbs during exercise, assuming the wraps provide extra leg support, but this idea is not really supported by research. Wraps do provide some extra protection against trauma—but less so than boots. Healthy, non-injured horses probably do not need wraps during exercise.
Temperature Concerns About Leg Wraps and Boots
Research has shown that covering the legs with boots and wraps causes a temperature increase of up to 30 percent (depending on the materials and the type and duration of exercise). This is because bandages and some boots reduce the convection process that normally cools off the legs. By contrast, the temperature of a horse’s uncovered leg does not rise much, if at all, during exercise.
Some experts suggest cold-hosing a horse’s legs after rigorous exercise if wraps or boots have been used. Allowing the heat to dissipate quickly after vigorous exercise can help prevent tendon degeneration.
Choosing the Right Leg Protection for Your Horse
The choice between bandages and boots will largely depend on which activities your horse engages in. Odds are you’ll need both at some point.
Sedelogic tendon boots are ultra-lightweight and have been carefully designed to prevent heat buildup, which, as we’ve seen, can lead to tendon degeneration. Sedelogic boots don’t retain moisture and are designed for maximum airflow, keeping the tendons cooler than traditional wraps. The tendon protectors feature a unique thermoplastic layer that can be molded to the shape of your horse’s legs. A custom fit may help reduce rubbing and slippage, which can lead to injury.
Visit our online shop to learn more about our tendon boots, horse accessories, and equine exercise equipment.