Friday, 13 March 2015

All About ..... Bandages

Following on from last weeks blog 'All About Boots' this week I am going to talk about bandages.  Leg bandages are definitely used less now than in the past because of the fabulous new boots available.  However, some people still use them regularly and when applied correctly they still have a place.

In addition to their use for injuries, bandages can be used for warmth, protection and support.  Bandages can be used for support and protection during exercise, protection whilst travelling and warmth in the stable.

Travel/Stable Bandages.
These are similar and are made of wool or man-made fibre, they are usually 4 to 5 inches (10-12.5cm) wide and about 7 feet (2.13m) long.  These bandages should not be elasticated as these can become tight and cause ligament or circulatory issues.  

Travel/stable bandages have padding under the bandage to provide extra protection, warmth and comfort.  This is usually either Gamgee (which is a sheet of cotton-wool with gauze on either side) or Fybagee which is stronger and thicker but more difficult to work with!


Fybagee comes in pre-cut sections and can also be bought with knee or hock protection. 
When bandaging for travel it is important that the coronet and heel are covered with the padding for protection when going up and down the ramp but also for when the horse is trying to balance.  Stable bandages need to allow the horse to move around more and allow for the bedding so do not quite cover the heel.  

To put on a travel or stable bandage:

  • Tie the horse or ask an assistant to hold him. 
  • Ensure the leg is clean and dry. 
  • Pat the horse and slide your hand down his leg so that he is aware of you! 
  •  Wrap the Gamgee or Fybagee around the leg from front to back.   Ensure the edge or overlap are on the outside of the leg (not on the front or back as this can cause a pressure point).  The padding should come up over the knee and down over the coronet. 
  • Place the bandage at an angle against the leg, with the roll on top, near to the knee or hock.  You want a flap to fold down to secure the top.  The bandage should be wrapped from front to back. 
  • Flat side down you wrap around the leg firmly but not tightly, once you have gone around once you fold down the flap.  Continue bandaging overlapping between 1/2 and 3/4 of bandage.  
  • Ensure there are no wrinkles and you keep an even pressure.  
  • When you reach the bottom slightly angle the last turn down and first turn up so that you get a 'v' shape across the front of the foot. 
  • Continue back up the leg in the same way, the tapes or Velcro hopefully will end up at the outer side of the horse's leg. 
  • Velcro fastenings are good because it is much easier to have an even tension when fastening them.  The tapes are more tricky, these need to be the same pressure as the bandage and should be done up on either the inside or outside of the leg (outside is easier) NOT the front or back as this creates a pressure point.  Tapes should be tied in a bow and the ends tucked under the rest of the tape.  You can then fold the last bandage loop down to cover. 
  • To check the tension is right you should be able to fit a finger down the inside of the padding, snugly.  Bandages that are too tight will impair circulation but if too loose the bandage may come loose and slip down which the horse can then fall over!

To remove a travel or stable bandage:

  • Undo the fastenings. 
  • Quickly and efficiently pass from hand to hand as you roll around the leg.  Do not worry about rolling neatly as this will take time.  Give the leg a little massage to encourage circulation and then roll the bandage up for its next use.

Exercise Bandages (Stage III)

These bandages are not included until the BHS Stage III exam but I wanted to include them here to demonstrate the differences.  These bandages are primarily for support for the tendons and ligaments during work.  They are made from a cotton and elastic mix and are usually about 4 inches (10 cm) wide.  Exercise bandages, like the other bandages can be fastened with tapes or Velcro, however, they are usually also stitched or taped for extra security.  If a bandage became loose during work the horse could have a serious fall!

As with travel/stable bandages, exercise bandages are applied over Gamgee or Fybagee for extra padding and to make the bandages more comfortable.

Putting on Exercise Bandages:

  • The padding must be the correct size, it should fit between the knee and top of the fetlock, and just overlap. 
  • Tie the horse up or have an assistant hold the horse. 
  • As before, pat the horse and gently slide your hand down the leg so that the horse knows where you are. 
  • Wrap the padding around the leg, front to back, with the overlap on the outside.  Make sure the edge of the padding is not on the front or back of the leg as this will cause a pressure point. 
  • Place the bandage just below the knee, you should have a small strip of padding showing. 
  • As with the other bandages you want a small flap to turn down, so start with the bandage at an angle and firmly (not tightly) wrap the bandage around once before folding down the flap and continuing. 
  • The bandage should be wrapped from front to back. 
  • Overlap about 2/3 of the bandage as you wrap down the leg.  Ensure there are no wrinkles and that the tension is uniform. 
  • Bandage down until you reach the ergot, the last turn should be slightly angled down and the first turn up slightly angled up to create the 'v' again. 
  • Continue to wrap back up the leg until the end of the bandage is reached.  Secure the Velcro or tie the tapes with the same tension as the bandage was wrapped.  Secure them on the outside of the leg and again turn the top of the bandage to cover the tapes. 
  • For general schooling this fastening may be adequate, but for cross country then extra security should be used.  Tape or stitching the bandage is a good way to ensure the bandage won't come undone on the way around the course. 
  • Check the tightness of the bandage.  You should be able to fit one finger snugly down the inside. 
  • To tape the bandage use insulation tape and wrap 3 strands around the leg (ensuring you use the same tension as the bandage) near the top, the middle and near the bottom.  Spacing them equally will make them look more professional and neater. 
  • If stitching, stitch the loose end to the rest of the bandage being careful not to put the needle in the leg.  Then use a relatively large cross stitch down the outside of the bandage, from top to bottom.  You will probably have between 4 and 6 crosses depending on the size of the horse!

To remove an exercise bandage:
  • If the bandage is taped or stitched you will need to firstly cut the stitches or cut the tape.  This is where bigger stitches make it easier! 
  • Undo the tapes or Velcro and pass the bandage from hand to hand, unwrapping quickly and efficiently (you can roll it up later). 

Tail Bandages

These are used for protection when travelling as some horses can rub their tail on the ramp when in a trailer, or the side when in a box.  They are also useful to help shape and tidy a horse's tail after grooming or washing.  Sometimes tail bandages are used to keep a horse's tail up out of the way for an activity such as Polo or Cross-country!  They can be slightly elasticated.

Putting on a tail bandage:

  • Ensure the horse is tied up or held by an assistant.  If it is known to kick then it may be better to avoid bandaging the tail! 
  • Before you start check the bandage has been rolled correctly with the fastening on the inside. 
  • Pat the horse on the shoulder and then move your hand along his back as you walk towards his tail, talk to him too.  This will ensure he is aware where you are at all times and will be less likely to jump or kick out. 
  • As you reach the tail grasp it gently.  Move around so that you are standing squarely behind the horse.  
  • Place a section of bandage across the horses hindquarters (this will be your flap) with the roll on top. 
  • Lift the tail with one hand and roll the bandage under the dock (close to the top) and pass the bandage into your other hand.  This is the tricky bit! 
  • You need to roll around the tail twice before folding the flap down to secure it. 
  • As with a leg bandage ensure the pressure is uniform and continue to bandage down (overlapping by just over half) until it is just above the end of the dock (Coccygeal Vertebrae). 
  • Now begin bandaging back up the tail until you reach the end.  If the fastenings are tapes then wrap these around the tail with the same tightness as the bandage.  Secure with a bow, fold the last loop of bandage down to cover.  The tapes can be fastened at the side or back.  Side fastenings are sometimes better if the horse does rub his tail whilst travelling. 
  • You will need to take a hold of the horse's tail and slightly bend it to the shape of the horse's rump! 
  • The bandage must not be left on for too long (maximum of 4 hours), it must not be applied when wet as it may shrink as it dries - which will be too tight. 

To remove a tail bandage:

  • Undo the tapes and grasp the bandage, it can then be pulled down and over the end of the tail. 
  • Alternatively, it can be undone in the same way as a leg bandage.

To roll a bandage:

  • Any type of bandage should be rolled in the same way, so you will always know how to apply it. 
  • Don't forget to wash them if they are muddy or dirty and ensure they are fully dry before rolling. 
  • Do up the Velcro or wrap the tapes into a flat loops.  Then continue to roll the bandage the same way, with the fastening on the inside.  Keep the tension uniform so that the bandage is easier to apply next time.  Sometimes it is easier to roll it down your leg to help with the tension!

Bandaging for Injuries 

This generally involves applying bandages to more difficult parts of the horse, sometimes the hock, knee or elbow.  These types of bandage are more tricky and are difficult to describe with words.  The principles remain the same however.
  • Ensure they are not too tight. 
  • Ensure the tension is uniform. 
  • Secure them well. 
  • The bandage should be wrapped from front to back.

Bandaging takes practice, those that bandage everyday are very quick, very neat and very efficient.  Look out for future  'How to...' videos on my You Tube channel.
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