Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tack 'Em Up! Protective Leg Gear

The legs of the horse are the most damage prone body part comparatively to any other part of the horse's body. The legs have no muscling or fat buildup, just tendons and ligaments. So if a horse hits the leg, or damages it in some way (another horse kicks it or the horse runs into a fence, etc.), there isn't a shield (muscle or fat) to help protect those sensitive areas. But there is hope. There are wraps and boots that can help support (although may not always prevent injury to) the legs. Those protective "clothes" include:

Polo Wraps:
Polo wraps are probably one of the simplest of all the protective gear available. These are long pieces of cloth, usually fleece that you can wrap around the cannon bone (from below the knee to a little bit below the fetlock) to help with potential light damage to the tendons and soft tissues during exercise. Polo Wraps can be used during riding, longeing, turn out, and sometimes shipping. As polo wraps have a tendency to be made from a stretchy material, it is recommended that the wrap not be applied to tightly, as that can cause more damage than good. Polo wraps come in a variety of sizes, including:

~Horse Size (9 feet long by 4 ½ inches wide),
~Miniature (5 feet long by 3 ½ inches wide),
 ~Pony (6 feet long by 4 inches wide),
~Arabian (7 feet long by 4 inches wide), and
~Draft (11 feet long by 5 inches wide)

Splint Boots
Splint boots provide support and protection for the splint bones, tendons and soft tissue of the lower leg during exercise. They also protect the leg from scraping, brushing and other working injuries. This type of boot usually has a protective strike plate over the splint area on the inside. When placing the boot on the horse’s leg, the strike plate is on the inside of the leg, with the bulbous part near the fetlock. The Velcro pieces should also point toward the back end of the horse on the outside.  Splint Boots come in small, medium and large sizes, with the medium size fitting most average horses.

Sport Medicine Boots (SMBs)
SMBs provide support and protection against suspensory injuries. SMBs are the only boots that are endorsed by the veterinary community as they absorb shock to the leg from hoof impact. They can be useful in any discipline where blunt force trauma to legs is likely, such as hitting jumps or interference injuries. Sports Medicine Boots come in small, medium and large sizes, with the medium size fitting most average horses.

Skid Boots

Skid boots protect the fetlocks on the hind legs from abrasions from the ground when a reining horses does a hard sliding stop. This type of boot comes in horse size (average) but is adjustable.

Shipping Boots
These boots are used to protect the horse’s legs during transport. Shipping boots usually reach from the top of the hoof to the knee or hock joint to ensure protection of critical leg parts. Shipping boots usually come in cob (small), medium and large sizes.

Standing Wraps
Standing wraps are used more as a band-aid, or curative treatment, than as a protective device.  The wrap consists of a “puffy” padding (sometimes called pillow wraps) that is wrapped around the afflicted area, as well as a Velcro-ed wrap that holds the padding in place (referred to as stable bandages).  Standing wraps are used for a variety of reasons. They can be used to protect the horse during travel, to protect a wound from infection, as a base (for wounds and bandages higher up on the leg), and to secure a poultice or dressing.  As with any wrap that can be stretched over the leg, there may be a greater chance that the wrap is applied incorrectly (too tight or misplaced) and therefore do more harm than good. The standing bandages are usually about 5 inches wide by 12 feet long. Pillow wraps come in 12 inches, 14 inches and 16 inches wide by 30 inches long.

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