Bandages or tendon boots?

Do bandages really prevent overstretch tears such as ligament sprains and tendon bows?  They do  provide minor protection from interference injuries and other blunt force trauma or abrasions however they are not there for support as many people think they are.  You may use the argument that ‘my horse has worn bandages all his life and he is fine’ however some horses are more predisposed to the injuries than others.

What they can do is provide irreparable harm to nerves and other tissues when they are unevenly or too tightly wrapped, and can cause accidents if they are too loose.  When the core temperature in a tendon reaches a certain level, the tissue begins to degenerate and therefore means that the tissue cells begin to die.If this happens the tendon is weakened, and therefore are more vulnerable to further injury such as major tears.  It also allows the fibres to stretch beyond their normal range until it finally snaps.   This is the direct result of wearing wraps or boots during exercise and is regardless of the overall body temperature.

Research has shown that actual support of tendons and ligaments from wraps and bandages is virtually insignificant, so the main reason for using them is for protection from over-reach and interferance injuries, bumping jumps, fetlock burns and the like.

Could ventilated boots therefore be the answer?

The horses legs are covered by very tough, unflexible skin and have unbelievably strong lateral support ligaments so ‘going over’ on their ‘ankle’ doesn’t happen.   Forces on the tendon from back to front or up and down cannot be helped at all by bandages/boots. There is nothing which can be put on their legs that can seperate the digital flexor tendons and prevent strain unless you banadge/boot up so tight it restricts the fetlock movement which is not highly advised.

All bandages and boots should be left off as much as possible.   If tendons overheat they can undergo tissue death if the critical heat threshold is exceeded and that can lead to months of box rest and rehabilitation.

The only way to prevent overstretch injuries is by adhering to a program of conditioning and skill exercised in order to strengthen the ligaments, tendons, and muscles. It is a mistake to think that boots or wraps will prevent these injuries, because they won’t.

Please provide me with your comments on this blog and your opinions on tendon boots/bandages.

Thank you.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Paul on March 31, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Great blog and answers some of the questions I had about horses tendons, boots, bandages, tissue, muscles etc. What’s your opinion on horses rugs?


    • Horse rugs are clearly something that is needed for warmth and protection however it should be a well fitted rug as poor fitting rugs can cause tight muscles and sores around the withers and chest. This can interfere with the saddle and therefore riding will no longer be an option. In addition to this if a rug is too big it can be dangerous for the horse in the event that he gets his legs caught in the straps. There has been cases of broken legs as a result of this and the horse has to be put down. I hope that answers your question, if anyone has any further comments on the matter, please let me know. Thanks.


      • I think you’re right about fitting rugs correctly, but I also think we tend to over-rug, and over-clip, horses who are not in heavy work. Horses are better able to control their own body temperatures if they have fewer rugs and more hair. I think we forget that they have their own air-conditioning system when they’re not clipped, and we tend to rug them as if they were hair-free humans. I work with some horses who are hacked out twice a week, have a full or hunter clip, and wear heavy rugs as soon as they are clipped. To my mind this unnecessary. Cx

      • Yep i definitely agree and I myself have been guilty of over rugging in the past. We do need to be particularly careful about over rugging especially the warmbloods and the warmer horses. We tend to base it on how we feel (despite the fact that we dont have the same air conditioning system!) and how cold we are which I agree is not the right thing to do. Thanks for the comment! x

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