They’re old. They’re new. They’re plain. They’re psychedelic. And they’re everywhere — in virtually every discipline. What are they’ Polo wraps. These nifty leg wraps are used to protect your horse’s legs when you work him. They’re also used just so you can watch your horse’s legs better in a mirror or just to make a fashion statement. They’re also easy to apply.
Polo wraps aren’t regular stall wraps, although some people are hard-pressed to decide which is which.
Aside from an eye-catching appearance, polos offer some protection to the lower leg from nicks, hits and rubs. Horses that tend to “run down,” meaning their fetlock contacts the ground and can be scraped when galloping may get sufficient protection from polo wraps.
As for actual leg support, you’ll find a wide range of opinions from polos being terrific support to their being so soft and stretchy that they provide no support. What they can do, though, is help hold the tendons and ligaments in good alignment so that they’re protected to some extent from sudden shifts in position and overstretching. If you’ve ever had a sore tendon or joint and used an elastic wrap you have some idea of how they can indeed improve comfort.
In addition, when the horse has a sore/wound/abrasion, polos may be a better choice, at least until the area heals, as they’re less irritating than most boots on a sore.
Improperly applied polo wraps can be a problem. If they’re too loose, they’ll slide down the leg. They can also come undone. Even when properly applied, if they become wet or heavily coated with mud, the weight can drive them down. If applied too tight, you risk constricting blood flow and causing a “bandage bow.”
Basically, polo wraps for exercise are applied similarly to cotton or nylon wraps applied on top of stall cottons. Most people apply polos without any cotton underneath, but a thin layer of sheet cotton may also be used. The sheet cotton can actually complicate things because you have to be as careful of wrinkles in the underlying cotton as you do in the polos.
Polos must be applied tight enough to stay up but not tight enough to compromise blood supply. Always begin the wrap with the end against the cannon bone, not over the suspensory or the tendons, wrapping toward the outside when crossing the front of the leg. Keep some tension on the wrap during application but use less forceful pull on the wrap when crossing the tendons than you do when crossing the cannon bone. The key to safe and effective application is even pressure.
Start the wrap at about halfway down the cannon bone. The precise point will depend on the horse and the wrap you’re using, so you’ll have to experiment. You want the wrap to finish with a layer just under the knee. Wrap down toward the ankle, encircle the ankle, the work your way up to the knee. Overlap the previous layer by about half of its width.
Check to make sure the wrap is lying smoothly, with absolutely no wrinkles or gaps. It should be tight enough to rest right against the skin but not tight enough to indent the skin. After completing the wrap, a piece of tape can be used over the Velcro closure for added security.
There’s a tremendous difference between brands in the amount of support/compression the polo wrap supplies. Wraps made of nylon only aren’t much different from stretchy stall wraps. Other materials improve the “hold” of the wrap. Watch for our upcoming reviews of standing bandages and polo wraps.
In order of strength of support, from least to most, it’s Lycra, neoprene, rubber. Wraps billed as “brace bandages” rather than polos tend to provide more support and hold, but you’ll have to check to be sure.