The standing wrap is the most basic bandage used on a horse, and one that every horseman should know how to do properly. It’s also important to understand when and why to bandage a horse for his optimal health and well-being.
A standing wrap—which comprises a cotton base or quilted fabric with a bandage to hold it in place and is applied to the horse’s lower leg—is used for a variety of reasons and with or without additional substances on the legs.
A standing wrap on a dry leg is the basic level. It gives your horse’s leg support, provides warmth and promotes circulation to prevent the leg from filling with fluid, commonly called stocking up. This type of application can be used if a horse tends to stock up while standing still, especially after working, or to prepare a conformation hunter who’s showing the following day.
After a dry standing wrap, the next level of support is to add a liniment directly to your horse’s leg under the wrap to help stimulate blood flow. The mildest would be rubbing alcohol or the astringent witch hazel. From there, you can step up the intensity with a specialized brand-name product.
The third level of support is a poultice under a standing wrap to relieve inflammation. Then, for certain special situations where heat is desired, you can employ a sweat. We’ll cover the specific steps of using these products with standing wraps in upcoming articles.
There’s no quick fix to properly applying a standing wrap. Although it’s not overly difficult to master the skill, applying one that’s even from top to bottom, free of wrinkles and not too loose or too tight takes practice … and more practice.
It’s vital to pay close attention to what you’re doing and to be particular about the end result. A loose standing wrap or one that’s applied too tightly or not securely enough can injure your horse.
Today, there are a variety of bandaging products to choose from, but the horsemen of yesteryear used natural products: real cotton, flannel bandages (that they often tore into strips from sheets) and bandage pins. These traditional items are still available and used by many “old-fashioned” horsemen. Most of today’s caretakers prefer synthetic quilted fabric or “no-bow” wraps and synthetic bandages with hook-and-loop fasteners for ease of use, durability and washability.
Whichever products you choose to use, make certain to understand the inherent qualities of each to ensure that you apply them correctly and for the proper situations.
In this article, I’ll show you my method for applying a standing wrap. Also, don’t be afraid to ask someone you know or trust—or who has a history in using wraps—to oversee your initial attempts and offer instruction.
Standard Standing Wrap
Traditional Flannel Bandanges
For a standard standing wrap, you’ll need an inner wrap (I’m using a no-bow wrap) and an outer bandage to hold it in place. Rubbing alcohol is a commonly used mild liniment. | Photo © Tricia Booker
If you are using a liniment under the wrap, apply it liberally to your horse’s lower leg and briskly massage it in from the knee down to the ankle to get the blood flowing. Rub until the leg feels dry, which means the liniment is thoroughly rubbed in and absorbed. | Photo © Tricia Booker With the bulk of the wrap facing away from your horse’s leg (also shown in Photo 4), place the long edge of the wrap against the inner part of the leg. The top edge is up to the knee and the bottom edge is below the fetlock. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Place your hand on the cannon bone to hold the wrap in place and begin applying the wrap counterclockwise. No matter which leg you are wrapping, you always start from the inside and go forward. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Unroll the wrap around the leg with gentle, even pressure, making sure there are no wrinkles or folds in it and that the top and bottom layers are even. | Photo © Tricia Booker
The finished wrap will be smooth with no wrinkles or folds in it and the edges of the top and bottom layers aligned. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Place the bandage on the inner part of your horse’s leg against the wrap, again with the bulk of the bandage facing away from his leg. Ideally, the bandage will start one-quarter to one-half of the way down from the top of the wrap. If you have shorter bandages, you may have to set them down lower so you have enough bandage left to wrap back to the top. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Unroll the bandage counterclockwise and downward first. Again, no matter which leg you are wrapping, always start from the inside and go forward. Use gentle and even pressure as you wrap, and apply a little more pressure with every pass around the cannon bone. Make sure to apply the pressure against the cannon bone where the bandage is positioned in this photo. Especially with the stretchy track bandages used here, don’t pull too tightly and never pull across the tendon at the back of your horse’s leg, which could cause damage. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Continue to unroll the bandage down the leg, overlapping the layers evenly. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Once you reach the bottom of the wrap, continue moving up the leg, overlapping the bandage layers evenly. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Ideally, the hook-and-loop closure should finish on the outside of your horse’s leg, however, that rarely happens. Make sure to carefully line up the hook-and-loop attachment wherever it ends. | Photo © Tricia Booker
The finished wrap. Some schools of thought say to leave a little strip of cotton showing at the bottom and top. My preference is to keep the bandage and wrap as level as possible. Too much wrap showing is an invitation to your horse to chew and pull at it. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Old-fashioned horsemen still use traditional flannel bandages with bandage pins. You apply the flannel bandages the same way you do stretchy bandages, but they have little give, so you will need to pull them tighter to keep the wrap in place. Again, when you pull them, do so against the cannon bone and never across the tendon at the back of your horse’s leg. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Then fold the end of the flannel to the appropriate length so it finishes on the outside of the leg. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Attach the first pin to the folded end, pointing toward the back. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Grab a small amount of the under bandage and twist the pin until it turns around and points forward. You’ll feel that the twist adds a little bit of tension, helping to secure the bandage. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Continue to push the pin through the under bandage and then back through the folded end. Note: I’ve finished the lower pin and am now on the upper pin. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Then fasten the pin. | Photo © Tricia Booker
This is the finished flannel wrap secured with bandage pins. | Photo © Tricia Booker
Laurie Pitts traveled with the U.S. Equestrian Team to the 1978 World Championships in Aachen, Germany, and the first World Cup in 1979 in Sweden. She now co-owns Junior Johnson Training and Sales, a Chesterfield County, Virginia-based business specializing in starting young hunter prospects. She served as the barn manager for George Morris’ first four annual Horsemastership Clinics. She also helps her local Pony Clubbers with their horse care and gives grooming and braiding clinics.
This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.