Polo wraps are one of the oldest forms of support and protection for a working horse’s legs. When done up properly, their uniform look and striking color contrast with the horse’s coat color is very appealing. A horse with good polo wraps looks workmanlike, and if you’ve ever worked with a trainer who believes perfect groom equals success, you probably appreciate the distinction.
They’re not easy to master, however, and that’s important, because improper polo wraps can do far more harm than good. Let’s take a look at polo wraps and how they should be used.
Polo wraps, with their slightly stretchy material, are generally used to support tendons and ligaments as well as protect them from brushing and interference. In high-contact sports (like polo!) horses need that protection from sharp hooves and horseshoes. Whether they actually provide support is up for debate, but there’s no doubt that a quarter-inch of squashy material between a cannon bone and a quickly-moving hoof is an excellent idea.
Because they’re wrapped firmly, and fastened with velcro (if you’re a sport-horse trainer) or a massive safety pin (if you’re a racehorse trainer), polo wraps are a more secure choice than boots for horses performing quick, intricate movements, like dressage or reining. They’re favored at the racetrack over brushing boots because when properly applied and securely pinned, they shouldn’t slip or come undone mid-gallop, which could be a serious danger on the track.
On the other hand, because they are such a wonderful protection for the legs, polo wraps could lead to some sloppy movement while jumping, which is why show-jumpers usually opt for open-front boots instead. These boots protect the tendons and fetlocks from brushing and interference, but if the horse hits a jump pole with his leg, he’s going to know about it (and presumably be more careful next time!).
Polo wraps have to be properly applied, with even amounts of pressure along the horse’s leg, or there’s a serious risk of injury to the horse’s tendons. If you’re new to wrapping, be prepared for constant practice to get the perfect wrap, and have someone experienced check the wrap to be sure it’s not too tight (you should be able to get a finger inside the wrap at the top and bottom) and not too loose (you shouldn’t see any sagging). We recently posted on Facebook a helpful graphic depicting this, https://www.facebook.com/equine.architecture/posts/1382630545085895:0.
One of the great things about polo wraps is that when they are done just right, they actually look the part — if they don’t look perfect, they probably aren’t, and should be done up again. A sport boot might look great on the leg, but still be applying uneven pressure if one buckle is done up more than another.
Even if you don’t use them regular work, in some formal occasions, like an honor round at a dressage show, you might find that polo wraps are the normal turn-out. So don’t skimp on learning to use polos — you never know when you might need this traditional equestrian skill.