One of the most frequently asked questions I get, not surprisingly, is about leg protection. Well, support and protection. Today I thought we'd examine what various types of wraps, bandages and boots available to us as horsemen and horsewomen. Just like about anything else related to horses, there are different options that work well for different purposes.
Personally, I prefer polo wraps for everything other than trail riding, longeing and turning out. For those purposes, I use good quality splint boots. I'm not a fan of sports medicine boots (or "SMB's") for several reasons. First, they tend to heat up and can blister a horse. Second, they tend to impinge the horse's movement below the knee as well as locking the fetlock joint. Third, it's rather easy for them to be pulled too tight and cause tendon (or ligament) troubles. Fourth, they do hold water more than any other form of leg boot or wrap. Those reasons alone make me shy away from their use.
For everyday use, a pair of high quality splint boots beats anything else. Of all the configurations, I like the interlocking velcro. I have some that use the metal links to run through, but they're a second tier choice. I like these, both by Professional's Choice:
Those boots pictured above above are very similar to my old Les Vogt Pro Equine boots that I used to swear by. I also like the Wrangler boots by Professional's Choice, and I have some Ed Bohlin boots that are my favorites these days.
My standby for most work are polo wraps, though I like them semi-thick and of good quality fleece. See a pattern here with that "Q" word? :) One of the reasons a lot of people shy away from wrapping are the tales of damage that can be done to a horse's legs. If you learn to wrap properly and never rush a wrapping job, you will never have to worry about injuring your horse by using wraps. For some folks I'll recommend using quilts under the wraps like a track or standing bandage. Doing so can help prevent binding and pinching, the most common means of injury in wrapping horses. As long as you don't tug the wrap, keeping steady pressure instead, and don't let the wrap (or quilt) bunch up, you should have no problem. Find a mentor who will teach you the correct way to wrap!
For some horses, I also use bell boots, which serve to protect the horse from over-reaching (thus they are also sometimes called "overreach boots") and can help prevent horses from pulling shoes off while our playing or working. These days the only kind I'll buy are those designed not to turn ~ even though they sometimes can and do ~ and with double velcro closures.
In all seriousness, wraps and boots offer far more in the way of protection than they ever will offer support. For all the studies done by manufacturers with claims of how well a boot or wrap supports the leg, much of that is merely a selling point to encourage the sensitive, sometimes gullible horse owner into thinking they are doing something good for their horse. In reality, it just feels good to the owner and does little for the horse in the way of support.
What should you do for your horse? If you're competing, you may well be limited on what you can use on your horse in the show pen or on course. Most high performance sports like Reining and Eventing allow for the use of protection, while Pleasure horses aren't able to do so. That doesn't prevent you from using protective boots or wraps while training, schooling or even warming up. Many of us do, as long as the wraps come off before you set foot into the show ring.
Hopefully this has been educational and you've taken something away from the advice offered here. Suggestions and input are always welcome!