Know the difference. Protect your horse.
There are many options for equine leg protection—how do you figure out which one is best for your horse? To start, simply narrowing down your selection to either polo wraps or sport boots can be helpful. We’ll be discussing the pros and cons to both of these types of leg wraps to help you decide on the optimal leg protection for your ride.
Two of the most common forms of leg protection are polo wraps and sports boots. When should you use a polo vs select a sports boot? Is there ever a time to use both (or neither)? In a nut shell, polo wraps provide coverage below the fetlock and maximum stretch. Sport boots, on the other hand, are quick to put on, provide more robust protection against obstacle or leg contact.
Leg Wrap Basics
Why wrap a leg?
Before we can talk about which option is best, we’ve got to understand why you need leg protection and support for your horse.
Polo wraps offer support for a horse’s ligaments and tendons.
Exactly how they offer support is a contested and opinionated topic, but what we do know is that they warm up the muscles, ligaments and tendons allowing them to relax and stretch. In addition to protecting what is inside your horses’ legs, polo wraps and splint boots help prevent surface level injuries from overreaching, jumps, and more.
Polo wraps are not the only kind of wrap you can use for a horse.
Standing wraps are an important part of keeping your horses’ legs safe and protected during travel or after a strenuous day of work. A standing wrap has a separate, soft pillow-y wrap called a No-Bow under the thin standing wrap. The standing wrap is also longer than a polo and can even come in different lengths.
Polo Wrap Basics
Why are they called polo wraps? Well, their origins are on the polo field! Polo ponies can easily get scuffed, cut, or bruised from their time on the field. The polo wrap was designed to protect their legs.
But Polo wraps aren’t just for polo anymore—you can find them in the dressage and jumper rings.
It is also common to see them in Barrel Racing, Cutting, and Trail Riding. For example, some of my friends will wrap their horses’ legs in bright orange neon polo wraps when they go trail riding during hunting season.
Polo wraps come in a variety of colors and are made of fleece. Most polo wraps are a standard width of 5 inches, but can vary in length. It is important to note that pony wraps are a little smaller in both width (4”) and length.
The most important thing about polo wraps is proper application with consistent tension.
You should always be able to place a finger between the wrap and the horse’s leg at both the top and bottom of your polo wrap. Anything tighter may cause a bowed tendon.
Polo Wrap Pros
- Stretchy and conforms to a horses leg– if put on correctly, won’t slip like a boot can
- Creates a cushioned layer for outer protection from hooves, jumps, and nature.
- Provide coverage below the fetlock
- Consistent pressure
Polo Wrap Cons
- If not applied correctly, can cause bowed tendons or other injuries
- Hard to clean (tangle easily, need to be washed and dried)
- The rolling… so much rolling to keep them neat for storage!
- Not ideal for riding through water elements, like on a cross-country course
Here is a great tutorial from The Certified Horsemanship Association on how to properly apply polo and standing wraps.
Sport Boot Basics
While sport boots and polos may offer similar support, they differ in application and ability. A sport boot will protect a horse from things like superficial cuts or bumps from overreaching.
Some sport boots are pre-molded to a shape for support, while others wrap around your horse’s leg and create support with velcro straps.
To counteract the overheating of lower limbs, some boots even have breathable mesh or perforated neoprene.
But what kind of sport boot is right for you?
Well, first you need to know the different types:
Brush Boot: Also referred to as a galloping boot or even an all-purpose boot, depending on your discipline. These are your standard sport boots.
They aren’t molded to a specific shape, but they do generally have an outer protective layer (like leather or neoprene) and a softer inner layer like fleece, sheepskin, neoprene or even shock-absorbing gel.
They are attached with velcro. These boots usually go around the entirety of the cannon bone and can be worn on the front, back, or both. Since they are so versatile, you will see these boots in both western and English disciplines.
Splint Boot: A variation on the Brushing Boot/Sport boot and has an extra layer to provide inner tendon protection from over reaching.
Open Front Boot: This boot, also called a tendon boot, is most commonly found in the jumper ring. They are called “open front” because the front of the cannon bone is not covered.
Instead, the focus of protection is on the sides and back of the leg. These are molded to the shape of the leg, and usually lined with sheepskin, fleece, or neoprene. The outer layer can range from hard leather to plastic.
Aclassic example of an open front boot is the Eskadron boot, which comes in a variety of colors.
Ankle Boots—These are frequently worn on the hind legs with open front boots on the front legs in the jumper ring. They are molded to add protection to the fetlock area.
It is important to note that sport boots come in sizes—usually S-XL, but refer to manufacturer size charts to be certain.
Unlike polo wraps where you control placement, the sport boots are made to a predetermined and non adjustable height/width.
Sport Boot Pros
- Quick to put on and take off
- Easy to clean
- Come in a variety of colors
Sport Boot Cons
- Less control in application
- Elastic straps can stretch out over time, causing slippage
Incorrect fit can cause damage to ligaments
Whether you choose to use sport boots or polo wraps is a personal choice, but speak with your trainer as well. Some disciplines, like dressage, use polo wraps more than sport boots.
Always make sure you correctly apply your leg protection to prevent injury—these products are here to protect your horses legs, not cause harm!
Leg Wrap Recommendations
Below are some recommendations for quality leg wrap products.
|Category||Name/Brand||Price Point||Key Features|
|Polo Wrap||Professionals Choice||$||Tons of colors to choose from, most common brand|
|Elastic Polo Wrap||Saratoga Bandages||$$||Breathable, silicone helps the bandage stay put|
|Brush Boot||Woof Wear||$$||Durable and affordable!|
|Splint Boot||Classic Equine||$$$||Leather strike pad with sleek design for show ring or at home|
|Open Front||Eskadron FlexiSoft||$$$$$||Protective plastic outer shell, with cushion interior|
$0-25 ($), $25-50 ($$), $50-75 ($$$), $75-100 ($$$$), $100+ ($$$$$)
Professional’s Choice Polo Wraps
This classic set of four polo wraps can be easily found in tack stores across the country. Manufactured by a trusted brand, these polo wraps stand up to years of use (and washing!)
- A variety of patterns and colors to choose from
- Quality Fleece
- Will pill after numerous washings
- Can curl at the edges after wear
Professional’s Choice Saratoga Bandages
If you are looking for something similar to a polo wrap but live in a warm climate, these bandages may be a good option. Think of these as a polo wrap meets an elastic bandage! An added bonus? They can be used for exercise or as a standing wrap.
- Only holds 2-3oz of water when wet—so ideal for cross country and trails
- Silicone strips prevent slipping
- If you do not compensate for the give of the elastic, you can easily wrap too tightly, causing more stress than support
Woof Wear Single Lock Brush Boot
This all-discipline boot is made from closed-cell neoprene making it really easy to clean! These boots are known for their durability and versatility in an affordable package.
- Tons of colors to choose from
- Can be used on front or hind legs
- Not very breathable, so it can make the leg very warm
Classic Equine AirWave Splint Boots
By mixing the ease of brush boots with a quality leather strike pad, the AirWave splint boot is the best of both worlds. This boot can play nice both in the training ring or in the show arena.
- Easy on and off application
- Sizing is a little off—double check size chart and read the reviews prior to buying
Eskadron FlexiSoft Open Front Boot
Anatomically-shaped boots featuring neoprene for easy cleaning. The hard, durable exterior offers protection while the soft, flexible interior is designed for comfort.
- Flexi-Soft section at the top gives horse more freedom of movement
- Lightweight and protective
- Tons of color options!
- Can be hard to clean the interior
Now that you are armed with information about all the styles and uses for polo wraps and sport boots, you can make the decision of what option is best for you and your horse! If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to ask your trainer for advice before purchasing.
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