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REPOST: Polos Vs. Wraps

* This is a repost from my previous blog

Ohh the age old debate that fuels arguments world wide; Wraps Vs. Boots.  You may find that about 90% of people say boots are better, and that's fine.  I'm a firm believer in "each to their own", especially when there is little scientific proof to back it up.  I am going to touch on the most common uses in English.  I will say i'm personally in the middle, because for me it's entirely dependent on the situation and i'll tell you why..

Boots
Firstly, there are a variety of different types of boots.  In Dressage, we most commonly use a softer material, lined in something with moisture-wicking properties.  They typically cover the inside of the fetlock, but only partially cover the outside.  The fabric is typically softer due to the joint angles required in Dressage, and we need to encourage as much freedom as possible while still providing protection.  The most common leg injury sustained to Dressage horses besides tendon strain and over reaching, is called brushing.  Brushing occurs when 2 legs rub together, and as a result these boots are often referred to as "brushing boots".  It's important to note, in Dressage and English Flat classes, leg protection (boots OR wraps) are not permitted.
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Secondly, we have Jumping Boots.  Jumping boots are almost always made of a stronger material such as leather or hard plastic.  They're often lined in something similar to that of Dressage type boots, though some (like the ones shown) use neoprene.  They are often designed to be "open front", as many have the theory that they don't want to protect the front of their horses legs from poles because it will encourage them not to touch them.  Because Jumpers tend to over stride exponentially to cover more ground, the harder material is beneficial for protection, primarily, of the hind legs hitting the front legs or vice versa.  It's important to note, in Hunters boots are not permitted, however in Jumpers they are.



Wraps

Rarely do people jump their horses in wraps because they typically feel they are more likely to unravel and can potentially trip the horse.  I personally recommend those who so choose to jump in wraps pay close attention to the possibility of this, and perhaps take extra precaution by taping or pinning them.  That being said, they're very common in Dressage/English Flat for schooling and training.  First, we will discuss the basic polo wrap..
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Polo Wraps are typically made of fleece and range in length depending on if they are Horse or Pony size.  They provide more freedom to the horses legs and joints, and are more comfortable for the horse to wear as a result.  They are not designed for inexperienced riders as there are many dangers that go along with their use which can damage the horse's legs.  Also note here, the use of Bell Boots (shown around the pastern), to prevent damage to the coronary band (hinds) and heels (fronts).

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In higher levels of Dressage, you often see this form of padding under the polo wraps.  These pads, or "liners", are particularly useful when schooling certain Dressage movements.  They are extremely handy if you have an overly eager horse, and provide even more freedom to the person wrapping.  For example, if you know you are going to school excessive lateral work, you may choose to place the liners higher up to protect the knees from knocking into each other should your horse loose balance during the maneuver.  You may also choose to place them lower if you are schooling movements where your horse is more likely to over reach (such as lengthens and extensions).  They also provide more protection in general from brushing as previously mentioned.  Liners also promote better airflow.

Pro's & Cons to Boots

Pros:
  • Simple, quick and fast to put on
  • Easy for beginners to use
  • Most are easy to wash and store
  • Ample variety (material, colour, etc)
  • Typically provide more protection for hind leg striking a front leg due to the stronger material
Cons:
  • Depending on the exterior material, they can become hot on the horses legs
  • Limited tendon support for over extension, etc
  • Typically expensive for relative quality
  • Most don't stand up to regular washing and become tattered
  • Restricting on joints
  • Some types don't mold to the leg well, and when they do are only suited to one horse

Pro's & Cons to Wraps

Pros:
  • Provides more over all protection to the tendons and bone structure
  • Easy to wash (if you have time to spend untangling!)
  • Ample variety (colour)
  • More option for protection customization (with our without use of liners)
  • Provides more freedom to joints
Cons:
  • Can cause damage if wrapped incorrectly
  • Provides less damage from striking of hind feet (even with liners)
  • Over tightening can cause 'cording', which indicates a lack of bloodflow


Now for my generalized opinion... I personally use wraps, boots and go 'naked legged'. It honestly all depends on how much time I have that day, what I intend to work on, and so on.  When it comes to what I feel is generally best, i'm part of the 10% that feel wrapping is the best option.

Wrapping gives me enough freedom and pliability to accommodate my horse and my plans for that day and I personally feel they provided a better 'overall protection'.  That being said, some days I am running short on time, feeling lazy or just intend to do a 'simple' stretchy ride, and therefor put my brushing boots on  where as other days I ride him 'naked legged' since - after all - on show day you can't use boots or wraps.

​At the end of the day, people do what they feel is best for their horse but I strongly encourage everyone to really consider the bio-mechanics and pros and cons for each option to provide the best possible care and protection for your horse.  It's important to remember that leg protection also needs to protect more than just the tendons that run behind the cannon bone from the accidental striking of a hind foot. We also need to consider brushing, over reaching and over extension to name just some of the most common injuries occurring during riding.. it is because of this that I personally choose the utilize Wraps, and I will often use liners when I feel they're needed.

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