Since the early days of polo, bandages, or polo wraps, have protected the legs of polo ponies, and leg protection is mandated by the HPA (all four legs) and the USPA (mandated for the front legs, recommended for the hind legs) (Note 1).
With practice, bandages are relatively easy to apply, and they offer protection against impacts, abrasions and cuts. However, a growing body of research shows that bandages cause overheating of the horse's tendons, which in turn may damage cells inside the tendons, leading to deterioration of tendon. Equine scientists hypothesize that this is the leading cause cause of lameness.
1) Overheating of tendons
"Superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) injuries are among the most common causes of
lameness in performance horses, especially polo ponies. It is thought that tissue damage chiefly occurs due to chronic (i.e. long-standing) overheating of tendons during and after exercise rather than an acute injury." Dr Hannah Anderson BS, BVM&S, MRCVS of Waterlane Equine Vets
2) Bandages increase tendon temperature
On a bare leg, convection removes the heat created by exercise. Bandages, on the other hand, retain heat and various studies have shown that bandages cause the temperature on the surface of the horse's legs, as well as the temperature inside the tendons, to rise higher during exercise, compared to bare legs. The lower legs have few blood vessels to provide heat dissipation, and high temperatures may therefore be sustained for a long time after exercise (hosing down or applying ice boots soon after chukkas remain the only effective means of removing heat from the legs).
3) HUSK boots restore convective cooling, and provide effective impact protection
The HUSK boots are made from a 6D material, which allows air to flow over the skin, removing heat in the same manner as air removes heat from a bare leg.
This keeps the legs cool and dry during exercise and limits the maximum temperature inside the tendons, while providing impact protection at least comparable to that provided by bandages, if not better.
4) What about tendon support?
In polo, it is often claimed that bandages provide support to the horse's tendons, but there doesn't appear to be any scientific evidence for this claim.
In the case of a healthy horse with no existing tendon injuries or conditions, the use of bandages may have limited or negligible benefits in terms of providing support to the tendons. Healthy tendons in horses are already designed to withstand the forces and stresses of regular locomotion and exercise.
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5) Other benefits of the HUSK boots
The cooling effect of the HUSK 6D Air boots also keeps the skin dry.
The application and removal of HUSK boots is much faster than bandages, and they are decidedly low maintenance.
Perhaps most importantly, whereas bandages can quite easily be applied too tightly (especially in inexperienced hands), this risk is eliminated by the HUSK boots.
HUSK boots reduce the risk of heat induced cell damage and long term tendon and lameness issues. Click the links below to improve your horses' leg health:
1) HPA rules, para 3c: "Ponies must be protected by bandages or boots on all four legs"
USPA rules, para 6c: "Protection of the pony by boots or bandages will be used on the front legs and is recommended on the hind legs"