Leg bandaging for support / Hindquarter conformation

Bandages: for protection or support?

The use of protective bandages or boots on horses that strike into themselves or are at risk of injury from a fence, hurdle or another horse is a sensible precaution. What is more controversial is the use of bandages or boots to give support to a horse’s legs. The theory is that a bandage will provide support to a horse’s fetlock joints and tendons while galloping. However, the theory is not backed up by research findings. There is some evidence that certain types of bandages have a supporting effect on a standing horse, but not on an exercising horse.

There are mechanical reasons, too, why bandaging is not effective at supporting the stress of weight bearing on the tendon. Physiologically, the load applied to the tendons while galloping is along the long axis of the limb. But the material of the bandage exerts pressure at right angles to this. Also, there is some evidence to suggest that support bandaging could actually be harmful to a horse’s legs, in so far as the pressure could restrict blood circulation and lead to necrosis (tissue death).

Success rate of horses wearing bandages

Statistics show that, while bandaged horses do win races, it’s by no means a frequent occurrence. In his book Betting For A Living (Aesculus Press 2003), racing journalist Nick Mordin reports the results of a survey of two consecutive Flat seasons. Horses wearing front leg bandages won just 4.1% of the races they contested, while those with rear leg bandages fared a little better, at 6.5%. This confirms that horses wearing bandages on the Flat do not offer a favourable betting opportunity. You should not be put off, however, from backing a jumper wearing boots, as these are usually for protection only.

On the Flat, one possible approach is to look back through a horse’s form and see how it has performed in the past while wearing bandages. If the horse regularly wears bandages and has won when doing so, then there’s no reason to be put off.

Some conspiracy theorists might suspect a trainer’s motives if a horse was wearing first-time bandages in a selling or claiming race. Horses running in such races may be sold to or claimed by another trainer. If the present trainer is keen to keep him, bandages might, so the thinking goes, imply a leg problem which, in turn, might deter interest in the horse.

Conformation: hindquarters

Well-defined quarter muscles

As the horse walks past and away from you, look for powerful muscular development in its hindquarters, and also in its upper hind leg, known as the gaskin or second thigh. The main group of muscles in the horse’s hindquarters is the gluteals. These work in conjunction with the hamstring group of muscles which run from the rump down to just above the hock, and the quadriceps femoris at the front of the gaskin. Together, these muscles flex and extend the hip, stifle and hock. They provide the platform for driving the body forward, and weakness here will mean inferior propulsive power.

Powerful shoulders and hindquarters

More on hindquarter conformation next month.

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