Bandages Banned on competition venues in Holland for vaulting, dressage, jumping and driving from March/April 2024
The Koninklijke Nederlandse Hippische Sportbond (KNHS – Royal Dutch Equestrian Sports Federation) recently announced a ban on bandages on all Dutch competition sites from 1st March 2024 for Vaulting and from 1st April 2024 for Dressage, Jumping and Driving. A ban is already in place for Eventing in Holland.
“The decision is based on scientific studies, which show that bandages do not provide effective leg protection and can even have a negative effect on horses’ legs. “You can’t ignore it, so much research has been done into it. It is very clear that we should stop using it. Especially because there are alternatives if you want to protect the lower legs,” says Fenna Westerduin, who manages the horse welfare portfolio at the KNHS.”
“No effective leg protection
Morgan Lashley, specialist in sports medicine and equine rehabilitation at the University of Utrecht, confirms that bandages do not provide effective leg protection. “It has been investigated whether bandages can prevent overextension of the fetlock. The answer is no, even tape does not help against this [DM – actually there are published studies showing taping can reduce fetlock range of motion – Smith et al. Equine Vet J 2002]. You can only stabilize this joint with a brace or plaster, but yes, you cannot drive with that. If your protection If you want to prevent tapping, tendon caps work better than a piece of cloth, which also entails other risks.”
“Damaged tendon fibers
The biggest problem is that the temperature of the legs rises high under bandages, which has an adverse effect on the elasticity of tendon tissue. It is sometimes compared to boiling an egg. The structure of the tendon fibers changes, which can damage them. It does not help if you cool your legs immediately after riding. “That’s like first setting your house on fire and then putting it out. The damage has already been done.” She also points out the problems that can arise if bandages are not applied correctly. “If they become loose, a horse can become entangled in them. If they are too tight or the material is not good, pressure can occur. I have even seen abroad that tendons had suffered trauma due to bandages that were too tight.”
I’ve tried to highlight the risks and benefits of using boots and bandages for over 20 years. What do we know about bandages (NB as used by owners/riders and distinct from strapping/bandaging used by vets/physios) from research?
Bandages can provide low-level protection against mild abrasions
Bandages provide limited protection against moderate blunt or sharp trauma (e.g. over-reaching, brushing)
Bandages do not support joints
Bandages likely alter limb proprioception (the sense that lets the horse perceive the location, movement, and action of the lower limb)
Bandages do not reduce joint range of motion
Bandages do not support tendons or ligaments
Overtight bandages do not support but may cause inflammation of ligaments/tendons.
Bandages can increase leg temperature compared with unbandaged limbs
Bandages may retain 50% more heat than an uncovered leg
Heat plays an important role in chronic (long-term) tendon and ligament damage and injury
Increased weight on the end of limbs changes limb motion (kinematics) – bandages can increase in weight over time due to the accumulation of sweat by between 25 to 75%.
How bandages are applied varies greatly between individuals – pressure may vary from 85mmHg/11kPa to 165mmHg/22kPa
The evidence has likely been correctly interpreted i.e. that bandaging is a risk factor for lower limb injury. BUT is this ban an example of a positive step forward? If riders won’t change behaviour, is it good that a National Federation steps in and makes changes?
- Article – Boots And Bandages – Know The Facts – A Three-Part Series By Dr David Marlin
- Webinar – Boots & Bandages, Protection & Support – Dr David Marlin
- Boots and Bandages – Part 1 – Protection and Support by Dr David Marlin
- Webinar – Boots And Bandages Part-Two – Pros and Cons by Dr David Marlin
- Webinar – Boots And Bandages Part-Three – Testing by Dr David Marlin
- Live Talk – Boots & Bandages – BD SE Keysoe 11/09/22