Have you ever wondered how to bandage a horse’s knee or hock? With a little know-how and the right materials, it’s really not as difficult as you would think!

Why bandage in the first place?

Reasons for bandaging a horse’s leg are vast and varied. We bandage to provide protection during travel, or support during work. If you’re wrapping a knee or hock, however, chances are you’re doing it for one of two reasons – to protect a wound from contamination and help it heal, or to secure a poultice or dressing.

What’s so tricky about bandaging knees or hocks?

how to bandage a horses knee or hock wellwithhorses.com

First, bandaging a joint means that getting even pressure throughout the bandage isn’t going to be easy. Also problematic is the fact that knees and hocks are meant to move and, well, you need to make sure your bandage doesn’t.

One last thing to keep in mind – be very careful to ensure that the bony prominences around these joints (like the back of the knee and the point of the hock) are well padded to guard against bandage sores. Padding should be at least a couple inches thick to provide adequate protection.

A Tale of Two Bandages:

Hocks and knees are best wrapped using one of two bandages – the spider bandage, or the figure eight. A spider bandage is best when full mobility of the leg is either not required, or not desired, as it will immobilize the leg to a certain extent (but not fully). For more mobility, a figure eight bandage is probably your best bet.

No matter which bandage you choose, always start by applying a standing bandage below the knee or hock application. This will help to keep your spider or figure eight bandage in place, as well as combat any potential swelling of the lower limb.

First, gather your supplies:

Whether you’re using a spider bandage or a figure eight bandage, you will generally need the same supplies:

  1. The bandage itself (either a spider bandage, or, if you’re applying a figure eight bandage, several long wraps – knit “track” bandages work best)
  2. Padding. Remember, this needs to be thick enough to cover the bony parts around the joint. Terry cloth towels work well, or several bandage pads
  3. Would dressing (if required
  4. Leg wrap and pad for a standing bandage below the spider or figure eight bandage
  5. Leg wrap for the opposite leg (always wrap in pairs)

How To Bandage a Horse’s Knee or Hock:

You can either apply the standing bandage for the lower limb before you start wrapping the joint or after. Personally I do it before hand, to give myself a base to work with when I move to my spider or figure eight bandage, but this is personal preference.

Next, apply any dressing or medication if needed, then cover the joint with thick padding. The padding should extend from mid-forearm or -gaskin to half-way down the cannon. You can use vet-wrap to hold the padding in place while you sort out the spider or figure eight bandage.

What you do next depends on which type of bandage you’re using:

To Apply the Spider Bandage:

  1. Place the bandage over the joint with the centre of the bandage over the front of the knee or the back of the hock
  2. Begin tying the strings together, starting at the middle (this will help hold the bandage in place while you tie the rest
  3. Tie each pair of strings in a square knot, tucking the strings of the previous knot under the one below it to avoid loose ends
how to bandage horse knee hock
Image from USPC Manual of Horsemanship

To Apply the Figure Eight Bandage:

  1. Start your wrap at the bottom of the padding. Make several wraps around the bottom to keep it in place, then work your way upward, overlapping each wrap by half the width of the bandage.
  2. If you’re wrapping the hock, pass the bandage diagonally upward over the front of the hock, take one complete turn around the gaskin, then pass the bandage diagonally downward, again over the front of the hock, and take one more complete turn around the base of the hock. This forms your figure eight. Repeat the process until you are at the end of the bandage, trying to finish at the bottom with one or two full wraps around to secure it.
  3. If you’re wrapping the knee, use the same process as the hock, but the cross-over point may be at either the front or back of the knee (and it should be opposite the side of the injury).
how to bandage horse knee hock
Image from USPC Manual of Horsemanship

How to Make Your Own Spider Bandage:

Of course you can purchase a spider bandage commercially, but in a pinch, you can make your own:

  1. Take a rectangular piece of any fabric – I’ve found using an old pillow case works best. Just cut the seams so you’re only working with one “side” of the pillow case (bonus – you can actually make two spider bandages from one pillow case)!
  2. Fold the fabric in half.
  3. Using a ruler or any straight edge, make a series of small tick marks all the way across the fabric about four inches below the fold.
  4. Working from the bottom, cut one inch strips up from the open end to the marks you made in step 3.
  5. Unfold your fabric – you now have a rectangle with “tails” extending out from either side. This is your spider bandage!

Let me know if you try making the spider bandage, I’d love to hear how it turns out!