Last summer I had a conversation with Harry Muddle, a UK pro, during a tournament at Polo Park Zürich. Harry told me that he no longer uses bandages on his ponies, opting for tendon boots only.
In polo, this almost amounts to heresy! Stops and turns put enormous strains on our ponies' legs. Surely bandages support tendons and ligaments, preventing injury?
One of the world's best players, Pablo MacDonough, has also abandoned bandages
Well, it turns out that this might not be true. Bandages certainly protect to some extent against external shocks, but do they really prevent injuries?
We all know that bandaged legs can get incredibly hot and that overheating can be hugely damaging to a pony's legs. Which is why we take care to remove the bandages after play and to cool down the ponies' legs with water or ice.
You have probably also noticed that sweat soaked bandages are incredibly heavy, which means that our horses carry around extra weight (it is worth remembering that to a horse, weight below the knee is double the burden of weight carried above the knee).
Since my conversation with Harry, I have tried to find any scientific evidence that a non-injured polo pony benefits from bandages, but I have so far been unsuccessful. If you know of any articles or research demonstrating the benefits, please share in response to this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyway, Harry suggested that I should take a look at the new tendon boots from The HUSK. Which I did, and I learned that not only has Pablo MacDonough decided to ditch the bandages, his father, Jorge, a renowned polo vet, has committed his thoughts on bandages to this article:
David Marlin, professor in physiology at Oklahoma State University provides a comprehensive discussion of boots and bandages, although not specific to polo, which can be found here:
As far as I know, leg protection is mandated by polo associations all over the world, but are bandages the best option for the performance and welfare of our ponies? I do think that more research is needed. Personally, I feel that Jorge is on to something, and intend to follow Harry's and Pablo's example this season, and I have decided to stock the new tendon boots from The HUSK: https://www.performance-polo.com/product-page/titan-3d-shield-air-total-protect-boots-set-of-4
Please share your thoughts below.