Are Polos safe to ride in?

Updated: Mar 10

Equestrian sports are one of the toughest sports out there & like most athletes, Equestrians try to provide the best protection for their horses. There are many different options for Equestrians to choose from, some include, Splint Boots/Sport Boots, Polo wraps, Tendon Boots, & Fetlock Boots. No matter what protection is used, the horse & its needs should always come first.

“It’s important because a horses’ legs are its foundation & they need to be kept safe,” said Hailey Elmquist, a 4H member from Larimer County.

Splint /Sport boots, Tendon Boots & Fetlock Boots are all pieces of leg protection that are made of synthetic materials such as Neoprene or traditional materials such as leather. They usually attach by a wide velcro fastening. These boots are to be more durable & stronger when used in heavy exercise & competition. However, these types of boots tend to be on the expensive side of the spectrum.

“ I use the Classic Equine Sport boots for my horse because it supports his legs really well,” said Renee McCray, a student & equestrian at Berthoud High School.

In contrast, Polo wraps are thin strips of fleece made to wrap around the horses’ leg for protection & they too, attach with velcro fastening. Fleece can be quite stretchy when compared to other forms of protection. They also allow airflow to the horses’ legs during exercise. Polo wraps are on the more inexpensive side of the spectrum, as many horse owners can make this type of leg protection for their horse at home.

“I’m able to manipulate the polos in the way that I would like & in the way that best fits my horse in order to have the best possible protection,” said Kaylee Brown, an active member in 4H & Berthoud’s Equestrian team.

Although all forms of horse leg protection serve one purpose, they do have their downfalls. Leg protection made of heavy-duty materials ( Tendon, Fetlock & Splint Boots) often restrict the horses’ leg from getting proper ventilation. This means that the tendons in the legs will sweat & with intense exercise, will dehydrate the tendons as well as the horse; no legs, no horse.

Similarly, Polo wraps can also do more harm than good. Horse owners & riders should know how to properly wrap a horses’ legs before using or purchasing polos. When wrapped too loose, they are ineffective & unravel easily. When they’re wrapped too tight, it can cause damage to the tendons or in worse cases, circulatory disturbance with the limb. Polo wraps can also sag when they absorb water or excess sweat, which can also cause the wraps to unravel & become unsafe.

“They constrict & they are just not as supportive. I don’t not like polos, they are just not my first choice,” said Renee.

Personally, I don’t think polo wraps are safe to ride in for the plain & simple fact that, they are not as durable other forms of leg protection. Polo wraps are thin to maximize airflow to the horses’ legs & with that, comes lots of people in the horse industry that are uneducated on the proper use & function of Polo wraps. They have to be wrapped in a specific way in order for the horse’s leg to be properly protected, lots of people don’t know the proper way to wrap their horses’ legs & are cause damage to their horses’ without even realizing it.

I find that Splint boots are much easier to work with, application-wise, & provide the right support & protection my horse needs, as well as being high quality & durable. Yes, leg protection made of heavy-duty materials can dehydrate your horses’ legs, but this can be avoided when a horse is properly hydrated & given electrolytes when needed.

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