Sport horses are often equipped with leg boots and bandages to protect against impact and debris. It is taken for granted by riders that these are fairly innocuous pieces of equipment. Yet, it is known that an increase in tendon temperature is preliminary to tendon fiber degeneration. Repeated episodes of hyperthermia within the center of tendons exercising at maximal effort can decrease tendon cell viability and alter the extracellular matrix.
A study at the Slovakian University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy reviewed the effects of a variety of bandages and boots on equine tendon integrity [Maženský, D.; Flešarov, S. Folia Veterinaria, 61, 4: 17—21, 2017].
Sixteen sound horses were used in the study. Skin temperature was measured using an infrared thermometer in three locations of both rear and front cannon bones before and directly after a standardized exercise test.
The average temperature increases from different boot and bandage material are listed below.
The researchers speculate that skin surface temperature likely mirrors the underlying tissue, although no direct tendon tissue temperature could be measured.
The take home message is that boots and bandages do provide a significant insulating layer that minimizes heat dissipation from active tendon tissues of an exercising horse. It would be worthwhile to impart this knowledge to clients. Making them aware of this phenomenon can help educate them to remove boots and bandages quickly after exercise, and to apply ice boots or cold water hosing, if indicated.