by Lindy Dekker
Body wraps can be used may be used for a multitude of purposes. To name just a few – horses that shy, that freeze, that bolt, that are too slow, that work on the forehand, that kick , that trip etc etc. The bottom line is .. When in doubt, there’s a good chance a body wrap will make a difference!
One of the main purposes of the body wrap is not to make the horse look funny, but to introduce body awareness and thus help the horse come into physical balance. With physical balance comes mental balance.
Being rather large creatures, there is often a lack of awareness, for example, in the hindquarters. This may lead to “reactive behaviour”. If a horse is not really aware of where its hindquarters are – it will easily shy at anything behind it – “just in case”. As soon as it is aware of its hindquarters and where they are, there is no longer a need to run away from anything that is not a real danger.
The body wrap may be used all over the body. As long as it is secured that it doesn’t flap – be creative. If a horse doesn’t lift a particular leg as well as it should – wrap the leg. People have been known to use face wraps, neck wraps, leg wraps etc.
Just like dogs – I think horses often feel more secure with a body wrap. Many nervous horses seem to be able to cope with challenges a lot better when they have a body wrap on. It somehow seems to help improve focus in all animals. I guess if you don’t have to constantly worry who’s behind you and you are aware of where your legs are – it is much easier to concentrate on the job at hand.
With body awareness comes better balance and so a body wrap often works wonders in helping horses get the correct canter strike off and more cadenced work.
The good news is that you can use a body wrap or so called “promise wrap” when you are riding too. Saddles often seem to create a cut off in horses (especially if the girth is tight) – splitting the front from the back. This can result in a lack of engagement and working on the forehand as well as sometimes leading to spookiness. Using a promise wrap can really help pull the whole lot together again. A word of caution – make sure that you walk AND trot your horse in hand with a promise wrap on before you mount. Horses may plod along happily and then when they start to trot they feel this whole new sensation – often leading to an initial couple of jumps or bucks. Best to get this over with before you leap into the saddle to demonstrate how effective a promise wrap can be!
A body wrap is wonderful tool – use it extensively – but always stay with your horse while it has a wrap on.
As mentioned above you can use wraps for almost anything. I shall just explain the basic body wraps we use – and then you can get creative from there.
We use elastic bandages – ACE bandages are really good for the job, but if you have some leg bandages that are also very stretchy – use them.
- Bridge Body Wrap: using two bandages. Wrap one bandage around the horse’s neck and tie a knot in it. Attach the second bandage to this knot and take it around the horse’s hindquarters. It is advisable to do this gently – always watching the horse’s reactions. It may be a good step to get an assistant to help walk the horse while you hold the wrap around the hindquarters without tying – just to get used to the idea. Make sure that you do not walk at the hindquarters (you may get kicked) but rather near the shoulder. Once the horse is no longer apprehensive – have the wrap under the tail and tie the end with a quick release knot about 40cm from the first knot on the neck wrap. This will then make the neck wrap form a bridge just behind the withers. On the hindquarters the wrap should be just below the point of the buttock and should fit snugly so that it doesn’t slide down the back leg when the horse moves.
- Figure 8 Body Wrap: This covers the same area of the horse – but doesn’t have a bridge behind the withers. Wrap the bandage around the horse’s neck – but tie the second bandage to the one end – cross this over the horse’s back and then wrap around the hindquarters as described above. Now attach the other end of the second bandage to the other end of the first bandage with a quick release knot. You then have a figure 8 across the horse’s body.
- Half Wrap: For some horses it is just too much to have the wrap around the hindquarters at first. Wrap the bandage around the horse’s neck and tie a knot. Now, instead of taking the second wrap around the hindquarters, wrap it around the girth. This wrap is very useful to help young horses get used to the idea of having things tied around the girth area – so that when they are backed – it is not such a big surprise.
- Promise Wrap: Use one bandage. Tie with a quick release knot to the stirrup straps – where the slack is tucked in. You can also tie to the billet straps of the saddle – whatever is most comfortable. Make sure the wrap fits snugly just below the point of the buttock – and remember to walk and trot your horse in hand before mounting! Remember that “less is more” so keep it short in a promise wrap – especially initially. The horse may be using muscles in a completely different way to what it’s used to and too long can cause muscle strain – which would be counterproductive. I would recommend about 10 minutes at a time initially (in a working session of an hour) and gradually build it up if necessary.
- If you would like to purchase wraps, you can contact the TTouch office on 011 884-3156011 884-3156 to order or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Lindy Dekker is a TTEAM Practitioner 2 for Horses and TTouch Practitioner 1 for Companion Animals. She can be reached at email@example.com. Lindy gives weekend workshops for Horses and organized the International TTEAM Trainings.