The answer to that question will all depend on what you are using the boot or bandage for, the ambient temperature, and the intensity of exercise. Although they will protect your horse from minor bumps, abrasions, and brushing, they are not likely going to protect the tendons and ligaments like many of us grew up believing. In fact, wearing wraps or boots might actually cause more damage during strenuous exercise than without.


A group of horse science program researchers from Middle Tennessee State University wanted to learn more about the effect of boots and wraps on the temperature of horse limbs. Their findings were presented at the 2021 Equine Science Society Virtual Symposium finding that wraps and bandages increased the temperature of horse limbs to potentially damaging temperatures.

In the lower leg, the core temperature of the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) is 5.4°C higher than that of the skin. Because the SDFT is hypovascular (lacking blood vessels) there is minimal heat loss via the bloodstream, thus it relies on convection to cool the limb (where heat is carried away via moving air). When the lower limb is wrapped, convection becomes severely limited or prohibited, and the heat in the limb can increase by as much as 30%.

Considering cell death occurs above 42.5°C, and cells are negatively affected at or above 40°C for five minutes or more, and especially because the SDFT is over 5° hotter than the surrounding tissue, convection cooling is critical.

A horse’s bare limb is highly efficient during exercise, both in its aerodynamics and and its ability to self-cool through convection.

Polo wraps were ultimately the worst for holding in both heat and humidity, but neoprene boots weren’t much better.

To Bandage or Not to Bandage

New in 2024, the Dutch Federation has decided to ban leg bandages at and during competition and in the warm-up, citing that they don’t prevent over-extension of the fetlock, and because of the potential damage caused by heat. (Shipping and stable wraps are not affected by ban.)

Morgan Lashley, specialist in sports medicine and equine rehabilitation at the University of Utrecht, stated “The biggest problem is the temperature increase under bandages, which has an adverse effect on the elasticity of tendon tissue. Compare it to boiling an egg: the structure of the tendon fibres changes, which can damage them, and cooling the legs immediately after riding does not help. That’s like first setting your house on fire and then putting it out. The damage has already been done.”

When it comes to booting or bandaging your horses at home, it’s worth weighing several factors, not least of all ambient temperatures and exercise intensity. Brushing boots serve a purpose to protect the fetlock and lower leg from brushing, but short of protecting the lower limb from minor scrapes or abrasions, it’s worth reconsidering whether boots and bandages actually serve a function beyond aesthetics. The science simply does not support it. If there are biomechanical issues that risk interferences or self-injury, it’s worth consulting your farrier and veterinarian.

Coming soon: We’ll explore ways to strengthen tendons and ligaments of the lower limb, and reduce risk of injury. Follow on Facebook or Instagram for updates.


An interesting outcome of the 2021 study was that regardless of whether lower limbs were wrapped, booted, or bare, they did not return to their baseline temperatures within 180 minutes post exercise. This certainly elicits a curiosity for deeper study, but also that it may be a good practice to have additional cooling/aftercare strategies in place to aid in recovery, such as cold hosing or ice boots for cooling, and light therapy or PEMF to promote circulation, alleviate any inflammation and quicken recovery after strenuous exercise. (Note that wrap-style light or PEMF devices will hold in heat).

A PEMF coil delivers healing potential without trapping in heat.


The Middle Tennessee State University study published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science:

You can find an explanation of the results from that study here:

Read this article from Horse Sport for another thorough breakdown of the findings:

Info on the Dutch Ban and reasons behind it:

A summary of the efficacy of protective boots for tendon support:

A study on efficacy of protective boots to prevent over-extension of the fetlock. Note: this study was only performed at the walk and trot on a treadmill, hardly simulating competition-level intensities:
*This at least demonstrates that supportive boots may be beneficial for horses recovering from a tendon injury.

A comprehensive look into boots and bandages: