BODYWRAP BAsics: The Figure-8 Wrap


Have you seen pictures of the TTEAM bodywrap on a horse, but weren't quite sure how to put one on your own horse? Here is a step-by-step tutorial showing one way to apply the basic figure-eight version of the bodywrap. All you'll need for most horses is two regular polo wraps.


The first and smaller half of the figure-eight bodywrap helps encourage the horse to lift the base of his neck, putting gentle-but-effective input to the muscles that help to lighten the forehand and allow the neck to telescope out. This helps the horse experiment with balance and freedom of movement to find his most biomechanically efficient head and neck carriage.

A square knot (top) and a square knot with an extra twist in the first loop (bottom.)

Wrap the first polo wrap around the horse's neck so it sits where the neck and shoulder meet. Cross the two ends of the wrap and twist them in the start of a simple square knot (left over right, right over left), but then make a second twist in that left-over-right loop. Finish the knot by crossing the right end of the wrap and twisting it through to finish the knot. I find the extra twist keeps the knot from slipping and inadvertently tightening. Adjust your knot so the loop around the horse's neck is snug. You can place the knot at the front edge of the withers, the back edge of the withers or anywhere in between. Experimentation will show you which variation works best to lighten and free up your horse's forehand.


The second, and larger, loop of the figure-eight will stretch around the horse's hindquarters, generally crossing where the hind legs connect to the hip. To create this loop, attach the hook-and-loop fastener on one of the tails of the knot you tied in the first polo wrap to the corresponding fasteners on the second wrap. If your horse is comfortable being touched on his hindquarters – even under his tail area – you can simply walk carefully around the back of the horse, placing the wrap as you go. If you're not sure how your horse might react to being touched under his tail, you can drape the free end of the wrap over your horse's back, walk around the front of the horse and carefully place the wrap around his hindquarter.

Note: the horse in the photos is clearly very used to the bodywrap, so her owner can apply it while the horse is ground-tied in this closed area. Until you know how your horse will react, if you're not in a pen or arena or if you're sharing space with other horses and their people, please hold onto the leadrope while you put on the bodywrap. If your horse tends to be spooky or doesn't like to be touched, you might recruit a helper to hold the horse for you while you manage the knots and adjustments. Don't tie or cross-tie your horse while putting on the bodywrap until you are quite sure the horse won't try to move away from it.


The second loop helps connect the horse's back end to his front, providing gentle but persistent input that encourages him to move forward from his hind end instead of fall onto his forehand. To place this loop, first secure the free end of the second polo wrap to the remaining tail of the knot you tied in the first wrap. Until you're certain your horse won't react too strongly to feeling the wrap pull both on his neck and his hindquarters, tie some sort of quick-release knot - a slip knot or a bow. Once your horse is comfortable in the bodywrap, you could choose to tie a simple square knot.

You can adjust the snugness of the hindquarter loop to change the type of input the horse receives. At first, just barely snug is probably best. Later, after your horse relaxes in the bodywrap, you might want to experiment with the adjustment of this loop. A bit tighter loop might give the horse more incentive to tuck his pelvis and also tends to make the loop ride up the horse's buttocks toward the base of the tail, providing slightly different sensory input. (Beware, the wrap can move right up under the tail, a sensation that some horses react to rather strongly.) A looser wrap that wiggles more against the legs near the hocks can sensitize/energize a horse who doesn't otherwise step through. Be aware that a too-long wrap can get lodged just under the hocks, which upsets some horses, or could get stepped on or through. The soft material isn't likely to hurt the horse in this case, but it could cause a spook or bolt.

Finish by adjusting the knot between the two loops so it is centered over the horse's spine. As the horse starts to move, you might notice the knot tends to move toward one side or the other. Horses who use their bodies very asymmetrically will tend to move the knot more to one side than the other. As the horse finds his balance, you might notice this happens less and less. Until then, you might need to stop the horse periodically to re-center the knot.


Once you have the bodywrap in place, you can work your horse in hand, on a short line or longe line or free longe him.






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