Swimming With Horses [Video]
 By Winniefield Park   •   13th Sep 2015   •   1,505 views   •   0 comments

Horses can run fast, jump high and pull huge loads, but did you know they can also be strong swimmers, capable of traversing miles of water? Now, not all horses know how to swim right off the bat. Donít run off and buy a swimsuit for your horse, take it up the high-diving platform and expect it to know what to do. Horses have to learn, just like anyone else. If youíre going to go swimming with your horse take things slowly and be safe. Hereís a few things Iíve learned about swimming horses.

A local stable had a pool made for swimming racehorses. The owner claimed that the girls learned much faster than the boys. Young geldings and stallions didnít catch on to the idea quite as quickly as the mares, and needed to be helped. Of course, several people would be on hand if a horse sank and to steady it if panicked. Why did they swim horses? It was good exercise and because it was low impact but still required the horse to stretch and use its muscles, and it was a good way to help rehabilitate horses recovering from injuries, a bit like aquasize helps humans.

Horses donít swim like people or dogs. Ideally, we are horizontal in the water when we swim, using our arms to paddle out in front, and our legs to kick and propel us along. This is efficient for us. Trying to swim vertically just doesnít work very well, and youíre more likely to sink. Likewise, your dog swims horizontally, with itís head stretched out, itís back just below the surface and tail streaming out behind like a rudder. But, a horse swims almost vertically, like a seahorse, with just itís ears, eyes and nostrils above the surface. Underneath the water, they use all four legs in a trotting or pacing-like motion to propel them along. Youíd think that the relatively slender legs of a horse wouldnít be very efficient at moving them forward, but while they might not swim quickly, they do manage to stay afloat and can swim surprising distances.

How far can a horse swim? In my area, back in the days when stallions were taken from farm to farm to service mares, there were farms on islands in Georgian Bay. There are stories of horses being swum out to these islands, a distance of about three miles. The ponies gathered for the Chincoteague Pony Swim have a crossing that is less than a quarter miles and takes about three minutes to cross. Before the swim, very young, very old or any pony that vets deem not able to do the swim are held back.

On a hot day, you might want to take your horse for a swim. Here are a few tips.

1. Use as little tack as possible. Remove the saddle, any martingales or tie downs. Your horse needs to use its head naturally, and you donít want a lot of straps and gear you could get tangled in, or that will weigh your horse down.

2. Wear a helmet. Yep, even when swimming your horse.

3. Just as you would swimming without a horse, go with a buddy.

4. Avoid areas where there is a strong current, or you donít know the structure of the bottom.

5. Let your horse get used to the idea before heading out into the deep areas. Most horses will swim naturally, but not all will.

6. Tie something that floats to a rein or the leadrope. That way if you drop it, itís easy to find again.

7. Make sure you can swim, and wearing a personal floatation device isnít a bad idea. I heard of one instance where a horse panicked, and started swimming straight out from shore. The horse eventually drowned. If you get separated from your horse, you want to make sure youíre able to return safely to shallow water.

8. Stay clear of anything you or the horse could get tangled in - tree branches, rocks or deep mud. There can even be old car tires and other debris that could present a hazard

9. If youíre swimming with your horse, stay clear because you can get kicked.

And remember, you can lead a horse to water, but you canít make it wear a Speedo.

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