Swimming For Horses
 By Winniefield Park   •   29th Aug 2016   •   1,138 views   •   2 comments

Yes, horses can swim. Most of the time they swim very well, and can travel quite a distance in the water. Swimming with horses is fun, and there are even tourist attractions that allow holidayers to enjoy horses in the water. But, swimming isnít just fun, a novelty or a tourist attraction. Swimming can be very good for horses.

Swimming is often done with race horses that get injured or are on layup. Special pools with gradual ramps, deep water and knowledgeable handlers are often located near tracks. There are a few tracks with a pool at the facility.

Therapeutic swimming can be just the thing for a horse with an injury. Just as it does for humans with tendon, ligament, bone or joint injuries, swimming provides a low impact exercise that is non-weight bearing. This means a horse can stretch their muscles without the concussive force that comes with exercising on solid ground. While swimming a horse reaches its legs further than it would if it were moving on the ground. This helps keep and perhaps increase the horseís range of motion.

Since horses that are injured are most likely preformance horses, accustomed to exercise and an active life, swimming may help them Ďblow off steamí that would otherwise be burned off pacing in a stall. A performance horse that is full of energy can easily re-injure itself when confined to stall rest. Hand walking is often recommended during stall rest, but if youíve ever tried this, youíll know that the horse is likely to bounce around and be silly. This can be difficult for the handler, and the horse can easily undo any healing that is taking place. Itís harder for a horse to act out while swimming, so a swim could be valuable for controlling that excess energy.

Swimming also helps horses stay in shape as they recover. If youíve done laps in the pool or open water, youíll know that swimming gets your heart rate up quickly. Itís the same for horses. The resistance in the water makes a horse work harder than it would on land, and this can help increase cardiovascular fitness. When a horse is confined to stall rest, with hand walking as its only exercise, it will lose muscle tone. This means it will take longer to get the horse back into work. Swimming however, can prevent muscle loss, and allow the horse to get back to its job much quicker.

As useful as swimming is as a therapy, it isnít the answer to every problem. Horses with skin problems shouldnít swim in a pool, because the chemicals can be irritating, just as they are for those of us with sensitive skin. Because a horse kicks down further with its hind legs as it paddles, it can cause stifle strain. And, itís not suitable for horses with stifle or hock injuries for that reason too. Because bone strength depends on weight bearing exercise, experts arenít sure that swimming is good for bones over the long term.

And, if you compare the outline of a horse that is carrying a rider well, to one that is swimming, youíll see that the horse is holding itself in quite opposite postures. Swimming horses have their head up, with necks and backs inverted. Some trainers feel that too much swimming can cause a horseís back to get sore. For this reason underwater treadmills can be used so the horse has a more natural carriage, while still getting the benefits of the buffering and resistance of the water.

Before you take your injured horse out to the lake or stock pond however, consult your veterinarian. Chances are a swim will be fun for you, and good for your horseís mind and body, but you donít want to cause more problems if your horse has the type of injury that might be worsened in the water.
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Valkyrie   MOD 
I worked for a racing stable with both a small pool and a water walker (as well as a regular walker). The water walker was used for horses coming into work, horses that were injured, and horses that couldn't be ridden that day. It makes them work harder while walking. They go on the normal walker before and after to warm up and warm down.

The pool was used both before and after workouts as a way to quickly warm a horse up by stretching their muscles, and by giving them a more intensive warm down as well as washing off sweat after a gallop, then they would go back on the normal walker to warm down properly.

It's also hazardous - while I was there one of the horses wrenched its head and pulled the guy leading it into the water!
  Aug 29, 2016  •  1,161 views
no longer need barn
That's so cool shame my boys hates water!
  Sep 3, 2016  •  1,102 views
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