Horses naturally know how to swim, and they move their legs similar to trotting to advance in water. They Float then move in a forward direction. They cannot Submerge their heads, and their ears cannot be submerged without the possibility of Ear Infections. They will Tire Easily and Can Drown if Distance is too great.
Swimming is an excellent aerobic exercise for horses and can be recreationally and for fitness and rehabilitation purposes of building or rebuilding muscle mass and strengthening tendons.
How do Horses Swim?
It is believed that this capability stemmed from the day when they lived in the wild and when crossing rivers was necessary to escape dangers or reach new pastures. It was simply a part of their natural movements in nature.
When a horse is submerged in water, its body will stay afloat as long as it keeps forward momentum, and it will instinctively lift its head over the surface to breathe. The legs will typically move in a paddle-like manner to maintain balance and stability in the water.
Because of the natural resistance the water provides, swimming is physically tiring for a horse, and it is common for them to breathe heavily during this type of exercise.
It is important to be aware that horses cannot hold their breath in the same way we can. This means that if the horse’s head ends up underwater, drowning is quite high.
Therefore, it is important not to rush the process of getting a horse accustomed to water and swimming. Because of the particular anatomy of the horse ears where there is no lower passage that water can drain through, it is important to avoid water getting into this cavity. It could cause discomfort or even lead to an ear infection.
Are Horses Afraid of Water?
Horses are individuals just like us, and even if they have an instinct to swim when they get into deep water, this does not necessarily mean that they like it. Comfort levels vary from horse to horse. Some will happily wade straight in, while others will be skeptical and nervous. It can take a lot of time and patience to habituate a horse to swimming.
Here are some of the reasons that might be the reason if your Horse is afraid of water.
- Horses have a limited field of depth perception, which means that wading into water is basically like walking into the complete unknown. And that is pretty scary.
- Some horses may have had a bad experience with water in the past and therefore associate it with something negative.
- They simply dislike the feeling of being wet. Just like certain dogs, cats, or other animals, some horses just like them do not like being wet. It might be frustrating too.
Is Swimming Good for Horses?
Swimming has many benefits for horses, so it is often used for training and rehabilitation purposes.
Rehabilitation / Water Aerobics
Swimming is an excellent way to keep a horse in shape while rebuilding and toning muscles and strengthening tendons after an injury, without having the horse carry their weight. Therefore swimming in equine pools is often included in many physiotherapy regimes.
As it is for humans, it is an aerobic exercise, so a great way to build endurance and stamina for horses. Regular swimming activity will allow the horse to strengthen both the heart and lungs.
Due to the way horses move in the water, swimming will increase the limb’s range of motion. This can, in turn, help increase flexibility and stride, highly desirable in many equestrian sports. One thing to keep in mind about swimming as a part of the training regime is that it also works muscles typically undesirable for horses used in competitive sports, such as the muscles used to keep the head up and over water. However, this is only an issue if swimming is the predominant or only activity the horses are engaged in.
Swimming is also a fun activity to break up a trail ride on a hot summer day. If you feel confident with your horse and you know how it responds to water. We can highly recommend this.
Can Horses Swim in the Ocean?
Horses can swim in the ocean, and swimming with your horse can be an amazing experience, but that can also quickly go very wrong. Here are a few things to consider before taking the plunge to speak
- How deep is the water? Is there even an angle, or is there a drop?
- What is the condition of the seafloor? Is it sand, stone or corals, etc. consider that the hard and uneven surfaces may hurt the horse’s leg while swimming.
- Are there waves? Remember that the horses cannot hold their breath, so do not swim in the sea if the waves are large enough to wash off their heads.
- Is the current strong? If it is, stay on land or only tip the feet. It can still be a refreshing break for you both.
- Check your surroundings. Are you disturbing others on the beach or in the area? Are people bathing there? Be considerate of others.
- Rules and regulations. Are horses allowed, and are they allowed in the water? Many public beaches have restrictions, so make sure you pay attention to relevant signage. Remember Horses will Poop when they need to.
- Remove the saddle and consider a little bit less bride. Make sure you remove ANY types of equipment that restricts the upward movement of the head as the head of the horse needs free rein to hold it over the surface to breathe.
It is not recommended to go swimming with your horse alone. Firstly, it is safer to be with someone, in case anything was to happen. Secondly, as horses are herd animals, it is easier to convince a hesitant horse to go into the water if it can follow another.
Can you Ride a Horse While it Swims?
It is ok to ride a horse while it swims, and it is exciting to feel its power advancing through the water.
Still, we need to keep in mind that this is not his natural element, and it is important not to hinder his movements and avoid getting in the way. To do this, make sure you are not pulling on the rains. If you need to hold on to something, then grab the mane for support.
Swimming is tiring for horses, so try to pay attention to your horse and get out of the water while maintaining good energy levels. Reward him with some snacks and rest in the shade once you finish.
On the ground, the horse knows exactly how to maneuver around to make it safe and easy for you to hold on to. But in the water, it will be much more focused on moving forward because it is not its natural environment.
It Might be Quite Dangerous to Ride the Swimming Horse.
The first problem is that you cannot always predict its movements. The horse will do some unexpected movements, and it may also make some quick moves. This can cause the rider to fall off the horse, and this is especially dangerous.
If you fall off a swimming horse, you might get kicked from the horse’s feet. That is the most dangerous part of riding a swimming horse and why most people should stay away from it.
The last thing that is needed to be mentioned here is that only the head of the horse is above the water when it swims. This means that you will also be largely submerged in the water the whole time. This is not an easy task and not something you should try for fun.
Pre-Cautions Riding a Swimming Horse
If you do swim with the horse in the water, there are few things to be aware of
Your Weight mustn’t be Pushing the Horse Down into the Water.
You should, along with the horse, take the weight off the horse’s back and shoulders. By doing so, you let the animal swim by itself while you are sort of swimming on top of it. That is much better than clamming onto the back of the neck of the animal because that will probably freak out the horse and just cause you both to sink.
Keep a Safe Distance to the Kicking Legs.
You will normally have to swim beside the animal. If it catches up on you and swims faster than you, you must focus on his feet.
Trust me; you do not want to be kicked in the water by a swimming horse.
Do not swim too long as it might get tired before you do.
After 10 minutes in the water, a horse will be probably be done. You do not want to overdo it, especially when you are unfamiliar with the animal in the water.
Can all Horses Swim?
Horses float pretty well, and it seems like all of the different breeds know how to swim without being taught. It is probably a combination of genetics and how the animal this built.
But this does not mean that all horses are great swimmers, nor they like being in the water.
First and foremost, a horse can sink in the water if it cannot swim. So you need to start with good experience to teach the animal to stay calm and focused.
Secondly, horses probably have it in their DNA to know how to swim. This is because horses at all times have had to cross rivers. It is simply not possible to live your whole life without ever going into the water. The leader of the herd will, at some point, have to you cross a river or a pond, and then you have to tag just along.
Sometimes they just need to unlock the potential. Just like humans, they might need a few tries before they get it right.
How Do I Teach My Horse to Swim Better?
The first experience with the water for your horse is very important. This is where it gets its initial feeling of how dangerous or not dangerous the water is. It is important to start in shallow water and build up from there.
Never throw your horse in deep water just to force it to learn swimming. Nobody likes this, and if this was your first encounter with water, you probably developed a phobia long before you made him learn to swim.
Best Way to Start.
You should start by visiting a small pond. Try to ride the horse all the way through without the water getting further up than 1 or 2 feet. From here, you can work your way into the deeper water gradually.
The first time animal is experiencing deeper water; you should not be on its back. It can be both difficult and dangerous; that is, we will look at it in a bit.
Now you need to find somewhere with no obstacles in the water. We do not want the horse to step on anything pointy or encounter any big stones underwater.
A good tip here is to take a short round into the water and back into the beach. You can also ride him a few steps into the water and let him stand for a while and then right back on the beach. By doing so, you teach the animal that it is possible to get back to safety.
Watch it carefully, and make sure it does not get too nervous. You should also make sure to always stand at the front of the animal so you will not get kicked by the feet as it pushes itself forward.
As your horse gets comfortable walking in the water, it is time to move on into deeper waters.
Horse Breeder Associations
|American Horse Association||United States||AHC|
|American Quarter Horse Association||United States||AQHA|
|Horse Breed Associations||America||Horse Associations|
|Directory of Horse Breed Associations||World||Directory|
|Arabian Horse Association||United States||AHA|
|Horse Breed Associations||World||Directory|