Have you ever read the children's book "Misty of Chicoteague"? The
wild horses swim each year from one island, Chincoteage, to another,
Assateague, off the coast of Virginia.
Horses paddle with their legs, with most of the motion from the knee
down, and they are quite buoyant. Most enjoy swimming!
"Most horses see no reason to enter the ocean--there's nothing to eat,
they can't drink the water, and they'd have a hard time escaping
predators. However, in warm areas with small waves, some horses can
actually enjoy ocean swimming. If you've dreamed of swimming with your
horse, follow these safety tips. (For tips on riding on the beach, see
"Trailwise," Horseman's Handbook, Horse & Rider, August '02.)"
"As horses get into deeper water and submerge they tend to panic
temporarily and will "porpoise". This is their natural way of
swimming. Once they have established their rhythm they can become more
comfortable, but often will still tend to invert their back and use
more of their neck and chest to pull them along. Another disadvantage
is that it can be difficult to control the horse's direction
particularly if you are bareback and you will more than likely
eventually slide off the horse. Using a synthetic or old saddle that
you don't mind getting wet, will allow you to stay with the horse a
little better. There is always the possibility of the horse and/or
rider getting caught up in the reins.... Many horses never really are
able to relax enough when totally buoyant, and are unable to feel the
ground underneath them."
"In general, the majority of horses swim well. However, when swimming
a horse for the first time give it extra attention as some horses have
been known to sink. When horses swim they employ a trotting or pacing
gait and a breathing pattern characterized by brief inspiration,
prolonged expiration, both of which look ?painful and labored? to the
inexperienced onlooker. The movement of the limbs through a wide range
of motion is considered beneficial to flexibility. The difficulty in
breathing when swimming is probably due to the pressure applied to the
chest and abdomen of the horse by the water and the fact that the
horse doesn?t have the rhythm of body and abdominal movements that
serve to help the
breathing process during normal land training. As such, the horse has
to rely on the respiratory muscles and it may be that swimming is a
good way of training these muscle groups. Whether this training effect
translates to the track is unknown, but it is possible that some
direct benefit may apply. However, it should be noted that swimming
also results in relatively high blood pressures compared with
galloping and that some horses have experienced nose bleeding after a
bout(s) of swimming. As such, swimming is not recommended for horses
with respiratory disease and it is also contraindicated in horses with
"Deeper and deeper your horse swims, snorting in contentment as his
body becomes buoyant. His legs instinctively churn the water as if
galloping. You hold the mane tight as his power propels you up and
down like a seahorse.
Swimming with your horse in the ocean doesn't have to be a fantasy.
With the show season finished and the pesky flies diminishing with the
cooler nights, autumn is the perfect time to plan a day trip to the
ocean."... "Some horses welcome the cool water and will swim in over
their heads, especially if they have had experience swimming in ponds
at home. Other horses, like some people, may not care for the water
and only go in ankle deep."
"he swimming of horses as a means of conditioning and rehabilitation
has been well established amongst trainers and owners in all
equestrian groups the world over. In addition to building basic muscle
tone, it provides exercise and development to underutilized muscles
and expands and strengthens the heart and lungs. Swimming has been
shown to reduce the recovery time of horses after surgery, injury or
lameness, while at the same time maintaining or improving their
condition. Most importantly, it provides a form of exercise where
there is low risk of injury and the horse is not subjected to the
pounding that track or field work provides."
"Q: My horse hates water. How do you get him to swim?
A: It is not that your horse hates water, it is just that he has not
had the opportunity to gain water confidence. Nearly all animals know
how to swim, but they must learn water confidence before they feel
comfortable in entering the water and swimming by themselves."
Q: How do you teach the horse to swim?
A: Horses do not need to be taught how to swim. They know how to swim naturally.
Q: How hard does the horse work in swimming compared to ground exercise?
A: This is a difficult question to answer because of the physiological
differences between swimming and normal ground exercise. For the
horse, the swimming stroke is unique to swimming only and is very
similar to the pace. Because there is no support from the ground and
there is little or no resistance from the water, the amount of energy
required to move forward in the water is significantly greater than
that required to move forward on land. It takes approximately four
complete swimming strokes to cover the same distance as one galloping
stride on land. Based on this we can equate that approximately 10 laps
(500 yards) of the pool is about equal to a 1 mile gallop.
" Yes. Horses are strong swimmers. Swimming in a pool is a common form
of training and physical therapy applied to horses."
Swimming Therapy for Horses
"Sure, horses can swim, not all like to. But they'll do it if they have to.
I had an acquaintance who had a very young horse. Every time he came to any
water, he liked to play and splash in it. This was amusing, but he also
tried to roll in a creek while she was on his back. They're silly."
""Swim to win," that's my motto," said Bob Inman.
And swim is exactly what his horses do when they're not racing.
Inman's ten-foot deep pool is his key to training success.
"Most of my horses enjoy swimming in the pool," said Inman. "In fact,
I have a few horses who don't need to be led into the pool?they walk
into it on their own."
Inman's horses swim between two and three minutes per day. Because
most of his horses are past performers who often require
rehabilitation to race again, Inman believes that swimming is the best
"I don't think it's good to take lame horses to the track when you're
trying to rehabilitate them," said Inman. "Swimming is much easier on
their joints and legs, and it also helps to build their endurance."
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equine swimming physics
horses + swim + physics