Swimming of horses has been discontinued until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience.
The 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.
Swimming has proven effective in:
- overcoming fear of water (puddles, crossing streams/rivers etc.);
- remove boredom of stall rest;
- cross training;
- improve blood circulation;
- strengthening joint muscles and ligaments;
- reducing arthritic complications;
- improved cardiovascular system;
- promote interstitial fluids;
- reduce adhesions (scarring from damaged tissue);
- re-build muscle after injury or atrophy;
- providing exercise when ground exercise is not appropriate.
The First Session
Horses, like all animals, have the natural ability to swim. They do not have to be taught, but they do have to learn water confidence. This generally takes three or four sessions of swimming until the horse is completely comfortable.
The horse is led down a gradually descending ramp into the water. Most horses enter the pool with a tug on the lead line or some verbal coaxing from the owner or handler. The first session involves swimming single laps to allow the horse to gain the experience and confidence of entering, swimming and exiting the pool.
Horses take to the swimming experience quite readily and after the third or fourth session enter the pool with little or no encouragement required from the handler.
The Swimming Session
Regardless of the initial fitness of the horse, the first sessions are limited to four or five laps of the pool. This is to allow the horse to adapt to the swimming and develop the new muscles being used in the swimming process. One lap of the pool is about 50 yards. Each time the horse swims, the swimming time and distance are increased to where the horse may be swimming anywhere between 6 to 30 laps of the pool. The number of laps depends on whether the horse is swimming for conditioning, rehabilitation or just maintaining a level of fitness.
Swimming programs are structured for each horse based on the breed, initial fitness level, the speed at which they swim, the discipline being trained for and whether the horse is being conditioned for fitness or recovering from injury.
The Center offers comprehensive swimming programs that include full board and care. Owners and trainers may also trailer their horse to the Center and swim to their own developed schedule. Center staff are always available to swim the horses, teach owners/handlers to swim their own horses and assist or advise handlers on achieving the best results.
Swimming can replace a significant amount of ground work normally required to get, or maintain a horse fit. This is particularly important when ground conditions make riding dangerous both for the horse and rider or if the horse is prone to feet problems like laminitis, bruising, navicular or shoeing problems. Once the horse has completed the initial swimming sessions they never forget and take readily back to swimming again even after years of no swimming.
Still have questions? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.) page for answers.
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