Can horses swim?
There is nothing quite as exhilarating as swimming with horses! Horses are powerful swimmers and most will have no fear of the water. It is a great way for you and your mount to cool off and to have fun but with water comes danger and so you must take the appropriate precautions before dashing headlong into the surf!
Choose the Right Location
It is vital that you select a safe area when swimming with horses. Choose somewhere where the water shelves gradually and where there are no dangerous currents. Check that there are no unexpected drop offs or areas of thick mud. You should also choose a location which is free from debris. If you are not sure what is going on beneath the surface of the water then check the area with a probe first. If you are not absolutely certain of the terrain and the nature of the water then don’t take the plunge.
Don’t Ride Alone
No matter how familiar you are with a location it is never a good idea to take to the water alone. A great day out can quickly lead to disaster when water is involved so always swim with someone else present and don’t let anyone swim with horses if they are unable to swim themselves. At the very least you must let someone know where you are going and when you intend to return.
If you have ridden your horse to the water then remove your saddle and other tack apart from your bridle and reins before entering the water. You should certainly not go swimming with horses whilst they wearing a martingale. Once in the water, knot the reins so that the horse cannot get its feet caught in them. Hold on to its mane, not the reins, unless you need to steer.
Beware of the Roll
When a horse reaches the edge of the water they may paw at it to test it out. Before you know it they can roll, forgetting that that they have a rider on their back. Be prepared for this and drive your horse forward if they start to paw.
Learning to Swim
The majority of horses will enjoy the water and will naturally swim when they move out of their depth. But some may initially be wary of the water and so you will have to build up their confidence. Allow your horse to test the water with his feet and then gently urge him forward. If necessary dismount and lead him into the water but walk alongside rather than in front in case he surges forward.
Once your horse is standing in the water you can gently splash him to get him used to the feel. You can then encourage him to move into deeper water. It is a good idea to let him return to the shore after a short time before entering the water once more. This will teach him that he can choose to return to safety. When he first finds that he is out of his depth he may automatically start to swim or he may panic. If he does panic then lead him towards the shore until he can touch the bottom and then try again. Praise him for his bravery and exercise patience and you should soon have a horse who loves the water.
Once your horse is happy to swim you can mount him and allow him to swim with you on his back. Remember that swimming is a strenuous activity for a horse. Don’t ask him to keep going for too long. Let him have a breather when he needs it and build up his stamina gradually.
Where to go Swimming With Horses
If you don’t live near a lake or the sea or do not own a horse then you can still go swimming with horses. There are several stables around the coast which offer swimming trips and these are a wonderful days out that you will never forget.