Can Horses Swim? (The Surprising Truth!)

Planning on swimming with your horse, but not sure if it is the right thing to do? Horses and foals are born swimmers and it’s a great exercise for them.

You must be wondering how horses can swim? Let’s say it is in their genes. Being mammals and having a history of being in the wild, swimming is part of their natural instinct.

Now, knowing they can swim and taking them for an actual swim are two different aspects. You would, thus, need to know tips for swimming with your horse. This article will cover everything you need to know about swimming safely with your horse.

Can Horses Swim?

Horses are born swimmers. Underwater, they move their legs like they’re trotting. Even though horses can swim, they can’t hold their breath underwater. This is why, when they’re in a pool or river, they tend to keep their head above the water at all times. If a horse is submerged in water, its body will stay afloat given that they keep the forward motion.

Swimming is the ideal form of exercise for horses. It requires the perfect use of muscle and balance making it ideal for training horses. When taking out your horse for a swim, make sure to start off easy. You can go for shallow water. It is important to build trust and make your horse comfortable. Once you have had enough swims and built trust and confidence in each other, you can take it to deeper waters.

Swimming Can be Beneficial for Horses

Swimming can be fun, but it doesn’t end there, swimming is extremely beneficial, too. There are many reasons you should take your horse swimming.

Swimming for a few minutes can equal walking several kilometers on the ground. Since water is all about resistance, swimming helps build resistance and acts as the perfect form of cardiovascular exercise.

Moreover, swimming can help reduce stiffness in the muscles of your horse. While swimming, the horse’s body has to be stretched to keep itself afloat, this helps prevent stiffness of the muscles.

Swimming also has a great impact on the mental stimulation of the horse. It boosts the immune system and improves insulin metabolism in horses.

Thus, swimming is a great form of exercise for horses – a complete package of fun and health.  

But Swimming Can Be Dangerous for Horses

Even though horses are built to swim, some horses panic the first time they get into water bodies. Like humans, they need to learn how to swim better.

Some horses just don’t like water be it a puddle or a river. It is natural, and you should give your horse some time to adjust. An appropriate strategy would be to first train your horse and get it used to water.

As mentioned before, horses cannot breathe underwater. Hence, you need to be very careful when taking them into deep waters – always make sure they don’t get their head underwater.

Training Your Horse to Swim

Horses can swim but that doesn’t mean they’re good at it so training is important. There are some things to consider before taking him swimming:

Firstly, and most importantly, ensure that you have a good connection with your horse. Can you control him on the ground? Does he understand your commands? Is he responsive to you? If the answers are affirmative, you can opt for taking him to swim.

However, if he is not very responsive, or you cannot control him on the ground; you won’t be able to control him in water either. Thus, it is too risky for both of you to take him to swim.

Secondly, you must make him familiar with water first. Train him at home or stable before diving into the river with him. Also, it is not suggested to take him directly into deep water. First, take him to a puddle or a pool. Gradually, increase the size of the water body you’re choosing for swimming and then, once both of you are ready, you can take him to deep water.

Giving him training on tarpaulin prior to the swimming session is also a great idea. Arrange a tarpaulin at home or stable. Make him walk on it in different directions. Ensure that you have control over him.

Gradual proceedings will help prevent panic at the time of swimming. Hence, it is highly advisable to first train the horse. Only then take him swimming.

Precautions While Taking Your Horse Swimming

Going for a swim with your pet can be a refreshing experience if done properly. But this fun-filled activity can be dangerous, as well.

But, you don’t have to be scared. You just need to be careful, take proper measures. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure that you have trained your horse well before taking him to swim
  • Ensure that you have removed the saddles because you don’t want yourself and your horse to be tangled into anything – rock or underwater branches
  • Your horse should have a bridle on, with a rope, that would help you control him. Ropes are better as you can have a grip on them even underwater
  • Don’t take your horse into very cold water
  • Ensure that the head of your horse is always above water; remember they cannot breathe underwater
  • Take someone along. Someone should be there in case of an emergency.

Tips for Swimming With Your Horse

Here are some useful tips for swimming with your hose:

Plan Where to Go

It is always good to have a plan. Take time to consider where you should go with your horse before the swimming session. Visit the place and ensure whether the depth and weather complement your horse’s capabilities.

Also, having sandy ground is preferable as it will save you from removing rocks every now and then.

Plan Your Gear

Take time to prepare your gear. You need to know what to take along and what to leave behind. For example, adding a neck rope can be helpful as it will give you control. Ensure whatever gear you choose, your horse’s head is free to move.

Listen to Your Horse

No matter how thrilling the experience is, listening and understanding your horse is important. Stop swimming if you sense your horse is getting tired. Overdoing is never a good option.

Look if he’s panicking. Keeping a horse in the water while he is panicking is not a good idea.

How well your swimming experience goes depends on how well you understand your horse. So, only take your horse swimming if you have a strong bond. 

FAQs Regarding Swimming With Your Horse

Still, have doubts on taking your horse for a swim? Collected for you are the most frequently asked questions. The following questions will help clear all your doubts for sure.

Can horses swim with a rider?

You can always ride on your horse while swimming. However, ask yourself the following:
– Do you have good control over him?
– Is your horse feeling comfortable while you are on it?
– Do you have a rope in your hands to control the horse?
– Do you ride your horse on the ground?
If the answer to all of these questions is in the affirmative, you’re good to go. However, you need to think about your horse, too. Make sure that your weight is not pushing him down. Also, notice if your horse is comfortable or panicking if it’s his first time swimming. You don’t want him to panic more about being over him.
Remember, controlling your horse in water is more difficult than on the ground. Make sure both you and your horse are well prepared. Don’t overdo it – listen to your horse and know when to quit.

Why do horses paw at water?

Horses sometimes paw at water to test the ground underneath to get an idea about the depth of the water.
You may notice your horse pawing at the water. While pawing may give you the impression that your horse is having fun, he might be doing it to roll after finding the ground.
Hence, it is important that you stop him from pawing immediately to let him know that you have control over him. Or chances are that he would roll suddenly – which can lead you crushing under his weight – and that would, be detrimental.

Can horses hold their breath underwater?

Horses despite being natural swimmers cannot hold their breath underwater. Therefore it is important to ensure that your horse’s head is above water, all the time.
If by any chance a horse gets his head underwater it can be very dangerous for him. As horses cannot come out of the water easily. If the head is submerged in water for a long time, water can get into his lungs – which can be lethal.

How long can horses swim for?

Horses should swim for 8-10 minutes, on average.
Initially take your horse for a swim for about 4-8 minutes. Once he gets used to swimming, you can increase the time for each lap.
You and your horse might love swimming, but overdoing should never be an option. Water resistance can make your horse tired. Swimming is not just a fun activity but a form of exercise. Every muscle of the body is involved in it. Therefore, it should not be done till the point of exhaustion.

Do horses like to swim?

While some horses like to swim, others don’t. It depends on the horse. Like us, they also have different preferences. Some might enjoy swimming a lot while others abhor it.
There are many reasons that horses don’t like to swim.
They might be scared of the water
They have poor depth perception ability
They had any previous unpleasant experience with swimming
Or simply, they don’t like to get wet

Horses are born swimmers and taking your horse swimming is not just fun but also beneficial. However, one needs to be careful and well-prepared when it comes to swimming with your horse. The fun comes with the responsibility. Train your horse first, understand him, befriend him, take very precautionary measures, and don’t forget to take a friend along with yourself – don’t do it alone!

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