This is kinda a spin off. My work schedule makes it hard to train. A little info...my long week at work 5 and a half days and then on my short week I only work 2 days. To make things worse I have to haul out to ride
(26 miles one way). It is almost impossible to ride on my long week at work. and on my short week I ride 3 sometime 4 days. So I am always worried I am not getting enough ride time in to do the longer distances (50s). There is a place pretty close to me where I can take my horse to swin in a beautiful pool. So I have been taking him once a week.
Is there any fitness benifit to this? He seems to get quite a workout.
any pros or cons?
Well, yes, it can help with conditioning. When I lived in Virginia, I knew plenty of folks who took their steeplechasers and race horses, and sometimes hunters, to the pool in Middleburg. Particularly valuable for building or maintaining conditioning when the horse is coming back from a leg injury- can get a workout without stress to the legs.
I had heard it was good for injuries. My Guy is sound with no issues but I thought on my long week it would be better then nothing. It just takes about 1 and 15 minutes it get him there swam and bacj home vs. the hour drive plus the few hours on the trail. I just don't have much time with only a day and a half off to get a ride in as well as doing just reg. life stuff done in the short time......lol
My close friend swam her horse several times to help get him ready for a 100 mile ride. I know he finished and I think he may have won best condition, I don't remember. We only rode 2-3 times a week for an 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours over moderate terrain and she swam him once a week I think. If it stormed and we couldn't ride she might have taken him twice in a week. I think the swimming is a good workout ( I know I get tired doing laps) and it lessens the strain on the legs.
Do you have a place you can lunge your horse? Maybe on a slight incline? I've done this to help polo ponies and foxhunters get fit. The footing has to be good and I like to use leg protection and a long lunge line. Ten to fifteen minutes total would probably do the trick (20 to 30 on the flat), I like to start on flat ground for a short warm-up then move to the incline. See how your horse handles this and watch his breathing, if he looks to be struggling with the footing you may want to try flatter ground. Lunging can be boring but I feel any thing that gets their heart rate up is better than nothing. Besides, you can always do some changes of direction/gait and flexing to break it up. Good luck!!
I used to work at a farm that had a swimming pool. This was the type where you'd tie a rope to his tail and he'd walk down into the pool, the rope would attach to a bar you'd set up behind him so when he reached the end of the rope, he'd swim in place. Great for conditioning and like already mentioned when coming back from an injury. Instead of a foot sore horse having to take time off, you'd be able to keep him in conditon by swimming. My job was to prepare the horse for the swim by rinsing him off, attaching the rope and the head person would guide him in and I'd set up the bar. Then I'd man the pooper scooper - got pretty good at that! When they came out, I'd rinse again and set them up in cross ties under heat lamps to dry them. The groom would either come get them or I'd bring them back to their stalls.
There was also a whirlpool where the horse was backed into a three sided stall and the stall lowered into the whirlpool. Most horses loved this and would stand in there and fall asleep. One mare had a chronically sore hip and would position her hip so one jet would hit that area. Others would doze and when their head hit the water, they'd jerk it up but would be asleep a few seconds later. It was cute. They always seemed disappointed when their time was up.
We did have one woman who would come over 2 days before a dressage show to whirlpool her horse and always claimed he performed so much better after being all loosened and feeling good.
Yogurt - If you're so cultured, how come I never see you at the opera? Steven Colbert
I went with a friend of mine to our local university equine center where they have an aqua-tread. I've heard of folks leaving their horse there for a month or two of regular sessions to get their horses conditioned.
I used to work in the poolhouse at a harness racing training center. It was very interesting. There was one old campaigner (well, 8-9, old for a racehorse) who would swim all week and usually only see the track to race or qualify. He loved the pool and it worked out really well for him. Of course there was plenty of rehab, too, but lots of the trainers would swim once or twice a week just for a change of pace, and swim an extra day if the track was too sloppy for jogging. There was even one dressage horse that would trailer in twice a week as part of his routine. We had an actual 15' deep pool, horses would swim around the edge and the grooms would lead from the side; there was a "drawbridge" over the ramp that we would lift when horses had to go in and out. When everyone was coordinated, we could fit about 3 horses in comfortably.
It's like any other conditioning, though, has to be introduced and built up carefully. The first-timers were usually only in for a few minutes, because even if they're fit, it can be a lot of stress for a horse that hasn't done it before. Once they settled and figured it out, they worked up to about 20 minutes or so.
You can add me to the list of swimmers. I have an event horse, going Training level now but considering a move-up at the end of the summer. I have the same problem as the OP (different sport/same problem): working full time & having to trailer to trails with good footing to do conditioning sets. So I swim my horse once a week (I board really close to stb training track with a nice pool) in addition to a regular trot/canter interval day. I've done this for 2 years now and it works great. I read an older article (early 1990's) on the US Eventing Assoc website with quotes from a team vet who said swimming is roughly equal to a riding at a hand gallop. So it's pretty decent work with no impact on joints. For what I do, I have to add some long walks to harden the tendons and joints, but for cardio . . . I think swimming is great!
As far as inverting the back . . . I think some horses swim more vertical than others. Those that hate to get their face wet might be a bit inverted. At most, a horse is only in pool for 20-30 minutes (and that is race horses) so I don't think it is going to harm the topline to swim. I do try to do proper dressage work when I ride my guy even when we're doing sets, but I have found, if anything, that his topline has IMPROVED overall since swimming.
Yeah the only reason is because I thought it would be better then nothing on my long week at work. And really just for the cardio. On my short week I try to get in 8 to 10 mile long rides so about 30 miles in that week.
We love swimming our racehorses that need a break from galloping due to soreness, shins, and all the other racehorse crap. But, I once saw a 3 year old break his shoulder in his first race, and the vet said it was due to the horse trained the majority of the time in a pool, and his bones couldn't stand up to impact of racing. After that, we made it a point to only swim horses that were already fit to keep them that way, not to get them fit.