So I saw this advert with Karin Donckers for the Kentucky Horseware boots. In the ad she talks about the lack of hills in her area and that she conditions by doing trot sets (I assume only trot sets?) through water.
I know people utilize swimming for their horses, but has anyone done sets through water? While I'm not well versed in all possible conditioning methods, I haven't heard of anyone doing this.
Also, I'll admit to not being particularly knowledgable on how her horses finish after events, but then again, I haven't noticed her horses popping up in discussions of horses who weren't fit enough.
Anyway, I have access to what I think would be a suitable body of water - similar depth to the video and thought this could be an economical alternative in lieu of paying for swimming. Thoughts?
You know you're a horse person when your mother, who has no grandchildren, gets cards addressed to Grandma, signed by the horses, cats, and dogs.
While swimming is good for cardio joint, bone, ligament and tendons can suffer reduced development as they require shock loading to stimulate tissue growth.
It makes sense to combine swimming with gallop sets and trots on hard ground.
The question I have for you is what is the "suitable body of water?" One thing to realize about event horses is that you want them absolutely confident about the footing going into any water. Thus, I avoid random lakes and cow ponds. You don't want your horse wondering if they will get stuck or sucked into deep mud.
A facility that is no longer around, would flag a path through their irrigation lake for conditioning rides. They put sand/gravel down to create the path.
I don't think this is uncommon in Europe- I'm prety sure the large water jump and trotting trench at Hunter's Run was built in part at the request of their old resident trainer, who had spent time riding and working in Europe and liked the very approach you describe. It makes sense- less wear and tear on the legs and more resistance (similar concept to the Aquapacer- which put better muscle on our guy in weeks than months of hill trots with much less wear and tear on his legs). It doesn't replace sprints or wind workouts, but as a fitness adjunct I think it's great.
In terms of swimming- I think it can be really good for them, but because they are floating and lifting their heads up out of the water, they can get quite inverted and often back sore if they're doing it too much (not so great for horses who we ask to work well over their backs). With the Aquapacer or trotting trenches, they don't need to invert their backs (and esp if you're riding them through the trotting trenches, you can get them to work even more over their backs).
I have always been lucky enough to have hills – but when I was young, and eventing at prelim – I would do trot sets in the water with my TB to add fitness without so much pounding.
I had access to a beach that was behind a jetty – so the sand was nice and firm – and the water didn’t have any waves. Good for working a horse on. Granted, I did not trot in nearly as deep of water as shown in the video – a little less than knee deep. Really gets them lifting their hocks, and if you ask for a round frame, really picks up their back.