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Swimming with Your Event Horse

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  • Swimming with Your Event Horse

    Do you swim with your event horse?

    I discovered yesterday that my prospect event horse LOVES swimming. I was on a 3-hour walking trail ride with her and we came across a big pond with a nice sandy bottom. My friend told me the drop-off was far out and it was easy to walk them in up to their knees, I walked her in and the drop-off was literally feet from the shore! I panicked and turned her back and got her out.

    Worried that I had scarred her for life with my panic (and thinking about the next time I go into a water complex), I figured I would take her back and just get her front feet wet ... Well she had other ideas.

    She knew exactly what she was doing! She launched off the shore and started swimming to the middle of the pond before I could even think to stop her. I eventually got her turned around and headed for shore.

    Once out, she was so pleased with herself, she pranced for about 10 minutes. (It was also pretty chilly in the pond but luckily it was about 60° outside). It kind of sucked finishing a long trail ride very soggy, but very cool how much she likes the water. I know I've never had problems with water and her before, but had no idea that she would love swimming so much!

    I am new to eventing and haven't gone to my first trial yet. I had heard from another eventer that they never go in the water unless it's a water complex so the horse knows the water is always less than 18" and trusts the footing.

    But now I'm thinking about taking her over to the pond this summer for some nice swims in addition to our long trail rides.

    Do you swim with your event horse? Do you disagree with this?

    (BTW, side note: my other mare is not a natural swimmer, which is why I panicked. I took her to another pond this summer and got her to the drop-off, kicked, slid off of her, and she sank like a stone! As in, I'm holding the leadline and treading water, and the line went taut! Luckily, she sprang back up and made her way to shore. So I will not be swimming with her!)

  • #2
    Use her love of swimming to your advantage. I'm fortunate enough that my cross country schooling field has a pond.
    He jumps the big, scary jump well - he gets to go play in the pond
    Keeps good pace - play in pond
    You get the idea

    It's also fabulous therapy for them.
    chaque pas est fait ensemble


    • #3
      Yes-- just be careful that they understand the distinction between playing and work, you don't want them to stop in the middle of the water jump and paw or roll.

      My old prelim guy LOVES water-- I was ponying him the other day off my young horse and he dragged us over to the pond for a splash even though it was only 40 degrees


      • #4
        My first event horse always loved water ... So water complexes were never an issue with him! Years ago he was turned out in a huge pasture that had a pond, and he would go down to the water and splash in up to his belly, or else lay down and roll in the shallow part ... I could always tell when he'd been rolling in the pond because he was coated in icky silt! He never tried to roll with me riding him, though ... He seemed to have a good understanding of the difference between work and play.

        Now, at age 29, he still likes water, although now we only encounter it on trail rides, not cross country courses ... But I always let him splash in the water a little bit when he wants to!

        And OP, I'm jealous that you are somewhere that water is liquid this time of year! Right now where I live, it's 5 degrees out with a wind chill of 15 below.


        • Original Poster

          Great points! Thanks for the input!

          She's extremely workmanlike under saddle. She gets slightly playful out on trail (she slipped yesterday while trotting and snaked her head quickly but that was about as playful as she got). She's an ottb and the only horse I've ever felt 100% at a full out gallop because she knows her job and ignores everything else. She truly is a gem.

          She didn't do any pawing her first time in the water complex and didn't do any pawing yesterday. It was more of "water, and we're going through it!" lol

          Here she is her first time schooling a water complex (mine too!): https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-R...20/Gibbes8.jpg

          On the therapy, that's what I was trying to do for my other mare this summer. She's very laminitic, and I was trying to get her to exercise without concussion on her hooves, but that didn't work out! Sinking like a stone! Maybe I'll bring her to watch Mocha!

          ETA: Sticky, yeah it was 60° yesterday! The water was pretty cold and shocking, but I'm very lucky
          Last edited by AzuWish; Jan. 22, 2013, 11:10 AM. Reason: to respond to sticky situation


          • #6
            I think for some horses it could be a problem, but it seems like most realize it's fun to play and swim.... and yet they also realize if they're galloping and on course... it's not play time, it's rock and roll time! I've been taking my training/prelim guy to a lake and while he hasn't swam (YET!!) we soak his knees after our gallops and cool off. He still does the water jumps just fine. My yearling loves to splash around too and this fall he took a dip and went for an all out swim!!! He's also fine going in and out of the water complex, so... I think most of them aren't idiots and get it.
            Enjoy it!!!! Especially on those hot summer day!!


            • #7
              I have swam horses in pools for fitness (so, I'm at their head, leading them around a pool, not swimming with them), and I've swam with my older guy and some other horses when we had a pond we could do it in (good beach, and good footing until they needed to swim).

              I've never swam Toby or swam with him, but I'm pretty sure he would LOVE it...he is a HUGE water fan (he has jumped us into trouble because he is so, so bold about water), and gets the greatest amount of pleasure from splashing any chance he gets (he's mad that we left a farm with great water troughs to climb in and now all he has is a dinky automatic waterer that he can't play in). He's nearly climbed into cement water cisterns with me. He's a goof.

              I don't mind swimming horses and I cross and play in a lot of creeks and rivers. My only concern is that a young horse gets exposed to GOOD footing going into water and while in it. I want them to trust the footing and not feel stuck or trapped. I am careful with water-weary horses, too, and may not take them in water that Toby would charge right into, never mind the mud is up to his ankles. I do try to be mindful, even with Toby, but he's done some pretty silly things while goofing in our river, and always drags me back to it (he'll hang toward our water complex if we're hacking around the xc field. He's part fish).


              • #8
                The only thing I would be concerned about (in addition to the good points made above) would be how much most horses invert their backs to keep their heads up when they swim. If your horse is prone to back soreness, it can make them more tense over their topline if you're swimming them for prolonged periods. As a fun thing to do on occasion though, I think it's neat.
                Balanced Care Equine


                • #9
                  We took a couple to the river. My princess HATED it. She grunted the whole time (her unhappy grunt) and that was when we weren't even swimming for real. When she did get buoyant, she turned and SWAM!! towards the shore as fast as possible. pretty sure we got on plane... I laughed so hard I almost peed myself and almost fell off. Course the water rushing past didn't help any... But she would go in, just didn't like it. She is fine with water jumps and creek crossings, etc.

                  2 of the other horses LOVED it. They were like submarines, heads sticking up just lazily paddling around.