Horses are excellent swimmers. Their enlarged lungs contribute to keeping them afloat. The horse has to sustain forward momentum to swim, with their legs trotting through the water as they would run on land. Given that horses can’t breathe underwater, they instinctively keep their head over water while swimming.
Wait, don’t just hurriedly get your horse into the water yet. There are still some things to clarify before you guys go enjoy that enjoyable swim. What water would be too deep for your horse? How fast and far can your horse swim? Can your horse turn while swimming? What if your horse doesn’t fancy swimming? Can you teach it to swim? Let us answer these and many more exciting questions in this guide.
Are Horses Natural Swimmers?
Horses are instinctive swimmers. Across the thousands of years they have existed, they have leveraged their swimming skills either in migration, food search, or escaping danger. This is to say horses owe a considerable portion of their survival (to this day) to their capacity to swim.
How Do Horses Swim in Water?
For horses to swim, they have to keep propelling themselves forward. This is how they achieve stability and balance when in water. Such propulsion is attainable by the horse mimicking (with their legs) the same trotting movement with which they gallop through land.
In this manner, it appears like the horse is “paddling” through the water. No doubt, their big lungs act as a complementary floatation mechanism to keep them from drowning when submerged. Furthermore, the horse suspends its head over the water to prevent water from penetrating its ears and nose.
When your horse swims, it is crucial to make it feel free as possible, given the considerable exertions the horse feels when in water. This stress is typified by the increasingly heavy breathes and heart rate of the horse. Hindrances in the horse’s path in the water should be reduced to the minimum.
Do Horses Like Swimming?
Just like humans, not all horses are fascinated by water, but the bulk of them are. Horses that are naturally enthusiastic about swimming will test the water before getting submerged.
Accordingly, you could see such horse coursing its paws through the water. Alternatively, the horse could blow bubbles in the water or rollover at the water’s shallower sections.
Contrarily, several reasons can quench that enthusiasm (with water) in your horse. Possibly, your horse may not be a fan of getting wet.
There are horses traumatized by an earlier aquatic adventure that went wrong. Hence they are unwilling to get into the water again.
Lastly, some horses can be scared of getting into the water because they don’t know how deep it is. Horses are not as proficient in depth appreciation as humans.
Do Horses Float?
If your horse is not actively pedaling through the water, it can just float through it. Thanks to their bigger lungs, horses can position their bodies closer to the water surface. This helps them conserve energy.
Can You Ride a Horse While It Swims?
Yes, it is fun to ride your horse as it swims. But bear in mind that it is more physically demanding for your horse to carry you through the water.
Given your appreciable weight (as typical of all humans relative to the horse), the horse would need to expend greater energy to sustain forward propulsion through the water.
Given this amplified energy demands on the part of your horse – as it rides you through water – your horse would be exhausted quicker if exposed to further inconveniences like a tighter rein or considerable obstructions in the water.
To make the swimming experience as natural for your horse, you should release it from the saddle, also making the rein looser so that the horse heads can move as fluidly as it desires.
How Fast Do Horses Swim?
There is no arguing that horses are faster on land than water. An athletic horse can reach a speed of 88 km/h on land in a maximum sprint, but it is almost impossible for a horse to swim faster than 4km/hour.
How Far Can Horses Swim?
It is more challenging for horses to swim than run on land, as they spend more energy on the former. For context, the energy a horse would expend running several miles could be spent swimming for just 10 minutes.
This is given the considerable energy needed for the horse to keep thrusting forward and suspending itself at the water surface. You can expect your horse to get exhausted quicker by swimming than running as water poses more resistance to easy movement, even worse when the horse is swimming against the current.
The distance you intend your horse to swim should be broken into sets. Each set could span 5-8 minutes, with breaks of about 4 minutes between these sets.
How Deep Can Horses Swim?
To avoid drowning or other related incidences, it is not advisable to get your horse swimming in pools or water bodies deeper than 15 feet.
Can Horses Swim in the Ocean?
With the height specification we have advocated, it wouldn’t be best to get your horse to swim in the ocean alone. But this doesn’t mean if it is dangerous if the conditions in the ocean are befitting.
Aside from the ocean depth, is there an inclination? It would help if you also were mindful of the conditions of the ocean floor.
Precisely, how hard and even is it? The harder and coarser the floor is, the more the potential hurt your horse could feel when swimming.
The current in the ocean at the time should be considered. How powerful is it? And what direction would your horse swim relative to the current?
Granted horses’ inability to hold their breath as they swim, you shouldn’t get them swimming in areas where the wave is powerful enough to cover their head.
Can Horses Turn When Swimming?
Not all horses excel at turning when submerged. This is considering how difficult it would be for the horse to move their hands laterally when in water.
However, it becomes easier for your horse to turn if it can find balance on a solid bottom. Once it touches this platform, it can pivot.
Can Horses Be Taught to Swim?
Not all horses are exquisite swimmers from the word go. Yes, your horse can be slowly introduced to swimming, learning the techniques, and loving the exercise.
As typical of all learning processes, this education should be graduated and procedural. You would only drown your horse if you throw it into deep waters and expect to make it through by swimming.
In line with this philosophy of little beginnings, introduce your horse to smaller water bodies. This can be a small swimming pool or even a smaller pond. We would recommend that your horse shouldn’t enter waters deeper than 2 feet at the beginning.
Over time, it would be getting into deeper waters as it becomes comfortable and acquainted with the swimming techniques. In this first swimming experience, make sure you are not sitting on your horse’s back, riding it.
You want this experience to be as minimally discomfiting as possible. Also, as we have said, keep the obstructions in the water minimal too.
Keep the swimming area free of trees, pilings, branches, or boulders. Also, reduce the entanglements. This means less of the impeding breast collars, girths, and saddles.
You can start the swimming with very brief rounds and back on land. Keep this closer to shore. Lungeing exercises can help the horse better acclimatized to the deepening water.
Start with areas where the water is not deeper than the horse’s ankles. As it gets more comfortable, move it deeper where the water is as deep as it knees. Following this, you can move it to where the water swallows its full body.
Watch keenly if your horse is getting more relaxed with water or how its nervousness is increasing (or reducing) as it spend longer times in the water and at greater depths.
Your horse would kick to maintain forward propulsion through the water. So you should be at the front of the horse to avoid getting badly kicked.
Why is Swimming Good for Horses?
There is a lot your horse can gain from swimming. There are therapeutic gains, cutting from rehabilitative to recreational.
Swimming is one of the best low-impact therapies recommended for horses to improve their health as far as enhancing their performances in athletics. In such aqua therapy, the horse is less exposed to injuries.
Swimming – as is characteristic of water exercises – improves the horse’s muscle mass, enhancing the joints. What more, swimming also lengthens the horse’s endurance span, resulting in improved balance and strength for the horse.
This explains why horses that are avid swimmers boast higher stamina and flexibility. This category of horses also has impressive strides.
Being that the horse is pushing against the water resistance, it gets more resilient, the muscles getting bulked, and the lung capacity also improved.
Swimming is also an effective form of recovery for horses with tendon damages. The rehabilitative effect of swimming comes in here as the horse can work the muscle without putting significant stress on it (even straining it further).
How Long Does It Take for a Horse to Drown?
There is no definitive time for horses to drown. This is because of the varying circumstances like the water condition, horse stamina and health, and other exertions (like rider’s weight).
The more stressed a horse is, the faster it would drown. Another contributor to how fast your horse drowns is the length of time its head is submerged underwater.
Prolonged submersion (of the head) would get water penetrating your horse’s ears. Unlike the human ear, the horse’s ears don’t drain efficiently. An unhealthy buildup of water in the horse’s ears would hurt the horse’s equilibrium, even coming with an increased risk of infections.
Other than affecting balance, such infiltration would amplify your horse’s nervousness, driving it into panic mode. The accompanying loss of composure could facilitate the drowning.
Once you notice your horse getting less energetic (or less animated) in water and also when you see its level of agitation is increasing, lead it back to the shallower sections of the water body. This way, it can quickly have a platform to rest on and regain balance.