Go swimming with your horse


Swimming with your horse can be fun, exciting, and a new way to spend some time that’s not going around in circles in the sand. Do you need to prepare? Yes, a little bit. There is a safety factor to consider before you just wade into shallow water or even further into deeper water. But on a hot summer day, nothing beats a trail ride that ends in a swim.


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How to stay safe while your equine buddy is swimming


Unfortunately, there are stories about horses swimming that don’t end well, but taking a little bit of time to prepare ensures this unique experience will be fun, too.


  • Go with a buddy! I suggest this for most riding anyway, but when you are with a buddy, you can commiserate about wet underwear and socks together on the ride home.



I went with a bareback pad, Natasha had a saddle. Lots of choices here.


Horse swimming – tack and being prepared


  • Be mindful of your tack. Tack that holds your horse’s head can create a drowning situation. Don’t use tie-downs, martingales, or other devices that prevent your horse from lifting his head and neck as high as possible. When there is no more footing on the bottom, your horse will basically only poke his nose, ears, and eyes out of the water to swim and rely on buoyancy, legs, and nostrils poking up. Tack can restrict this and your horse may drown. 


  • Don’t think that you can control every step your horse takes in a creek or pond, they may spook at a lily pad and end up in deep water. Horses can be strong swimmers, but you never want to mix swimming and spooking thinking that you can guide your horse out of it.


  • Be prepared for a few things. There will be lots of splashing, and your horse may try to roll (NOPE, not allowed). They may panic and run back to shore or end up in deep water. Take things slowly and carefully.



Migs with his eyes on the prize!


Swimming with horses involves trust and floating – maybe


  • Be prepared for the “floating” situation. The deeper you go in, the more you tend to levitate above your horse. This makes it super fun, a little weird, and very easy to end up without a horse under you.



  • Have something to hang on to. A neck rope is great, if there is no chance of a leg getting stuck in it. So basically hang onto it all the time. You can also go in a cinched-up bareback pad, and hang on to the front. You can also relive your childhood as you “grab mane!”


Swimming while horseback riding and your horse’s tendons


    • Know the water, the footing, the currents, and the rock situation before you go in. Ponds are usually great because there is no current, but there may be snapping turtles. Streams and rivers can have dangerous rocks, currents, and questionable footing. The ocean is fantastic and fun, stay on the hard pack sand near the water, deep sand can lead to tendon strains and injuries. And watch out for sharks.
    • Good footing is KEY – mud can have disastrous results, including you and/or your horse getting stuck. Like you will need a tractor and the fire department to pull you out kind of stuck. If you can’t see the footing because it’s covered in debris like leaves and twigs, I would stay away.



Lots of long mane to grab if need be.


After swimming with horses


  • Remember what your horse does after a shower? Shake and roll? Pay attention and nip this in the bud so you don’t end wet AND squashed after you and your horse hit dry land again.


  • When you get back to the barn, give your horse a thorough rinse. Depending on where you live, you may need to also check for leeches. And you thought ticks were bad! If the water was salty, dirty, or even questionable, I would also use some shampoo.


  • Thoroughly clean and condition your tack as well, water will dry it out, causing damage to the leather. Unless you need a reason to go get some new tack? For more details on how to deal with a wet saddle, look here!


What are the benefits of swimming with your horse


Swimming with your horse provides a low-impact workout, strengthening their muscles without straining their joints. It also improves cardiovascular fitness, mental stimulation, and trust between horse and rider. Plus, it’s a fun way to cool off in the summer!


How can you prepare your horse for swimming?


To prepare your horse for swimming, start with basic water desensitization to ensure they are comfortable with the sensation. Gradually introduce them to water bodies, checking for their willingness and ability to enter calmly. Ensure your horse is physically fit and conditioned for swimming activities.


What’s your best tip to go swimming with your horse?

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