1. Plan Your Swimming Location
You can choose a lake or river near your home or perhaps a horse-friendly ocean beach. You will need water that is deep enough for swimming, which means the water level should be enough to make the withers of the horse sink. The water should not be too swift, rough, or cold. The time of the year can be an important factor to consider. The swimming spot should be safe enough for your horse. You should also check for obstacles in or under the water, such as branches, trees, pilings, boulders, or any other garbage. Also, ensure that there is no steep drop-off in deep water or deep mud. Prefer waters with sandy or gravel type bottoms, so you will have ample room for your horse to swim. You’ll want relatively firm ground and a shoreline extending gradually into the water.
2. Prepare your Horse
Before you make your first swim with your horse, you should allow him to feel comfortable in water up to his belly before getting into deeper water. Give him some time to feel, smell, and paw the ground to convince himself that water won’t hurt him. But, if the horse paws excessively or backs up, you may require some basic training for him. Just like at home, when he backs up, and you don’t want him to, you give a forward cue. This would also work in the water. If it doesn’t, and he is scared, stop forcing, and practice the cues.
3. Plan the Gear
You can use a bareback pad to alleviate the slipperiness. You can also use a halter with attached reins if you can better control your horse that way. Whatever gear you use, the head of your horse should be free to move for swimming. This means you should not use tie-downs or martingales, as they can cause drowning. For you, the only gear is the safety helmet. Although the water will act as a cushion in case you fall, there may be a risk of being hit by a hoof.
4. Don’t Swim Alone
Take at least one other person with you for horse swimming. Also, make sure that everyone you take with you knows how to swim and are competent riders to control their horses while swimming.
5. Pay Attention
Start slowly and give your horse time to adjust to buoyancy. Your horse may plunge a little first, so grab the neck rope or mane, and be prepared. Always stay at a distance from others accompanying you and stay alert. If you are not keeping a safe distance and not watching out for other horses, you may have a risk of collision.
6. Don’t Overdo
Swimming is an amazing aerobic activity that your horse would like. A few minutes of swim can be exhausting for you as well as your horse. So use common sense. You want your horse to have an enjoyable experience, especially when swimming for the first time. Get out of the water while the horse still has good energy levels. Enjoy and plan to have someone document the beauty and joy of this amazing activity through photo or video. It will be an experience you will want to remember forever.
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