Recently on our Facebook page (facebook.com/equine.architecture) we’ve shared some photos of horses swimming that have been very popular. Swimming, along with hydrotherapy and water treadmills, is rising in use for horses recovering from a variety of ailments and lamenesses. So what is swimming for horses all about?
Essentially, swimming allows a horse to regain (or maintain) condition without causing undue impact or pressure on the hooves, legs, or abdomen. This makes it an ideal exercise tool for horses who have undergone leg surgery, abdominal surgery, or who are recovering from laminitis. It’s also a useful way to build up strength and coordination in horses recovering from EPM, who may have suffered muscle atrophy during their illness, and horses suffering from neurological symptoms who might suffer a lack of balance during regular exercise.
Many equine rehab stables and large training centers are adding swimming facilities to their line-up of amenities. Some are opting for full-size swimming pools with a depth of about 14 feet; the horse swims along the perimeter while a handler walks along the edge. Others install a short trough with a flowing current — the horse is walked down into the pool and swims in place against the current, while one handler stands at the head and another at the tail to keep the horse from backing out.
If you are interested is something smaller than a pool, we have worked with the following companies and their products:
Swimming does have its drawbacks. Critics point to the posture of the spine in the swimming horse — neck raised, back hollowed, hindquarters kicking downwards. Too much swimming can lead to sore backs and stifles, to say nothing of building the wrong topline for most performance horses.
Despite this possibility, many horsemen are still integrating swimming into their conditioning and recovery routines. Like everything else, swimming, in moderation, can be a valuable tool in building up and maintaining a horse with minimum shock impact to their legs. If you’re thinking of swimming your horse, consult with your veterinarian to see how you can best incorporate this therapy into your horse’s life.