11 Common Questions Answered About Horses And Swimming


As anyone that owns horses will know, there’s much to learn about these beautiful creatures. You quickly learn that they’re complex, unique animals that seem to pose more questions the more time you spend around them.

While many people that engage with horses intuitively pick up how they should be ridden and what they like and dislike, there are some areas of horse ownership that are a little less understood.

Take swimming, for example. You’ll by and large engage with your horse on solid ground, but there may be times when you’re near a body of water. To ensure the safety of the horse (and, of course, your safety), it’s important to know as much as possible about horses and water. 

For example: can horses swim? The answer is yes! But there’s much more to know. In this blog, we’re going to run through some of the most common questions that people have about horses and swimming. 

Question 1) Why do horses swim? 

Horses know how to swim for the same reason that most other animals swim: to survive! Way back when, horses would sometimes need to cross a body of water in order to escape from an imminent threat or because the food they needed was on the other side.

In an age when bridges were non-existent, this meant crossing the water the old fashioned way, by going through it. 

Of course, horses rarely have to swim to escape danger or to find food these days, especially if they’re well looked after by their owner! But once a behavior is deeply ingrained in an animal’s DNA, it’s unlikely that they’ll lose it anytime soon. 

Question 2) Are horses afraid of water?

Of course, having the ability to swim doesn’t mean that horses necessarily love water. There are, after all, many humans that know how to swim but don’t like being in the water.

In general, we can say that horses are not afraid of water. There’ll be some horses that don’t like it, as all horses are different.

When you see a horse approach water, they might appear to be nervous or afraid. However, what’s really happening is that they’re assessing the body of water. They’ll want to know how deep it is, what the floor bed feels like, and so on, and their only way to learn those things is to approach with caution.

Horses can learn to be afraid of water, however. This could be the result of a bad experience or through incorrect owner behavior. For example, if a horse is punished for their interaction with water, they may become more nervous, not less.

Question 3) How Do Horses Swim?

It can be quite a sight to see a horse swimming through the water. They will use a paddling motion that involves moving all four legs. They’ll always keep their heads above water because they’re unable to hold their breath or breath underwater.

They’re powerful swimmers, and this will result in an increase in heart rate and the depth of their breathing. It can look like they’re struggling, but they’re not (providing everything is fine). A human’s heart rate and breathing would increase if they were running, but it doesn’t mean that they’re having difficulty. 

Question 4) Do Horses Like To Swim

Most horses like to swim! As we mentioned above, you can think of swimming and horses in the same way that you think about humans and swimming. Some people love to do it; others would rather do anything else other than swim!

Indeed, if you own several horses, then you’ll likely find that each horse falls on a different part of the like/dislike spectrum. 

In general, you’ll find that horses have a keen interest in water. They’ll get close and play around in the shallow parts. Whether they go for a swim is up to them! Some will dive right in and have a great time; others will stick to the shallow part. You’ll probably get a good sense of your horse’s interest in swimming the first time they’re near a body of water.

Question 5) How good are horses at swimming? 

Horses can be exceptionally good at swimming. After all, they’re big and powerful, which means they can push their bodies through the water with ease, and they have those gigantic lungs, which only makes things even more straightforward.

Of course, practice makes perfect. You might find that your horse isn’t a strong swimmer the first time you take them out, but all that means is that they’re not a natural talent. Once they’ve been in the water a few times, you’ll probably see that they’re getting better. 

Question 6) Can a horse float in water?

The large lungs of a horse are suitable for many things, including floating! They don’t require much effort to stay afloat, which means they can focus on moving their bodies forward. 

Question 7) Can You Ride A Horse When It Is Swimming? 

Can you think of anything more epic than taking your horse for a ride…through a body of water? It’s certainly a different experience. The question is: are you able to do it? The answer is yes! Not only is it possible to do it, but it can be a lot of fun. You’ll be able to feel the strength and power of your horse as they force their way through the water. 

However, you’ll need to take extra care to ensure that everyone stays safe. They should be able to move freely; remember, while horses can swim, it’s not their natural environment.

There are a few things to keep in mind, however. While you can take your horse into the water, you shouldn’t go into just any water. Things will become much more difficult if the water is choppy, or too cold.

It’s also recommended to take a friend along with you. Even mild waters can pose a danger, and having someone to keep an eye on things will enhance the safety. Finally, don’t overdo it. You might be having a great time, but the longer the horse is in the water, the more tired he or she will become — and tiredness is when disaster strikes. 

Question 8) What Are The Benefits Of Swimming For Horses?

There are plenty of benefits of swimming for horses! One of the main benefits is simply that it’s fun, and who doesn’t like having a good time? The advantages go beyond simple fun, though. Swimming can help to improve the horses’ overall health and fitness, much in the same way that swimming improves a human’s fitness.

It’s especially recommended for horses that are carrying an injury. That’s because it’s a non-impact activity (as opposed to galloping on hard ground), helping the horse to stay fit and healthy while the body is repairing itself.

There’s also plenty of evidence that shows that swimming can provide an excellent workout for horses since it involves them using more muscles, and it’ll also boost their cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

And as with humans, horses can receive mental health benefits from swimming, too. A horse needs to use their body if they’re going to avoid irritability and anger, and if they’re injured, then swimming is a great way to give them that physical exertion that they need. 

Question 9) How Fast Can A Horse Swim & How Long Can They Swim For?

You’ll be impressed by the speed of your horse when they’re galloping on land. When they’re in the water? You might not be quite so impressed. That’s not to say they’re slow, but they’re much slower than when they’re running. At the upper limit, the horse will swim at around 4 km h.

They’re generally built to swim for such long periods unless they’ve been trained to do so. A ten minute swim can be the equivalent of running several miles! 

The conditions of the water also influence how long they can swim for. They’ll go for longer in a calm, warm pond than they would in the ocean, for example. They’ll swim a little further when they’re in survival mode, however. In 2016, a horse was rescued from the ocean after they’d been swimming for seven miles. And they were still going! 

Question 10) How long until a horse drowns

There are, of course, dangers associated with taking your horse for a swim. If they run out of steam when they’re in the water, and can’t access land, then they’ll drown, just as humans would. The issue is that horses are unable to turn around once they’re swimming. If you become disconnected from your horse, they’ll need to be pointed in the right direction. 

Before you go swimming with your horse, it’s recommended to take them to a training center, so they can learn the basics in a safe environment.

Question 11) Can horses swim in the ocean

Yes, they can! But because conditions can change, you’ll need to take extra care. It’s best to swim close to the shore, going across, so you can always retreat to land if things get tricky. As with any body of water, be sure to have someone else there to keep an eye on things.

Watch A Horse Swim Below

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