Friday January 28 2011
Maybe I've been too long out of touch with the racetrack, but on a visit to the Turf Paradise backstretch in Phoenix, I was surprised to find they had a small swimming pool for exercising the horses. (Do the bigger tracks have this now, too?) Any horse can use it during the hours that the track is open.
Some horses take to it naturally like fish to water; some have to learn to swim efficiently (when one horse first started swimming, he just kicked with his back legs, and he had to learn to use his front ones too). Some plunge right into the pool down the steep ramp; some have to be forced in even though they've done it before. (The design is not the best; the ramp entering the pool is steep, and it makes a curve, so the horse can't see around the corner to open space.)
Once they get in, though, they seem to paddle right along, though some look to be doing it more effortlessly than others.
The pool is about 30 yards long and 10 wide, and the handler walks around the edges of the pool while the horse swims along the outside edge, guided by a pole attached to their halter (and with a lead rope also attached for safety).
Depending on the horse - sprinters usually take fewer laps; stayers usually take more - a couple of laps gives them a good workout and saves the pounding on their legs. Often a horse will swim a few laps,
be led out to catch his breath, then take another few laps. I wonder how many our endurance horses could do?
I'd always wanted to gallop racehorses on the track but due to one a small detail (i.e. my terror) I couldn't do it. Perhaps I could still ride racehorses - while they are in the swimming pool!