Friday, January 28, 2011

Swim For It!

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!


  1. Seems like a great way to exercise a horse. I, too, would never ride a race horse on a track due to sheer terror, but I might mount up for a swim.

  2. Merri...that looks like Ice Pony Huginn would love it, he really enjoys water. :O)

  3. One of the perks is that you don't have to hose them down after this work-out.

  4. Thank you so much for this post! My Sovey must have had a pool at his track in Florida because he is obsessed with "swimming" in our large trough and also his loves when a hard rain brings a "pond" in the pasture.

    So funny - your comment about breezing Thoroughbreds at the track. I wanted to do that too my whole life - except for MY terror! I like that there is someone else out there like me!

  5. Looks refreshing! Good det of photos. I wonder why they have the curved ramp; maybe if the horses could see the water they wouldn't go in at all. I wonder if it is a Temple Grandin design.

  6. A couple of people have now mentioned my comment of 'the design is not the best', and Temple Grandin in the same sentence.
    I only said that statement because someone (who's used other pools) mentioned that to me.
    And the Temple Grandin movie is on my list to see.
    What do I know about swimming pools after seeing my first one!
    The curve may in fact be a good idea. The ramp was steep... but maybe that has its purpose too.
    All but one horse I watched had no trouble going in, and none seemed to hate swimming, and a couple were very comfortable doing it.

  7. Wouldn't it be nice to have squeaky clean horses? (Mine are so disgustingly filthy at the moment)

    I wonder if the horses enjoy it?

  8. That's really neat! I would love to take Tsp out there and try it, hahahah. He'd probably just stop at the edge and look at me like I was crazy.

  9. Merri tengo preparado un articulo sobre este modo de entrenamiento para caballos de raid.
    Para recuperar de lesiones osea o musculares, los entrenamientos en piscinas son muy bueno e interesantes, ya que la resistencia del agua hace que los huesos y musculos no sufran como un entrenamiento normal.
    Ya veras este articulo, donde la piscina es muy parecida a la de tu articulo.
    Saludos de Gabriel.

  10. There is a training farm not far from here with a horse swimming facility. For a fee, outside horses can use it.

    However, my vet said it's not the best exercise since the horse tends to have to be inverted in its back when it swims in order to keep its head up. BUT! That does not mean it's not good physical therapy for a horse recovering from leg injuries, etc.

    The handlers all have to be trained how to guide and encourage the horses in, out, and when they swim.

    Regardless--kinda cool!!

  11. That's fascinating, and probably good for the horses, too.
    Sounds like Temple Grandin could design a better ramp system, though. :)


  12. I ust read through the comments and saw someone else brought up Temple Grandin. lol!

    You know, the more I think of it, maybe Temple did have a part in that design. If you see the movie you will notice that created a round-up system with aisles that curved in circles. She believed and noticed that cows naturally wanted to travel that wide, slow, relaxed circles. It kept the cows calmer and therefore their meat better quality.


  13. Big endurance training facilities (in europe, middle east and Malaysia) have swimming pools too.
    When I went to visit the royal stables in Malaysia, ALL the horses were going to take some laps few times a week.
    The more fit horses were doing ...6 laps in each direction.
    I have pictures and videos, I should Post them.
    I know some endurance riders in the us using swimming as part of their training program.

  14. My horse Amigo swims twice a week in the summer to stay fit and to lessen wear and tear on his 14 year old legs. He has been doing this for most of his endurance career and he loves it!

  15. My favorite...swimming racehorses at the beach!!