Originally posted 11/09/2012: As most of you know, Wrigley went into training this month. In the past, I was always fortunate enough to swim my young show horses before they ever went into training. In this way, they were strong and prepared for the intense workouts ahead… With Wrigley, he isn’t being show trained – so swimming isn’t a must. However, I still think it is one of the BEST all-around workouts for your horse, with no stresses (other than the initial fear). If you have the chance, do it for your horse! You will not regret it.
The Best Equine Workout Ever! Hit the Pool!
Have you ever heard of Equine Underwater Treadmills? I know it sounds like a mouthful, but it really only means swimming your horse in a pool, safely. (Psst, it isn’t as expensive as you are thinking right now…)
OMG. This is an unbelievable workout. If you have an equine pool facility where you live, just go check it out. I’ve had horses in training for years and nothing beats the overall, non-invasive workout of swimming. I am convinced the muscles that swimming builds has given my horses the extra power and strength they needed to compete and stay sound. I really feel that swimming created muscle memory and an overall fitness that no trainer had ever been able to reach with traditional (and creative non-traditional) land bound training.
But, the most interesting tidbit to ponder is that many of the pool attendees are horses in rehab. Think about that… Swimming is so non-invasive and so good for you — oops, I mean so good for your horse — that many equine athletes and horses recovering from injury, swim. Since there is no percussion on any of the muscles, joints or bones, swimming really helps heal everything while forming and strengthening all the structures. Here are several articles regarding equine swimming.
I find it also interesting that many Breeding and Foaling operations also have a Rehabilitation Pool. (Read, not as expensive as if it were at the trainers…) I think those two concepts seem to go together because the Foaling places needed something to do the rest of the year. Or, at least that is what I think… Anyway, these pools are around. You don’t hear about them much because many of the clients are elite athletes and not many of us hang out with that crowd. But, I’m just me and I swam some of my horses so don’t be intimidated. (These guys will probably know of a pool near you.)
Why did I swim my horses? Well, somehow, I heard about an equine swimming pool that was at a nearby foaling farm. I was intrigued. And, since I’ve been a swimmer all of my life, I was doubly intrigued. So, I went up there to check it out. At the time, I had a two year-old who was incredibly talented but really gangly and limby. I thought swimming could help her fill out and gain strength (like it did for me when I was gangly and limby). And, bonus!… I found that the people at the foaling farm were really loving. The caretakers at this combined swim rehab and foaling place were wonderful. I think my horse felt like she was at camp!
Wow! It was so cool. First of all, Oregon (where I lived at the time) is no picnic. So, this pool had to be built indoors. Not only was it indoors, but it was below ground. Imagine a lap lane for horses with guard rails. The horse is led down a rough and graded ramp (not easy the first few times, let me tell you!). Once the horse is in the concrete tunnel, he stands on a treadmill. The operators slowly let the water in, a little at a time. After a few days, the horse is comfortable with the water up to their shoulders. At this time, they start the treadmill very slowly. The horse goes with it. After a while, the operators increase the speed and from there the sky is the limit! Of course, the horse is never left alone and there are emergency switches and drains all over the place. But, I didn’t see any panic, once the horse was introduced properly.
I watched my little filly learn this. It was tough to witness it all because she was really afraid when the water entered, naturally. But, after Mommy got over it, so did Ava. Within a week, she was a pro! I think she loved it. After her workouts, she was very frisky and playful. And, after 8 weeks, my little filly was turning into a beautiful swan. It was incredible!
Are you interested in the periphery stuff? I was. So, yes, the horses use the facilities, so to speak. And, yes, the water is drained after every horse. As far as the amount of wet when the horse comes out, depending upon the weather but for sure in Oregon, the horses have to be completely dried. At the particular pool I attended, there were major blowers and heat dryers everywhere. The horses seemed to love the warm air blowing on them. It was weird. Whenever I have anything that makes a blowing noise in the barn, my horses run for the hills! But here, they just stood there with their eyes closed and fell asleep almost. Maybe after a swimming workout, you can sleep with anything going on!
OK, well, if you want to find out more , go to the website and see if there are any pools near you. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who has an extreme athlete equine or anyone who just wants to balance out their horse’s body. I think it is a great overall workout. And, I can say from a professional point of view, my mare who swam for all those months did grow into a very strong and unbeatable show mare. She was undefeated and also won at the Grand Nationals unanimously. Unanimously! I have always thought she had an edge because the swimming formed her body and gave her strength without stress. Of course, that is just my opinion.
Anyway, it is very cool and you might want to check it out if your horse has a nagging injury as well. Here is a link to a equine pool manufacturer that can tell you about pools in your area. And, here are some facilities to peruse. But, there are many, many more. From my experience it was a win-win.
The last photo is my gangly and limby filly, all grown up, and in the process of her huge win. I’m telling you, it works!