Can Horses Swim?

It depends. Like humans, horses can sink if they don’t know how to swim. While most horses can float pretty well, this shouldn’t be mistaken to mean they are great swimmers even without prior training.

If you love horses and swimming, you may have thought of taking your horse for a swim. However, you need to consider the fact that horses can sink. Horses also have a hard time turning in water. Your horse can keep going forward despite your best efforts to make him turn. This can increase drowning risks. If your horse hasn’t been through a swimming or floating lesson or they are too nervous about getting inside water, it’s not advisable to make them swim.

Wild horses couldn’t leave their entire lives in the wild without getting into water. Horses may, therefore, be among those animals that are genetically predisposed to swim. However, it’s not advisable to introduce swimming suddenly without unlocking your horse’s genetic potential. Your horse’s first experience with water is critical. The first time he/she enters deep waters, you shouldn’t be on his/her back.

Horse Swimming

Teaching A Horse To Swim

If you want to get your horse into water, you’ll need to teach him/her how to swim better. As mentioned above, horses may be genetically predisposed to swimming; however, they need a progressive introduction.

You should start with shallow water first building up from there. Never throw your horse in deep waters or attempt to force a swimming lesson. You can begin by visiting a shallow pond and try riding him/her in water that is at most 2 feet deep. Once he/she is used to this depth, you can venture deeper.

As you introduce him/her to deeper waters, ensure there are no big stones underneath. You can do test runs on your own to ensure your horse doesn’t trip on rocks. Before letting him/her venture deeper waters, let him/her stand momentarily in water until he/she is comfortable. You should watch out for signs of nervousness like abrupt stops coupled with awkward stops.

When he/she is comfortable, you can venture deeper. Make sure you are in front of him/her to avoid being kicked as he/she tries to push forward inside the water. Also, remember to teach him/her how to turn while in water.

When he/she becomes comfortable in water, his/her natural swimming instinct will “kick in”. Horses swim like large dogs. Since they are heavy, you’ll only see his/her head when he/she is swimming. The rest of his body will be submerged. If you look underneath, he/she will be busy paddling with his/her legs, similar to how dogs swim.

In fact, horses look like they are running if you watch them swimming from underwater. But this happens over time when a horse gets comfortable in water and learns how to swim. It’s advisable to guide your horse using a rope initially before he/she learns how to swim.

Do Horses Like To Swim?

It depends. Like people, some horses seem to love swimming while others don’t. While horses seem to be good swimmers when they become accustomed to water, not all horses love swimming or are good at swimming.

Horse Swimming Whilst Being Ridden

Is It Safe To Ride A Swimming Horse?

It can be dangerous and hard to ride a horse that is swimming. Since horses make different movements from those made when riding, your chances of slipping and falling are higher. What’s more, horses tend to be more focused on swimming than the rider, which poses serious risks.

It’s difficult to predict a horse’s movement while they are swimming. Your horse is likely to make unexpected and/or rapid movements that pose serious risks.

There’s also the risk of being kicked if you fall off your horse’s back while he is swimming. While a horse kick underwater may not be as lethal as one on land, it can injure you seriously, making it impossible for you to swim.

You can also float away if you attempt to ride a swimming horse. If you don’t know how to swim, don’t attempt to ride a horse that is swimming. If your horse’s head is the only part of their body above water, your chances of drowning are higher if you don’t know how to swim.

What To Do When Riding A Swimming Horse

If you must ride a swimming horse, there are some precautions you can take.

First and foremost, don’t push your horse downwards into the water. Horses can’t breathe underwater and will most probably get nervous make erratic movements and push you off his/her back. Instead, you should swim as well to avoid exerting undue pressure on him/her. This is better than clamming on his/her neck and making him/her nervous.

You should also swim for short periods at a time. As mentioned above, horses are not meant to swim. They tend to get tired fast underwater, sometimes faster than humans.

How long can horses swim? To avoid tiring him/her and introducing other risks such as sinking, don’t subject your horse to swimming for more than 10 minutes. You should come out of the water before you get tired of swimming.

If you happen to get off his/her back and start swimming beside him/her, stay away from his/her kicking legs. As mentioned above, underwater horse kicks can be lethal. Also, avoid swimming around him/her as this may make him/her nervous.

Do Horses Need To Swim?

No. While horses need exercise, they can get all the exercise they need running or doing other ground exercises. However, if you want to expose your horse to a variety of exercises, swimming can be a good alternative.

Since horses rely heavily on their legs when swimming, this can be a great leg exercise. Swimming can also strengthen your horse’s core muscles and improve his/her overall fitness. Swimming is common among horses with injuries. The exercise can heal serious injuries and boost muscle growth.


Like humans, they must learn how to swim first. Before you take your horse out for a swim in deep waters, ask yourself if he/she is swimming for the first time. You should also ensure you know how to swim if you plan on riding him/her while he/she is swimming. There are many risks associated with horses and water. If he/she doesn’t panic, he/she may forget about you. The importance of teaching your horse how to swim first can’t, therefore, be overlooked before you attempt to make him/her swim.

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