Northern Virginia Animal Swim Center
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Frequently Asked Questions - Horses


Swimming of horses has been discontinued until further notice.  We apologize for any inconvenience.

Q: My horse hates water. How do you get him to swim?

A: It is not that your horse hates water, it is just that he has not had the opportunity to gain water confidence. Nearly all animals know how to swim, but they must learn water confidence before they feel comfortable in entering the water and swimming by themselves.

Q: My horse hates water and will not even walk through a puddle. How are you going to get him into a swimming pool?

A: Swim Center staff are experienced in dealing with horses that have an initial fear of water. The pool at the Animal Swim Center has been specifically designed for swimming horses, with a gradual ramp into the water and side walls that encourage the horse to go forward rather than backwards or sideways. It then may take just a few words of encouragement, a little patience and maybe a slap on the butt to have the horse walk into the pool. The first lap is a nervous swim as the horse gets use to the water and gets comfortable with the swimming stroke. After the horse has been in and out of the pool a couple of times, his fear of water will be gone.

Q: My horse hates to cross creeks. Will swimming help to overcome this fear?

A: Yes. Once the horse has gained water confidence by swimming in the pool, you will find that he is less fearful when crossing creeks, walking through puddles or entering bodies of water. The Center offers a 7-day swimming program designed to overcome water fears and get them started in the swimming process.

Q: Can riders go in the pool with the horse?

A: No. Safety considerations do not allow people in the pool with the horses.

Q: How do you teach the horse to swim?

A: Horses do not need to be taught how to swim. They know how to swim naturally.

Q: How long does the horse swim?

A: It varies, depending on why the horse is swimming and where the horse is in the swimming program. Horses start out swimming about 200 yards and gradually build up over a period of time until they are swimming between 500 to 1500 yards or between 5 to 20 minutes swimming time.

Q: How hard does the horse work in swimming compared to ground exercise?

A: This is a difficult question to answer because of the physiological differences between swimming and normal ground exercise. For the horse, the swimming stroke is unique to swimming only and is very similar to the pace. Because there is no support from the ground and there is little or no resistance from the water, the amount of energy required to move forward in the water is significantly greater than that required to move forward on land. It takes approximately four complete swimming strokes to cover the same distance as one galloping stride on land. Based on this we can equate that approximately 10 laps (500 yards) of the pool is about equal to a 1 mile gallop.

Q: My horse is on stall rest. Can I swim him?

A: Generally yes, but first check with your veterinarian. In many cases swimming can begin during the stall rest period and before hand walking begins. Because there is no impact and weight to bear during the swimming process, it is the perfect exercise to provide movement and increased circulation to the injured area.

Q: I was told that swimming a young horse can interfere with normal bone growth. Is this true?

A: No. This stems from a belief that the weightlessness of the horse suspended in water would interfere with the density and strength of the developing bone and proper closure of the spaces between the joints. Swimming a young horse, even on a daily basis, would provide a weightless environment for no more than about 20 minutes a day. This is not enough time to have an effect on bone growth and density and is less time than what a normal horse might spend laying down with weight off the legs and knee joints. More harm can be done to the young horse from extended stall rest or restricted movement.

Q: How often does the horse have to swim for conditioning?

A: This depends on the condition of the horse to begin with and what the owner is trying to achieve from the swimming program. To achieve a high level of condition in the shortest amount of time, the horse would need to swim every day. Integrating the swimming with a planned schedule that includes groundwork, swimming every other day or two to three times a week will increase the horses condition and minimize the amount of groundwork required. A horse coming back from an extended lay-up will require anywhere from six weeks to three months depending on the level of fitness desired and the frequency of swimming.

Q: How much does it cost?

A: Horse owners and trainers can bring their horse to the center and swim for between $12 to $15 per swimming session, depending on how many swimming sessions they purchase in advance. Alternatively, owners may leave their horse at the center on a full board swimming program. In house swimming programs are between $25 to $35 per day depending on the swimming schedule and other activities performed. Also, see the fees and policies page.

Q: Do you have a Frequently Asked Questions for Dogs page?

A: Yes, F.A.Q. for Dogs can be found here.

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35469 Millville Road, Middleburg, VA 20117
Telephone: 540-687-6816   FAX: 540-687-8025

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