Can Horses Swim, Float, or Do They Sink Like a Stone?

Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Allison Price

We took our horses on a trail ride through swamps and bayous. My grandson was concerned about the water’s rising depth and asked me if horses can swim in the deeper water.

Horses can swim and some horses are very proficient at it. Like humans, there are some that can swim better than others and some that struggle to master the technique. Horses can swim easily because of their natural floatation devices, which are large lungs.

It can be fun to ride horses on trails, but also offers therapeutic benefits. There are many things you can learn about horses and how they swim.

Why do horses swim?

Horses swim, presumably because they need to cross a river. Wild horses traveled across continents to survive, sometimes crossing water.

Can Horses Swim, Float, or Do They Sink Like a Stone

To survive, horses swam.

Because of their adaptability and ability to travel, horses have been around for thousands of years. Horses move to more fertile regions when their food supplies are depleted in one area.

When forage was scarce, ancient horses from North America crossed the Bering Strait. Their ability to move from one place to another was crucial to the survival of the horse species. The horse’s ability and skill to cross waterways was also vital.

Modern horses don’t need to swim for survival, so why would they?

Horses can be trained by swimming.

Aqua-therapy is a low-impact exercise that can be done with horses and humans. Horses will show significant improvement in their athletic performance if they are regularly trained and accompanied by groundwork.

Water exercise increases muscle strength, endurance, joint range of motion and muscle development. Aqua-therapy is a way for horses to relax and enjoy the water.

Aqua-therapy is less impactful than traditional training on the ground. Horses are therefore less likely to be injured by it. Trainers who work with horses in water have more to offer than a low-impact workout.

Water exercise is a great way to strengthen your muscles and increase flexibility. This is a full-body workout that makes horses stronger, more explosive, balanced, and healthier.

Each horse’s fitness level must be assessed before any training program can begin. Horse trainers who condition horses in water start slowly and allow the horses to swim up to three times per week.

The length and duration of the intervals will increase with the animal’s fitness. According to estimates, a third mile of horse work in a pool is equivalent to one-mile gallop.

After an injury, horses swim to rehabilitation.

A long, narrow trench with a guidewire runs from one end to the other of the horse racing training centers. It is located next to one of the barns. It was something we had seen many times before my grandson asked about it today.

A trench is a small pool that’s used for horse hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy can be used to treat injuries or surgeries on horses, or it can be used to train horses who need low-impact training.

Aquatic therapy can be especially helpful for horses who are prone to foot injury or have suffered an injury to their lower legs. The majority of pools for horse hydrotherapy have a gradual sloped entry.

Horses are hooked up to a guideline that holds their heads above the water. This allows them to move freely and prevents them from falling into the water. Horses will soon become comfortable with the facility and enjoy it.

Hydro-therapy pools come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Trainers can also use saltwater spas, underwater treadmills, and whirlpools for horses recovering from injuries.

Subwater treadmills

Horse rehabilitation therapy is a safe and effective way to treat our horses. The underwater treadmill is one such treatment.

An underwater treadmill can either be inground or above ground. Most inground treadmills can be used with multiple horses simultaneously.

These are useful for horses who have suffered an injury to a limb or any other weight-bearing structure. Horses can walk on the treadmill with a semi-buoyant body.

The treadmills above ground adjust the water depth for each horse according to how much pressure they need to walk.

These units can also be adjusted to provide different temperatures and water flow, which increases resistance and improves muscle development.

Above-ground units have the disadvantage of holding less water and can only be used for one horse.

Aqua-therapy may not be for everyone horses

Aqua-therapy is not available to horses with respiratory diseases, surgical incisions, drainage wounds, joint inflammation, or other conditions.

Horses with respiratory diseases such as asthma may have to be concerned about submersion in water.

Always consult your vet before you start a hydrotherapy regimen for your horse.

Swimming is a favorite pastime for some horses.

We used to ride our horses to the pond as children. My horse would speed up and dive in the water when we got close. Then, he would swim to the other side.

He loved being in the water and we had other horses who enjoyed the same. My daughter was not happy that she rode such an horse.

Her horse would coax her every time she rode by a bayou. My daughter wanted to stay dry, but she relented every time her horse took so much enjoyment in paddling in the deep cool water.

What distance can a horse swim?

A horse was working in the pool of the racing barn’s narrow pool for around thirty minutes. We spoke with the trainer afterwards and asked him how long a horse swims.

He explained that the horse had been in the pool for more than three months and was in excellent condition. Every horse is unique, so it is important to be aware of fatigue signs while they are in the pool.

It is difficult to estimate the time horses can swim in open water because there are so many variables. Horses float well so don’t need to keep their bodies above the water. Instead, they propel forward.

In calm water, a horse can swim for a long time if it is moving slowly. One swimming against the current will tire faster and travel a shorter distance.

Famous swimming horses

The most well-known horse swim is the annual Chincoteague pony race. Visitors travel from all walks of the globe to witness feral horses swim across the Assateague Channel since it was established in 1925.

Because the federal permit limits the number of horses allowed, the swim is designed to manage the animals’ population. The horses were transferred to Assateague in 1947, and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (now Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge) was created.

There are restrictions placed on the number wild horses allowed to graze at Federal Refuge. To reduce the number of wild horses allowed to graze at the Federal Refuge, the government has set limits on the number of ponies that can be brought in. The ponies that don’t sell go back to Assateague Island.

The event is called the Chincoteague Pony Swim, but the animals are actually small feral horses. They are a registered breed, and usually stand between 12-13 hands high. These dogs are thought to be the descendants of Spanish Conquistadors who were lost at sea in the 1500s.

The event attracts over 40,000 people today and features approximately 150 horses.


Horses can swim or float. Aqua-therapy can be used to condition horses or heal injuries. Lastly, most horses love being in the water.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!