Riding horses is a lot of fun but sometimes you and your equine friend might decide you’d like to try something different. So, how about swimming? Particularly in warm weather, if you live near a horse-friendly beach or lake a refreshing swim could be a real highlight to a hack.

However, entering the water could put you both in a risky situation. A walk in the shallows won’t concern most horses and their riders. But what happens if you go deeper until your horse is really swimming?

If you want to try this out then you need to make sure everything is safe for your horse beforehand. The team at Equesure has put together some guidance for those who are keen to take the plunge with their intrepid companion.

Knowing your horse’s likes and dislikes and being aware of appropriate safety measures are essential for a stress-free swim with your faithful companion, as is having the right horse rider insurance.

Whether it’s your first time together in the water or you’ve swam with horses many times before, every horse is different and so is every swim. So, here’s a quick checklist of questions to ask yourselves before heading out.

Can your horse swim?

Like pretty much all mammals, horses have a natural instinct to swim when in deep water. Providing they keep moving forward they will stay afloat and will raise their head above the water to breath. They’ll move their legs in a similar way to trotting to maintain balance and stability.

However, because horses cannot hold their breath in the same way we can, if their head becomes submerged there is a greater danger of drowning. Also try to keep water out of a horse’s ear as it could cause discomfort or even lead to an ear infection.

Can you swim?

While you might choose to ride your horse while they’re swimming this is no substitute for you being able to swim! Never go in the water if you’re not a good swimmer. You can have plenty of fun in shallow water without the risks.

Do horses like to swim?

Horses, like their owners, have their own individual quirks. If you haven’t swam with them before then check with former owners to see what their experience has been. Never rush things and always introduce them gradually to water.

Will swimming be good for your horse?

There are lots of benefits of swimming for horses. These include:

  • Fitness – A horse has to work hard when swimming so it’s excellent for increasing the capacity of their heart and lungs as well as toning muscles.
  • Rehabilitation – Hydrotherapy is popular for those horses recovering from leg and tendon injuries as well as muscle damage. However, don’t overdo it, swimming can be tiring so don’t stay in for too long.
  • Entertainment – Many horses enjoy swimming particularly after a ride on a hot day. Be warned though, some horses love nothing better than a good roll after a swim. So bring a brush for any dirt and sand!

Is the location safe?

Swimming with a horse can be an amazing experience, but can quickly go wrong if you’re not careful. Even if you know the location well don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Always consider these factors.

  • How deep is the water? Can you reach shallow water quickly if you need to?
  • Is there a gentle slope or a sudden drop? If the floor suddenly drops away your horse could lose its footing and panic.
  • What is the lake or sea floor made of? Sand, pebbles or large rocks will provide a very different surface for your horse to walk on.
  • Is there anything floating in the water? Even pieces of floating wood or seaweed could unnerve a horse.
  • Are there waves? If your horse can’t keep their head above the waves then don’t enter the water. If there are speedboats and other vehicles that could create waves then stay away.
  • Is the current strong? If the current is strong then go no deeper than your horse’s knee height.
  • Will you disturb others? Be considerate of other water users.
  • Are there any rules you must follow? Not all areas allow horses in the water or on the beach so check before you set off. Always bring a shovel and clean up after your horse.
  • Is the water safe? From blue-green algae to jellyfish be aware there could be a risk to you or your horse.

Is someone going with you?

Horses are herd animals so will be happier entering the water with four-legged friends. Also, if something does happen you’ll be glad of the help.

Wherever your ride takes you, don’t leave home before arranging horse rider insurance and downloading a safety app to alert someone if you need help.

A note about tack safety when swimming

If you think you’ll be swimming then remove the saddle before entering the water. This will not only prevent potential saltwater damage but will also allow better movement for your horse. Perhaps consider a bitless bridle for when they go swimming. Wherever you do, it’s vital you remove any tack which restricts the upward movement of their head as the horse needs to be able to hold it above the surface to breathe.

You should only do this if you are experienced enough, having a neck strap can also help to give you something to hold on to for security, without effecting your horses ability to swim and breathe. There can be serious implications if you lose control of your horse in the water.

Protect yourself with horse rider insurance through Equesure.

Swimming with your horse is a great way to experience all our wonderful environment has to offer. But whatever your level of experience, a policy arranged through Equesure will protect you from the financial consequences of an accident.

From happy hackers to powerful thoroughbreds, with over 60 years of experience in the insurance market, our specialist team can offer you a bespoke policy tailored to your requirements.

We can offer personal accident cover up to £20,000, saddlery and tack cover up to £2,500 (single article limit of £1,000) and death of horse cover up to £3,250. Policies from our trusted panel of insurers can also cover vets fees up to £1,500 for accidental injury and public liability up to £1 million.

Get a quick quote for horse rider insurance today.


Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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