Behind The Scenes PART 3 - swimming

Dec 21, 2016

The horse is made to exercise intermittently, a pick of grass here, a saunter there, another nibble, another stroll.

But the thoroughbred racehorse spends much of his time in a confined space, whether it be in a yard or a box. They are exercised somewhat strenuously in the morning but also need further stimulation - both mental and physical - during the day.

Which is where swimming is a great aid to the racehorse trainer. And here at Cranbourne we are lucky to have a wonderful pool located just a few minutes' walk from our stable.

Swimming is of benefit both for increasing fitness in the horse being prepared to race - "it is added exercise that uses different energy systems," said Michael Kent - and for those recovering from a race or from a strong work out.

Studies have indicated that people who swim - or at least immerse themselves in cool water - after exercise recover more efficiently and that has certainly been our experience with horses.

"They can have a hard gallop, pull up huffing and puffing, then they come out of the pool bouncing," Michael said.

Whilst swimming has obvious cardio benefits, it is also excellent for the strengthening of the respiratory system with studies showing that horses with issues such as roaring - or those with a tendency to hold their breath in races - are greatly benefitted.

"A horse can hold his breath in a race but they can't whilst swimming so they really have to learn how to breath properly and they get into a good rhythm, strengthening the larynx in the process."

Other studies have indicated that the heart loves swimming too; a group of 14 horses divided into two groups of non-swimmers and swimmers with echocardiograms showing that the latter enjoyed noticeable strengthening of the cardiac muscles.

Other muscles, such as those across the back, take benefit from swimming. "It is a great way to mobilize the spine without putting any pressure on it," Michael said.

And then there are the mental benefits.

"The majority of horses absolutely love it - especially in the summer."

Such as our talented galloper Charlevoix who looks quite content in this photo!