Forget dolphins - swimming with horses is the experience of a lifetime.
What could be a more incredible experience than floating above your horse as they power through the waters beneath you? Horses are natural, strong swimmers, and most of them love being in the water.
Below are some of the most amazing coast-side locations to explore with the help of your two-legged companion.
1. Vivanculos, Mozambique
Mozambique Horse Safaris offers its lucky guests the opportunity to explore the Vivanculos coast on horseback. This part of this South African nation is renowned for stunning white sand beaches, gently waving palm trees, the archipelago of islands that lie in its waters, and incredible sunsets. With a range of trail rides available, the final day includes a dip in the sea with your trusty steed (tide permitting).
2. Holkham Beach, Norfolk
Every year, the horses of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment are brought to Holkham Beach in Norfolk for their holidays, where they get to have a gallop and a swim. The long, golden sandy beach forms part of a huge nature reserve, and dogs and horses are welcome, although be aware that you may get strong currents, and the odd naturist or two popping up among the dunes (Holkham has long been a popular spot for naturists).
3. Sweetgrass Creek, Montana, USA
A tributary of the famous Yellowstone River, Sweetgrass Creek is a crazy river that’s jumping with brown trout and from July through the September. And once the high water drops from the spring run-off, the conditions are perfect for swimming horses in it. Sweet Grass Ranch is a family-owned cattle ranch in this stunning national park that offers a range of horse riding holidays for wannabe cowboys and pleasure riders alike, including the opportunity to swim in the creek.
4. Loch Lomond, Scotland
The banks of Loch Lomond – Britain’s largest stretch of inland water – are home to Shoshoni the swimming horse, who can regularly be seen paddling alongside her owner Susan Gell’s boat as she takes the trip from their island home on Inchtavannach to the mainland. Check her out on YouTube here. There are plenty of trekking centres along the banks of Loch Lomond, but if you want to swim, you’ll need to take your own horse. It’s fabulous riding country, but as ever, do make the proper safety checks before taking your horse into the water. And remember, it’ll be bracing, to say the least!
5. Keratokambos, Crete
Crete’s combination of fascinating archaeological sites, sunshine and stunning beaches make it the perfect holiday destination. It’s also horse riding paradise, with Odysseia Stables not only offering riders the opportunity to explore the island’s craggy mountains, quaint villages and cool olive groves on horseback, but also to swim with the horses in the sparkling waters of the Libyan sea.
6. Bali, Indonesia
If you’re looking for a tropical paradise, then look no further than Bali, the Indonesian island famous for its green forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches and coral reefs. To make it even more perfect, many local tour operators and trekking centres offer guests the opportunity to swim in the island’s warm blue waters on horseback try Bali Star Adventures.
Swimming on horseback in the UK – key safety advice
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency gave us the following advice:
The Coastguard would like to encourage everyone to enjoy our British coastline safely. So make sure that you check weather and tides before you set out, wear appropriate clothing and footwear and be responsible about alcohol consumption. We would recommend taking a mobile phone with you. A torch, map and compass may also be useful items if you are unfamiliar with the area. It is always good practice to let someone know where you are, what you are doing and when you expect to return. Update them if your plans change.
When swimming, stay within your depth. If you get caught in a strong current or rip current try to stay as calm as you can, raise your hand and shout for help. If you can’t get help, try and swim parallel to the beach until you’re out of trouble then swim to the shore. If you can stand up, wade instead of swimming.
Do not attempt to try and rescue your horse if it gets into difficulty and is being swept out to sea. More often than not, the horse is likely to rescue itself but sadly in some cases, owners get into further difficulty and may not return to shore.
As always, if you get into difficulty or you see anyone in trouble, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
Finally, a few more obvious points to bear in mind:
- Know where you’re swimming. Check local coastguard information and don’t swim anywhere with rip tides, strong currents, underwater rocks, and so on.
- Be aware that your tack may restrict your horse you definitely don’t want to use anything that may hold his head, like a martingale, and you could get tangled in the reins.
- If you do use any tack, you’ll need to thoroughly clean and condition it afterwards.
- Your horse may try and roll when he goes into the water and again when he comes out, with you on top! Be prepared for this (it’s another reason not to use a saddle!)
- Be aware that ponds and lakes may have unpleasant creatures in them such as leeches, which can be harmful to your horse and you.
- Never go alone. Take a friend on horseback and have them stand in the shallows while you swim. That way, if your horse panics, he’ll be more likely to head for his friend than out to sea.
- Don’t even think about swimming on a horse that’s never done this before and isn’t used to beaches/dogs/water. You need a horse that’s completely bombproof!
Other than that, enjoy!