A dip in the ocean at the end of a long hot day can be one of summer's most enjoyable pleasures, especially after a hard day of training. It's one of the ways Shamus, a 9-year-old blue roan leopard Appaloosa, winds down.
Once a week during the summer, Shamus' owner, Cindy Hilary, joins other horse owners at Cedar Beach in Southold to swim with their animals.
"It's great," said Hilary, 45, of Southold. "The horses just so much enjoy doing this."
The "Pony Swim," as it is now known, started in late June when temperatures soared into the 90s. A few friends began to gather at the beach with their horses one night a week. They invited others, who invited still others, and by the end of August, about 30 horses had joined the "swim" team.
"I really enjoyed the fact that the group [grew], and we got to meet new people," said Emily Toth, 24, also of Southold. She was one of the original participants and often came to the beach with her parents, Bill and Vicki, and four horses — Tucks, Gabriel, Mozdy and Bugsy.
Horses do not need to be taught to swim, according to Toth, who said the equines "are kind of like dogs. They just go in, and they start to swim."
Many of the horses are show horses that train hard during the day — in 2012 Shamus qualified for the Appaloosa Horse Club Association's World Championship Show in Fort Worth, Texas — so the beach trip is a chance for them to wind down and relax. "When we go to the beach, it's just enjoyment," Hilary said. "Swimming in the water takes everything away from the horses' minds and releases all the tension."
After the swim, while the horses relax in their trailers, the owners mingle and eat. "We [did] a little tailgating," Hilary added. "We brought down sandwiches. It was nice to be with friends."