WINDSOR — A quarter horse named Gypsy was the perfect choice to demonstrate the equine swimming pool at a new business known as AQUAHORSE.


The chestnut barrel racer was as comfortable as a duck paddling in the water, moving swiftly, smoothly and calmly from one end of the pool to the other.


“Horses are a lot like little kids around water,” said Michael Palmer, who owns AQUAHORSE with a silent partner. “Some of them take to it like fish, and some of them need to be coaxed before they’ll go in.”


AQUAHORSE’s pool can be used for rehabilitation, therapy and conditioning.


“While swimming, a horse can work muscle groups that he can’t normally work when he’s standing on the ground,” Palmer said. “Swimming helps with muscular development, and it helps with cardiovascular development.”


A rig attached to Gypsy’s halter had lead ropes on either side that Palmer and AQUAHORSE Manager Anna Shaw held while the horse swam. The rig also was connected to an overhead cable that ran down the middle of the pool.


“This particular horse likes to go to the right a little bit, and the cable helps keep her in the middle of the pool,” Shaw said.


In addition, Palmer explained, the cable is a safety feature that will keep a horse’s head above water and prevent drowning if a problem occurs.


Palmer, who has more than 20 years of experience in rodeo competitions, designed the pool. It is 90 feet long, 16 feet wide and 8 feet deep.


“I’ve done a lot of research over the last two years, looking at different pools around the country and seeing their pluses and their drawbacks,” Palmer said. “With this pool, I tried to eliminate any possibility of injury to a horse.”


For injured horses, swimming allows them to exercise without putting weight on damaged ligaments, tendons and bones.


“It reduces healing time,” Palmer said.


Shaw, who is a competitive carriage driver, believes swimming is especially useful in the conditioning of horses.


“It builds up their stamina without putting strain on their joints,” she said.


AQUAHORSE is located on an 8½-acre spread on Bussey Road. Also on the property, in addition to the pool, are an automatic horse walker and a paddock with a run-in shed for horses whose owners want them to stay and swim for several days or a week at a time.


Swimming sessions are available by appointment on Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon.


“We’ll see how it goes and if the demand exceeds the time that is available, we’ll increase our hours of operation,” Palmer said. “We’re thinking about charging $35 a swim.”


For more information about AQUAHORSE, call 803-266-2326.


Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013.