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16 February 2012

Swimming a Horse

During seasons of high water, men,
in traversing the plains,
often encounter rivers which rise above
the fording stage, and remain in that condition
for many days, and to await the falling of the water
might involve a great loss of time.

If the traveler be alone, his only way is
to swim his horse; but if he retains
the seat on his saddle,
his weight presses the animal
down into the water,
and cramps his movements very sensibly.

It is a much better plan
to attach a cord to the bridle bit,
and drive him into the stream; then,
seizing his tail, allow him to tow you across.
If he turns out of the course, or attempts to turn back,
he can be checked with the cord, or
by splashing water at his head.

If the rider remains in the saddle,
he should allow the horse to have a loose
rein, and never pull upon it
except when necessary to guide.
If he wishes to steady himself, he can
lay hold upon the mane.

From The Prairie Traveler by Randolph B. Marcy (Perigree Books, 1994, first pub. 1859), pp.62-63. Marcy, a U.S. army captain, wrote the guide at the request of the U.S. War Department. Submitted by Alexa.