At first glance, the 12-foot-deep swimming pool at Canterbury Park looks just like any other put to use on a hot summer day. Put a 1,000-pound horse in it, however, and Don Bridge’s job is a bit different from the average pool supervisor.
Canterbury Park has one of two on-site horse swimming pools in the nation, said Bridge, who has operated it for four years.
Bridge, 60, began galloping horses as soon as he could get a license at 16, and in 1969, he began working at a horse swimming pool in Colorado, one of the first he’d ever heard of. Swimming horses helps the animal take pressure off joints and tendons while still keeping their heart rates up.
Most horses, Bridge said, enjoy the cool break from the monotony of the track
“It’s a natural instinct for a horse to swim, but not all of them are good swimmers,” he said. “They’re like humans — good ones, and bad ones.”
Bridge went to school to become a certified pool operator in the state of Minnesota, and takes pride in his ability to keep the pool’s cleanliness up to human quality. Each horse is hosed down before it enters the pool, and Bridge’s wife and daughter help him lead the horses around the pool on ropes as they swim laps.
Earlier this summer while swimming a young horse for the first time, Bridge got his hand caught in the rambunctious animal’s rope, and it broke his finger.
“That’s the hazards of the game,” Bridge said. “It looks like an easy job, but it’s not really an easy job.”