Posted March 29, 2002
Water. Every living creature on earth needs, uses, and benefits from it. Man uses water for everything from a source of re-hydration to a source of recreation and exercise. It is a well-known fact that human health is benefited through water related exercise or swimming. Wouldn’t horses benefit from this use of water as well?

Mike House of Shelbyville is making sure that horses are reaping the results of this aquatic opportunity. In late July of 2001, Mike and his family opened the barn doors to Taking the Plunge Farm. Located on Highway 41A North in Shelbyville, Taking the Plunge Farm is the first ever horse swimming facility dedicated to the Tennessee Walking Horse.

In 1976 Mike’s horse-training venture began in his hometown of London, Kentucky working for Snuffy Smith Stables. While Mike was under the direction of Bob Burton in Lexington, Kentucky, Wallace Brandon would bring Mike to Middle Tennessee to train walking horses. It was in Tennessee that Mike would assist and learn from veteran horse trainers like Bud Seaton, Wink Groover, W.E. Broughton, Charles Massey, Buddy Hugh, and Ronal Young. While working for these expert horsemen Mike started and helped developed many world champions. With a great start like he had, it was clear that Mike House was destined for great things.

Mike’s next milestone had nothing to do with horses. In 1994, Mike married Chavigny Beasley, the granddaughter of Hall of Famer Jim Beasley. Mike and Chavigny now have one son, Jeb House, who already has begun to enjoy the walking horse industry.

In 1996 Mike decided to put his professional training career on hold. Mike and Chavigny ventured into the antique business and opened what would soon become the successful Antique Marketplace. While Chavigny ran the store, Mike bought, refinished, and repaired antiques. During his spare time while working in the antique business Mike continued training horses as a hobby. In 1999 Mike took his hobby and made it his profession once again, but this time Mike would offer a different and revolutionary training program.

While all show horses are exercised through frequent riding, rarely if ever is a horse exercised through swimming. This is where Mike House comes in.

Construction of the first ever swimming facility dedicated to the walking horse began in October of 2000. Within nine months Mike was ready to open the barn doors and welcome in outside horses. Taking the Plunge Farm was born.

When Taking the Plunge opened in late July there were only four horses in training. After word began to spread and the Celebration neared ever closer, more and more owners and trainers decided to let their horses take the plunge. Horses swimming at Mike House’s farm skyrocketed from four to twenty within a matter of weeks. By the time the Celebration had wrapped up another great show over forty horses had become regular swimmers at Taking the Plunge. Several of this number garnered Celebration blues with help gained from their aquatic experiences.

The benefits gained by the inaugural group of horses that participated in Mike’s swimming program are extremely helpful to any horse in competition. Swimming contributes to the muscle strength, lung capacity, and overall cardiovascular condition of the horse. Improvements in these areas of a horses health are reflected in an improved performance and less strain on the horses muscles.

“Swimming is just a great exercise for horses.” states Mike House. “It’s great for a horse’s cardiovascular system while at the same time it doesn’t put any stress on the joints.” The condition of a horses respiratory system is a deterring factor in the amount of fatigue and exhaustion experienced by a horse in the show ring. It has been proven that a horse’s windpipe nearly doubles in size by the end of Mike’s swimming program (see illustration). This allows more air to be exhaled and inhaled by the horse during a performance or workout. Easier breathing results in greater endurance and overall a greater performance.

Another advantage gained from swimming is that of the stress relief on the horses feet. A horse that is ridden experiences the constant impact from the ground; while a horse that is swam does not have to deal with that. Since swimming gives a similar type of workout to riding, a horse can take the benefits from riding without the stress that is caused by the repeated ground impact with the foot. The strain relief from swimming is felt by the feet, legs, tendons, and ligaments of the horse.

Mike’s program is carefully designed to meet the special needs of each and every horse. A beginning workout only lasts three to four minutes. While this seems like a short period of exercise, the benefits gained are immense. Mike then gradually increases the amount of time spent engaged in swimming. By the time a horse has become a seasoned swimmer, the time spent in the water has been upped to twenty-eight to thirty minutes. This is the ideal time for an aquatic workout.

A primary concern for all horse owners is that of their horses safety. Mike House has taken every possible step to ensure the safety of the horses at his facility before, after, and during their workout. Mike has control of the horse at all times during the workout. Mike leads the horse around the dock for the appropriate amount of time. While Mike is doing this, one of his assistants stands by ready for any problem that might arise during the swim. If an accident does occur, Taking the Plunge Farm is fully insured. Owners can rest easy in the fact that during it’s inaugural year there have not been any accidents encountered while swimming thanks to Mike’s caution and care of the horses while in the water.

Taking the Plunge Farm is not just a swimming facility. A complete training program is offered and currently Mike and Chavigny’s amateur world champion stallion out of Coin’s Hard Cash,Cash’s Jackpot, is standing at stud.

The enormous success Mike received from the 2001 show season was immense. Chavigny House also enjoyed success with her very popular Current Thymes Cafe. Both Mike and wife Chavigny look forward to even greater things in the future. Mike is even contemplating building an indoor swimming facility. This would allow horses to enjoy the rewards of swimming all year long.

Mike’s response to the question of why he operates this inventive program says it all. “I do it because I want to do more than just train the horse, I want to help the horse.” With an attitude like that, Mike House will be accomplishing great things in the walking horse industry.

So don’t be left out this show season, let your horse dive on in at Taking the Plunge Farm; where the water is just right.