Do You Know How Horses Sleep?


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How do horses sleep in the wild?

Horses' sleeping habits are quite different from those of humans. Most human sleep is usually a long, single stretch, about eight hours in a 24-hour day.

Horses sleep for various periods during the day and have brief periods of deep sleep lying down in the middle of the night. Horses' sleep patterns change according to their age.

Foals lie down for frequent naps and spend about half the day sleeping until they are about three months old. As the foal grows, the frequency of naps decreases and they are more likely to stand up rather than lie down.

Adult horses spend more time dozing upright than in deep sleep lying down.

How the adult horse sleeps

Mature horses most often rest in a standing position, but this does not provide deep or REM sleep. To fall into a truly deep sleep, all skeletal muscles must be relaxed; this cannot happen when the horse is standing.

However, when standing, the horses will fall sound asleep, but they can wake up and become alert very quickly. This is a survival mechanism for horses, as they evolved as a kind of prey.

But how can a horse doze while standing? Horses have a unique anatomical mechanism in their hind legs called a support apparatus. This allows a horse's kneecap to slip out of place and lock the hind limb in a standing position.

Although it sounds painful, in horses it is not a problem. When you sleep while standing, this restraint will lock into place on a single hind leg; the other rear limb will be relaxed. Often the horse appears to be leaning on one hip.

Most horses will lie down to sleep soundly a few times each night if they have a comfortable place to sleep and feel safe. That is why it is important to provide a dry and protected area, such as a jogging shed or spacious stable, so your horse can safely stretch out for a nap.

How long do horses sleep

Adult horses sleep about three hours every 24 hours. The duration and type of sleep are affected by diet, temperature, workload, pregnancy, and gender.

The period of each phase of sleep is very short, lasting only a few minutes at a time. Young horses tend to sleep more than mature horses. Older horses may doze more often.

Sleeping positions

A sleeping horse will mainly bear its weight on its two front legs and one hind leg. One hind leg will relax with the hoof resting on the ball of the foot.

The head and neck droop, the ears are relaxed, the eyes are closed, and the lower lip may droop or contract. When horses experience deep sleep lying down, they will stretch out on the ground.

Sleeping habits

The horses will lie down in the sun themselves, and it is not uncommon for several horses to lie down at the same time to sunbathe together on a warm spring day.

Often, while several horses lie down, one or two more will remain standing. This is a natural behavior of vigilance for the safety of the herd.

Horses tend to spend less time lying down in cold, snowy conditions, although on a sunny day, some sleep stretched out in the snow.

Each horse has its own sleeping habits. Some sleep only at night, while others sleep during the day as well.

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Source: Horse Rookie

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