All Rights Reserved. Once a horse engages his stay apparatus, standing requires “virtually no muscular effort.” (Source), (Though I didn’t know the specifics before researching this piece, I did know that horses lock their legs when they sleep standing up. (After a few weeks, he somehow managed to lie down despite being tied. (Source: Pixabay). Baby horses (like baby humans) spend more of their time sleeping. Take special care to document any changes in your horse’s environment, housing, bedding, social group, wildlife, travel, and known medical issues. According to Sleep Patterns in the Horse, “[foals] sleep is 50% of daylight time at birth (⅓ recumbent) then drop to adult levels by 7 months old…It is believed that the large amount of time the foal spends in recumbency is necessary for the assimilation of information obtained during waking periods into a long-term memory trace.”. Sunny temperate days are prime sleep times, but you’ll also find horses happily snoozing on winter days as long as the sun is out. Like humans, horses have both shallow sleep and a deeper period of rest known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Do donkeys lay down? horses who stay standing and alert) to balance their need for rest and safety. Sleep Deprivation … When people are short on sleep, we get tired and cranky. Though this type of sleep is “light sleep” versus deep REM sleep. Horses without access to a bedded area (they had only hard black rubber mats) rarely laid down, and less than 30 minutes of REM sleep was measured. The less times we wake up during the night, the more rested we typically feel in the morning. intensive care unit), Changes in noise (e.g. Prey animals need every advantage out in the wild, and being able to sleep standing up is certainly one of them. Do horses sleep at night? Per McDonnell, “Horses tend to learn the pattern of the barn,” Sue McDonnell says, “and their deepest rest and sleep tend to occur soon after the busy ‘people day’ ends.”. If you think your horse may be sleep crashing, here are some things you can do: Safety Tip: Make sure your cross-ties have breakaway snaps. According to National Geographic, “most four-legged land herbivores—cows, moose, rhinos, bison, and horses among them—can doze lightly on their feet, but they have to lie down to sleep deeply.”. Horses will periodically sleep lightly while standing throughout the day. These little flickers are just a sign of your horses reaching a deep state of sleep. Can horses sleep too much? But, lying down isn’t the only sleeping position for horses. If a horse isn’t getting enough quality rest (especially his daily recumbent REM sleep), he can become physically and mentally exhausted. Relaxing activities like grooming or being left alone at the cross-ties while you clean stalls is a perfect chance to see a horse doze standing up. Horses typically sleep in short bursts throughout the night and day, anywhere between five minutes and upwards of an hour (if undisturbed). (Side note: If you’re a horse rookie just getting into riding, check out Horseback Riding: What to Wear to make sure you look the part and have a safe and comfortable experience!). Yes, horses may not close their eyes all the way if they’re in slow wave sleep (standing sleep). This is the prime indication that leg buckling may follow shortly. Most importantly, you’re now convinced that sleep is a BIG deal for your horse’s overall health and happiness. Aside from sometimes “talking in their sleep” (i.e. The average nap lasts approximately 15 minutes. Similarly, prey animals can quickly run away if danger appears if they’re already on their feet. I have seen them sleeping around 5pm at night when the barn is quiet too. What is the “Stay Apparatus?” (a.k.a Why horses don’t fall down! But it’s generally accepted that equines spend at least 15% of their total sleep time in REM sleep (Source). I love practicing dressage, eventing, stadium jumping, reining, trail riding, and cow work with my AQHA gelding in beautiful Montana, USA. Sternal Recumbency (Source: Horse Rookie). Yes, horses sleep at night. Horses will only sleep this deeply during the dark hours after midnight, unless there is a sleep disorder. Riding in the dark does make some riders queasy, but mounted horses are perfectly capable of safely negotiating open fields and lightly wooded areas after sunset. She added, “KER offers several joint supplements, including, KER-Flex, Synovate HA, and EO-3.” In Australia, look for Glucos-A-Flex and EO-3. Many horses are so regular you can set your watch to them, others vary their patterns for whatever reason - season, weather, light, how much food he has in front of him, you name it. stall, stall and run, paddock, field), Who your horse lives with (e.g. “Am I safe?” is the running mantra inside your horse’s brain every moment of every day. These types of products lubricate the joints and help decrease discomfort and inflammation… potentially making it easier for horses to become recumbent and more easily stand after REM sleep.”. (Source), Watch for a “nod” where your horse’s head sinks slowly toward the ground. Many factors influence the quality and quantity of sleep in horses (e.g. I wouldn’t want to sleep in a mud puddle or on gravel, and horses don’t either. They are not strictly nocturnal or diurnal, like most humans. If a horse is stressed or sick, and especially if he doesn’t or can’t lie down to get daily deep REM sleep), stay vigilant and call your vet if the behavior persists. When it’s not our turn to work the cow, for example, I let Monkey relax completely. Horses, zebras and elephants sleep standing up. How Do Horses Sleep. In addition, when the bedding area was larger and shared among horses, hierarchy didn’t impact the ability to lay down. We're also dipping our toes (hooves) into Working Equitation! But, only lateral recumbency (i.e. But animal behavioral scientists do study the sleeping behaviors or horses–and what happens when they can’t seem to sleep properly. “This is, perhaps, the equine equivalent of sleeping in class,” per Sleep and Sleep Disorders in Horses. For his rear legs, the horse engages the stay apparatus when he shifts his hip and locks his patella (i.e. Getting Comfortable: What are common horse sleeping positions? We wouldn’t call it graceful… but horses have learned how to lie down and get back up easily. duties. The bent leg rests in a sort of “sling” that is non-weight bearing, and he’ll alternate resting each hind leg this way. Sue McDonnell, PhD, and head of the Equine Behavior Lab at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, has been studying wild and tame horse behavior for more than twenty years. ), you feel yourself drift off for just a second. foal, yearling, adult, senior), How familiar the surroundings are (e.g. If you’ve been tying your horse in a stall (like at a show) for extended periods of time, let him free so he can lie down when he wants to sleep. Be sure to maintain your horses in appropriate body condition. Unlike humans, horses get their sleep in shorter bursts throughout the day and night. Ensure he has a safe and comfortable place to sleep (e.g. One such mechanism is their sleep patterns. If you’ve read this entire article, you’re a horse sleep rookie no more. Unlike humans, horses get their sleep in shorter bursts throughout the day and night. I can feel him cock one leg, then the other, and simply settle in for a little snooze. Horses tend to sleep better when surrounded by other horses, but only if they all get along. There's no way to know exactly how horses see because we can't see the world with a horse's eyes and brain, but by studying the individual components of the horse's eye, scientists can gain an understanding of what it is capable of. at home, away at a show), What’s going on around your horse (e.g. My horse lovvvves to sleep flat-out in his paddock on sunny winter days. “Joint supplements that contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids all support healthy joints. No caption needed on this special moment (Source: Horse Rookie). If you notice your horse is spending excessive amounts of time sleeping during the day, talk to your vet about the possibility of a Hypersomnia sleep disorder. After 25+ years in the saddle, I bought my first horse at 33. REM sleep totals about 30 minutes a night (15% of the total sleep time) and slow-wave sleep takes up the most time at 65%. That’s when the horse’s muscles relax enough to reach a state of deep slumber. Read on to learn about narcolepsy in horses. Horses are light snoozers, so at night try to keep the barn quiet or provide "white noise," such as easy-listening music turned down low. Please read our disclosure for more info. This is how I most often find my gelding sleeping in his shelter or out in the field if it’s sunny. You may also notice that horses position themselves strategically while snoozing. Not only is it worrisome and dangerous, but these poor horses walk around all day miserable and exhausted.”. Suddenly it feels like one side of your horse dropped six inches… because it did! Ground conditions also influence whether horses want to sleep (especially lying down). Make sure there aren’t any loud noises during prime sleep hours (night time) that may be keeping him awake. Horses spend most of their time either eating, resting, or sleeping; Approximately 5-7 hours of each day is committed to resting behavior, with actual sleep usually occurring after midnight in the dark hours; Horses can rest and achieve certain types of sleep (e.g., slow-wave sleep) while standing; however, the rapid eye movement (REM) phase cannot be entered without recumbency due to loss of muscle tone during this phase; and. Why? Wild horses also snooze while standing thanks to a special “passive stay apparatus” that helps their bodies conserve energy and doze safely while standing. Horses can stand on their feet for long periods, much longer than other domestic animals. Note: Want to teach your horse to lie down on cue? According to PetMD, “A typical night as a horse will involve grazing, snoozing standing up, and short periods of lying flat out to get some serious shut eye.” Lateral recumbency refers to a horse that is lying down flat on one side (right or left). Not surprisingly, horses like to be comfortable if they’re going to lay down this way. There are several ways you can encourage better sleep in your horse. They may drop their chins onto the ground or sleep with their heads curled around near their elbows. grunting or snoring), horses in REM sleep may move their eyes rapidly back and forth under their eyelids. Miniature horses sleep like any other type of horses (except cuter? #cutenessoverload, (According to Horses and Sleep, the “snoring” sound is due to the fact their lungs are under a bit more pressure when lying down.). Even though they're able to snooze standing, horses apparently need to lie down for rest and sleep at least some of the time. If your horse cribs, be especially vigilant about sleep deprivation. It's easy to think that horses and other animals perceive things exactly like we do. Typically they’ll face the “exit,” whether that’s the open side of their shelter or the door or their stall. predators) attacking them. (Source), It helps to think of the stay apparatus like a hammock that helps the horse “lock” his leg joints while simultaneously relaxing and recharging his muscles. Sometimes at night, when they are in a safe and quiet atmosphere, they will finally lie down and enter the deeper stages of their sleep cycle. Horse’s sleeping patterns change depending on their age. Note: Different research studies vary slightly in the optimal amount of sleep horses need. Get 7 Creative Ways to Lower Your Horse Expenses: You have successfully joined The Horse Rookie Herd! A typical night as a horse will involve grazing, snoozing standing up, and short periods of lying flat out to get some serious shut eye. Dr. Joseph Bertone, Professor of Equine Medicine at Cal Poly Pomona, says it can take two to four weeks after such a transition for your horse to return to a comfortable sleeping pattern. In Sleep and Sleep Disorders in Horses, there were several interesting cases mentioned: “[A two-month old Lippizan] filly had “sleep attacks” when turned out in a pasture with her dam. This post may contain affiliate links. Like adult horses, young horses also love sleeping on deep soft bedding and sun bathing. We have a family friend suffering from Narcolepsy, and it’s a tough sleep disorder to manage. Even horses in REM sleep (lying down) may twitch, which can make it appear as if their eyes open. Can horses get catch good “shut eye” if their eyes are still open? My AQHA gelding exemplifies the versatility of the breed -- reined cow horse, reining, roping, ranch riding, trail, dressage, and jumping. sunny, windy and rainy), What’s changed in your horse’s routine (e.g. But, when the bedding area was smaller, lower ranking horses were not allowed to sleep as often or for as long. decrease discomfort and inflammation associated with OA, Space allowance of the littered area affects lying behavior in group-housed horses. Horses, on the other hand, rest in shorter, scattered blocks of time (15-30 minutes) throughout the day and night. Any strange noise or bump in the road would jolt you back to reality. Horses do lie down, but sometimes it’s hard to catch them “in the act.”. Check with your vet if you want a second opinion. Changes in routine can be especially disruptive to our horses’ sleep cycles. Although sleep requirements in horses remain largely unknown, some facts gleaned from various research groups include: Unsuitable environmental conditions (e.g., lack of available space, weather), social insecurity (low standing on the pecking order), and physical complaints (musculoskeletal discomfort) all limit the ability of some horses to lie down. You may also see your horse twitching his ears or skin, blinking, flaring his nostrils, or even (adorably) paddling his legs as if he’s running in his sleep. Horses rest in one of three positions: standing, lying on one side (lateral recumbency), or lying on their bellies with legs tucked (sternal recumbency). Horses are polyphasic sleepers, which means they have multiple, discrete sleep episodes in a 24-hour period. (Yep, like your dog does! Some horses get their rest during the night, some during the day. alone, with a couple close buddies, in a bigger herd), Where your horse falls in the pecking order (e.g. This is because, as we mentioned before, this phase is characterized by REM atonia from the neck down. They might even occasionally blink as they move in and out of alertness while dozing. Young horses sleep 15 minutes every hour (about six hours a day). So be sure you know what’s normal (and not normal) for your individual horse. The short answer is we’re not sure, but it’s likely! A droopy lip is a tell-tale sign of dozing (Source: Horse Rookie), Horses do this a LOT. But horses don’t only sleep at night! When it comes to deep REM sleep, they need 30-60 minutes to maintain optimal health. This equates to roughly 30-60 minutes of REM sleep per day, though some studies say this number should be closer to 2-3 hours per day. People and dogs dream during REM sleep, and horses seem to exhibit dream-like behaviors too. The Sleep Patterns. It’s always best to consult your vet to properly assess which sleep disorder (if any) your horse may be suffering from. Who says science isn’t cool?! They only sleep for around three hours within a 24-hour period but never rest for large periods of … By now you already know the answer to this question is yes! Horses don’t operate like that. “With the exception of a short sleeping period, horses will do at night the same as they do during the day: Walk around, eat, play and nap.” All the studied horses both stabled and kept outside had a main sleeping period between midnight and 4 am. Horses doze for various periods during the day and have short bouts of deep sleep lying down in the middle of the night. If your horses is exhibiting signs of leg or foot soreness, he may be reluctant to lie down. (Just ask any new parent.). This summer one of the horses at my barn broke one of his back legs in two places. Check out our summary video about horse sleep: A Sleep Trifecta! This means that if a horse falls into REM sleep while standing up, it would fall. Move him inside to a stall at night for a few days so he can catch up on sleep without worrying about herd dynamics or weather. (Source: Pixabay). Horses rest for short periods during the day more frequently. (Source: Pixabay). P.S. We’ll talk more about sleep deprivation and other sleep disorders at the end of this article. In turn, these horses can suffer REM deficiency and excessive drowsiness. Lack of sleep has an undesirable influence on the physical activity of humans and animals. It wasn’t until my friend’s 17-hand Thoroughbred fell asleep in the cross-ties and buckled to the ground that I really stopped to think about the impact of sleep on horse health. But did you know horses can suffer sleep deprivation as well? night vs. day, summer vs. winter), What the weather is like (e.g. Horses Don’t Sleep Like Humans Do Most humans aim for 8 hours a night of sleep. Cribbing can affect the quality and quantity of a horse’s sleep. Of that, 30-60 minutes should be recumbent REM (rapid eye movement) sleep to maintain optimal health. Standing sleep is known as “slow wave sleep” (SWS), and it looks like exactly what it is–dozing or snoozing. (Source) Getting enough REM sleep each day is essential to your horse’s health, so it’s worth digging into this topic further. As the dimensions of the bedded area suitable for recumbency increased, horses spent more time lying down. The stay apparatus allows animals to relax their muscles and doze without collapsing.” (Source), Fun fact: This physical trait can be traced all the way back to the now-extinct wild horses called Dinohippus, the first to show an early form of horses’ modern-day stay apparatus. I have more pillows on my bed than any person needs! social groups, stimuli, time of day), and poor conditions can lead to sleep deprivation. A common complaint in these horses, besides excessive sleep, is decreased or poor performance.”. It turns out that it’s very similar to the human variety.