About How Many Hours A Day Do Horses Sleep (The Answer Will Surprise You)

Daniel Brown
• Friday, 14 May, 2021
• 13 min read

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.

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These types of products lubricate the joints and help decrease discomfort and inflammation associated with OA, potentially making it easier for horses to become recumbent and more easily stand after REM sleep,” advised Kathleen Randell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Horses doze for various periods during the day and have short bouts of deep sleep lying down in the middle of the night.

Foals lie down for frequent naps and spend about half of their day sleeping until they are about three months old. Adult horses spend more time dozing while standing up than in deep sleep lying down.

Lisa Bird / Getty Images Mature horses most frequently rest in a standing position, but this does not provide deep, or REM, sleep. In order to fall into a true deep sleep, all skeletal muscles must be relaxed; this cannot happen when the horse is standing.

Horses have a unique anatomical mechanism in their hind legs called the stay apparatus. This allows a horse's knee cap to pop out of place and lock the hind limb in a standing position.

Most horses will lie down for deep sleep a few times each night, if they have a comfortable place to do so and feel safe. This is why it's important to provide a dry, sheltered area like a run-in shed or roomy stall, so your horse can stretch out safely for a snooze.

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Illustration: The Spruce / Ashley Deleon Nicole Adult horses sleep for about three hours each 24-hour period. The length and type of sleep are affected by diet, temperature, workload, gestation, and gender.

Horses tend to spend less time lying down in cold snowy conditions, although on a sunny day, some will snooze stretched out in the snow. Foals lie down for frequent naps and spend about half of their day sleeping until they are about three months old.

Basically you just need to be very mindful of your individual horse and how they are feeling and not worry about a specific rule. From endurance folk I always hear for every 10 miles of trail covered you give them a day of rest.

There is no simple answer to the question Do horses like being ridden?” Every horse is an individual, as is every rider. Typically, the amount of REM sleep they require is very small, so they don’t need to lie down often.

In the old days and today, horses are commonly euthanized after breaking their legs because they have a small chance of successful recovery. It’s difficult for a horse’s leg to heal due to a combination of factors.

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Their legs must absorb considerable shock as their powerful bodies gallop at high speeds. Horses are such large animals and the weight of their body in and of itself can prevent blood flow to certain locations.

This can cause severe problems when they try to stand up again, and blood flow tries to return to normal. Mature horses will sleep up to two hours per day, broken into short periods.

In other words, horses do not sleep for any length of time like other animals do. This is not to say that there are no bonds between humans and horses, as explored above, but it appears that dogs are able to form a closer attachment than horses do.

Horses have better hearing than dogs, and seem to learn and remember specific words quite easily. And, ideally, the end of a horse’s working career is determined less by his age than by his physical capacity and other less tangible factors.

Because horses are big animals, their blood flow can be restricted by laying down for long periods of time. This causes excess pressure on their internal organs, which is why they only lay down for REM sleep.

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Basically you just need to be very mindful of your individual horse and how they are feeling and not worry about a specific rule. From endurance folk I always hear for every 10 miles of trail covered you give them a day of rest.

Typically, the amount of REM sleep they require is very small, so they don’t need to lie down often. If your horse perks up its ears and looks for the source of the sound, when called than they know their name AND associate it with pleasant things.

Mature horses will sleep up to two hours per day, broken into short periods. In other words, horses do not sleep for any length of time like other animals do.

Foals lie down for frequent naps and spend about half of their day sleeping until they are about three months old. Horses lie down less frequently in snowy conditions, but some sleep in an outstretched position on the snow.

Somehow, someway, your horse has managed to lie up against a wall and is unable to get its feet underneath it to stand up. “The longer they are down, the more prone they are to reperfusion injury,” said Elysian Schaefer, an equine surgery resident at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

sleep much horses horse standing too down they nap
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Re perfusion injury can happen because horses are such large animals and the weight of their body in and of itself can prevent blood flow to certain locations. Besides reperfusion injury, muscles on the downside of the animal, as well as nerves, can become damaged from excessive pressure.

Horses with neurological diseases are occasionally referred to the teaching hospital for intensive care. Although an equine surgeon worries about several issues if their patient were to be on one side for a long time, horses can get bedsores just like humans, too.

Some owners think it is beneficial to pile wood shavings at least 2 feet high around the perimeter of the stall to prevent casting. If your horse has been down for a long period of time, or it is has cast itself and you are concerned with its health, call your veterinarian.

While we consider a healthy night's sleep of eight hours to be about right for us, how much sleep do our horses actually need? On the other hand, the domestic horse is often confined in a stall and his daily existence feeding, exercise, and socialization is vastly controlled by his owner.

He is therefore forced to time his sleep cycle at night, coinciding his periods of rest to the human schedule. Like human babies, foals appear to enter into a deeper sleep than the adult horse and therefore are not as easily aroused by external stimuli.

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Like many of us, horses are creatures of habit, falling easily into a practiced routine of daily life, of which sleep is to be included. An example of one horse's fixed routine is revealed by Judy Later of Arcadia, Ohio, as she relates a story about her Appaloosa gelding, Oboe S. “Whenever we go to bigger, week long shows we usually have our horses checked by the barn's night security guards.

With a smirk Judy adds, “Maybe that was why Oboe was always so upset with me if I didn't get him fed precisely at the correct time each day.” In fact, due to the equine's habitual nature, any change we make in our normal daily routine can potentially affect the sleep pattern of our horse.

Fortunately horses are able to adapt quite well to most changes and thus rarely experience true sleep depravity. As he begins to fall, he will usually abruptly wake-up as his nose bumps the ground, saving himself from completely toppling over.

If you must disrupt your horse's routine, such as when traveling long distances or attending week long shows, taking care to settle him into his new sleeping arrangements can prove to be as important as adjusting his feeding schedule. Kate Night horse of Celtic oaks Appaloosas, from Gainesville, Florida, offers some good advice.

Understanding your horse's sleep patterns will enable you to recognize shifts in his habits that may indicate early stages of health problems. The common stance of the drowsing horse is relaxed with head and neck slightly drooping below wither height, eyes closed, ears gently laid back along the neck, and often standing with supporting weight on three legs with one hind leg cocked.

horses sleep horse much need sleeping
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This ability to lock his knees and stifles allows the horse to remain standing while not having to exert muscle effort as he nods off. Although horses in SAS are able to use the stay apparatus in their legs to remain standing they will have to lie down before slipping into REM.

At this point they will ordinarily rest in the sternal recumbent position by balancing on the breastbone with legs tucked under. EEG patterns suggest that the mind is almost as active as waking, although in reality REM is actually a deeper sleep than SAS.

Also, during REM sleep the heartbeat rises slightly while the respiration rate declines. Unquestionably it is the most important stage in sleep and though not fully understood, it is partly responsible for both the mental and physical well-being in all animals.

Throughout this phase the mind appears to be fully active, but the horse's body is entirely relaxed with a complete loss of muscle tone. Another characteristic of REM is the twitches of the involuntary muscles of the eyes, muzzle and limbs.

In spite of the handful of studies made involving equine sleep patterns, it has been estimated that domestic horses normally spend a large portion of the day dozing and engage in roughly two hours of SAS, within four to five sleep periods, with WAKING or REM occurring randomly in between. Jan Phillips of Forest Edge Appaloosas in Hudson, Montana, confirms that she has seen her horses “talk” in their sleep.

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Jan goes on to say, “The foals I've watched lay flat out and emit little whiskers and grunts. Human studies reveal that dreams during DR and SAS stages of sleep result in thought like experiences that are usually linked to the current life of the dreamer.

Horses spread their sleep out in short, scattered periods, unlike our preference for a “straight eight.” Duplication of article, and all photos or images, for any reason, without the expressed permission by us is strictly prohibited under the law.

A variety of factors affect how long an animal sleeps. Small bats, chipmunks and opossums all sleep for 15 hours or more per day.

In contrast, big elephants, giraffes and horses all sleep for about five hours or less. Predators such as lions and tigers get plenty of sleep ; they have little to fear.

Age is another factor that affects the sleep of animals. Like humans, animals may sleep for different lengths of time at different life stages.

sleep standing horses why horse does they lie ever did wonder
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In contrast, animals have to spend time hunting or gathering their food in the wild. Results show that brown-throated, three-toed sloths slept for less than 10 hours per day in their natural environment.

Horses are polyphonic sleepers, which means they have multiple, discrete sleep episodes in a 24-hour period. A horse can rest or doze in a standing position because of the stay apparatus in both the front and hind limbs, which allows their legs to “lock” in place.

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep absolutely requires a horse to lie down. During REM sleep, while brain activity is actually increased, muscle tone is greatly diminished.

A sleep-deprived horse could repeatedly get very drowsy then collapse to his knees and suddenly wake back up (Dr. Joe Bert one [DVD, MS, Dial. A new social situation or an unsatisfactory surface underfoot might also make a horse reluctant to lie down.

Alternatively, when a horse lies down for an excessive amount of time he could be suffering from a physical abnormality. Colic episodes can include a lot of rolling, but I have seen many colicky horses that just lie quietly.

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In my experience this is not with a single leg lameness but rather something more profound that affects multiple limbs, such as laminates. Generalized weakness and in coordination associated with some neurologic conditions might also cause a horse to lie down excessive.

You can review a 24-hour recording on high-speed and slow the video down during all his sleep episodes and get qualitative and quantitative data to compare to what’s normal or expected. I have a bit of a hang-up about my horses lying down due to some sad experiences.

So now I see my 6-year-old Stand lying down during the day and I get all nervous about it. Surely there are other horses that just love to relax as much as she does? So the 6yr old lies down, oh, 1 – 3 times a day.

It is not uncommon at all for horses to lay down at least once daily and often more than that if they are full, content and feel comfortable in their surroundings. I know that if I go out at 11 am daily my horses will be laying down and napping unless it raining at that time.

Cindy D. Licensed Veterinary Technician We lost our last horse this past year from colic, so when we got Star sky, we freaked out the first few nights we had him.

horses sleeping weekend activities sleep leisurely breakfast enjoy morning bed
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My husband or I will go out 30 minutes and an hour after we feed since we are so worried about him. Nothing is wrong with him, he just is the type of horse who likes to lay down and roll.

Sometimes, especially in the summer, one or both will be laying down for a while, totally on their sides and enjoying the warmth. My two babies love to lay down every morning and sunbathe... I get paranoid about this as well, but since they do it every day, and they're babies I just figure they like to take naps a lot.

Maybe I should be paranoid about the one who I never see lying down LOL! NorthernMama is offline. • Horses : 2 northern mama, Mine also love to roll at least once a day, especially in fresh snow.

• Horses : 6 I know mine are all asleep at about 1-2 in the afternoon and then again they sleep at various times throughout the day. If I feed extra early for some reason then I catch all of them very blurry eyed and asleep.

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