The sleeping habits horses and humans are quite different. Most human sleep is usually a long, single stretch—about eight hours in a 24-hour day. Horses doze for various periods during the day and have short bouts of deep sleep lying down in the middle of the night. Depending on the horse’s age, their sleeping habits fluctuate.
Foals lie down for frequent naps and spend about half of their day sleeping until they are about three months old. The frequency of naps decreases as the foal ages, and they are more likely to stand than lay down. Adult horses snooze more standing up than they do laying down in profound sleep.
How the Adult Horse Sleeps
The most common resting posture for mature horses is standing, however this does not produce deep or REM sleep. All skeletal muscles must relax for a horse to enter a truly deep slumber; this cannot occur while the horse is in a standing position. However, while standing, horses will doze off deeply but may soon awaken and become attentive. As a species that developed as prey, horses have a survival strategy. However, how can a horse sleep while standing? The stay apparatus, a distinctive anatomical feature found only in horses, is located in the rear legs. This allows a horse’s knee cap to pop out of place and lock the hind limb in a standing position. Although it may seem uncomfortable, horses have no issues at all with it. When dozing while standing, this stay apparatus will lock in place in only one hind leg; the other hind limb will be relaxed. The horse often seems to be leaning on one hip.
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. Because of this, it’s crucial to offer a dry, protected space, such as a run-in shed A spacious stall where your horse can sprawl out securely and take a nap.
How Long Horses Sleep
Each 24-hour period, adult horses sleep for roughly three hours. The length and type of sleep are affected by diet, temperature, workload, gestation, and gender. Each sleep phase only lasts a few minutes at a time and is quite short. Compared to older horses, young horses often sleep more. Older horses may snooze more often.
A dozing horse will mostly carry its weight on the two forelegs and one hind leg. A single back leg will unwind with the hoof lying down on its toe. The head and neck droop, the ears are relaxed, the eyes are closed and the lower lip may droop or twitch. Horses stretch out flat on the ground during deep slumber while they are laying down.
Horses will lay down to sun themselves, and on a warm spring day it is not uncommon for many horses to do so simultaneously for a group sunbath. One or two horses may often stay upright as numerous others fall to the ground. This is an instinctive way for the herd to keep watch over its safety. 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. Every horse sleeps in a different way. Some people exclusively sleep at night, while others do so throughout the day.
Call your veterinarian right away if you think your pet is ill. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet’s health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.