You have probably heard rumors about cows and horses sleeping while they stand, but is it true? If you own horses, you have probably noticed some strange activity that closely resembles sleeping while standing and would like to learn more about what they are doing.
The short answer is yes. Your horse can take short naps while it’s standing and frequently does, especially if it’s bored, but it also lies down to get better sleep for the night. Keep reading while we take a closer look at this behavior and try to answer some other questions you might have.
Why Does My Horse Sleep Standing Up?
While no one can be sure of why an animal does something, it likely has something to do with these two things:
Your horse likely weighs well over 1,000 pounds, and it’s a hassle for them to get up from a lying-down position. It takes a lot of effort and can even be dangerous if the ground is soft or slippery.
Since they have difficulty getting up from the ground and are slow to do so, lying down puts them in an extremely vulnerable position. A horse only has running, kicking, and bucking for defense, and all three require the horse to be standing. Since the horse has developed a way to sleep standing up, it can be awake and running nearly instantly, greatly increasing its chances of successfully dealing with a predator. It also reduces the strain of getting up and the risk of injury to the knees and other joints.
How Long Can a Horse Sleep Standing Up?
Horses are not like humans and many other animals that sleep for several hours at the same time each day. Instead, they break their sleep up into smaller portions that can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and spread them throughout the entire 24-hour day. For the bulk of these short naps, often lasting up to 30 minutes, your horse will remain standing. If your horse requires some deep REM sleep, it will lie down for a few hours.
When you add all the naps together, you may find it has slept half the day or only a few hours. It depends on the weather and what it’s doing. It will sleep much more in a pen than it will while grazing in an open field.
Is It OK for a Horse to Lie Down?
Yes, it is perfectly fine for your horse to lie down, and it will do so quite often to get deep sleep. However, there are two instances in which it can be a bad thing:
As we mentioned earlier, horses are extremely heavy, and lying on the ground too long can strain the internal organs and restrict blood flow leading to significant health concerns.
In some cases, your horse could lie down if it isn’t feeling well. Most experts recommend learning your horse’s routine so you will be able to tell if your horse is lying down more than usual. Horses that aren’t feeling well may roll around on the ground, which a sleeping horse will not do, so that can be another clue. You might also notice other signs, like a lack of motivation, or a change in their eating habits that can signal that your horse isn’t feeling well. If you think your horse is lying down too much, the best thing to do is call a vet.
How Can I Make a Better Sleeping Environment for My Horse?
Creating the proper environment for your horse to get the best rest possible when it does decide to lie down is critically important to ensure it does not become sleep deprived. One of the best things you can do is eliminate noise that could scare or disturb the horse causing it to get up again. The area will also need to be large enough for the horse to lie down comfortably and stand up again when it needs to. Finally, you will need to put down straw, peat moss, or paper to provide some cushioning.
Horses lie down quite frequently to get deep sleep, often at times when there is little else going on. They also sleep standing up and will get the bulk of their rest in this way. Sleeping while they stand helps prevent injury and keeps them safe from predators. Too much lying down can be a sign of sickness, so we recommend frequently videotaping your horse so you can keep track of its habits. However, don’t be surprised if it sleeps more in the winter or on rainy days.
We hope you have enjoyed our look into the life of horses and found it helpful in explaining your horse’s behavior. If we have answered your questions, please share this answer to if horses sleep standing up on Facebook and Twitter.
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