Fun Facts About Equine Sleeping Habits

Fun Facts About Equine Sleeping Habits

Equine Sleeping Habits

If you’ve owned horses for any length of time, you’ve likely had someone mistake a sleeping horse for one that’s deceased. Sure, your heart probably skipped a beat until you remembered that a horse at rest often looks like one that’s passed.

Why people think that horses only sleep while standing is ironic, but some people don’t honestly know the sleeping habits of equines unless they’re around them often. Here are some fascinating horse sleeping patterns you may or may not know.

1. Equines Have a Stay Apparatus in Their Brain

Likely, you can’t sleep while standing as it’s uncomfortable. However, horses have a stay apparatus inside them that allows them to sleep vertically. When you go into a deep rest, your body paralyzes you, so you don’t walk or act out your dreams.

In a horse, similar things happen. The stay apparatus locks their kneecaps, tendons, and ligaments, so they don’t move. It’s not frightening to them and feels no different than when you sleep, as it comes naturally.

2. Horses Only Go into REM Sleep While Lying Down

While a horse can sleep standing up, they won’t go into that deep REM realm until they lie down. The equine must relax every muscle to enter this state, which they can’t do standing. It’s estimated that a horse will get anywhere from 2-3 hours of REM rest daily.

3. They Protect Themselves by Sleeping While Standing

Sleeping while standing is uncomfortable for you, but the horse knows this is the best way to protect themselves in the wild. The threat at your home and here at Oak Haven Acres isn’t nearly that of an animal that runs free. It takes time and energy to get their massive body off the ground to defend themselves, so it’s easier and quicker for them to sleep upright.

It’s simpler for them to run and get away from danger when they’re in the standing position. How do you know when your horse is standing if they’re sleeping? The easiest way to tell is by looking at their back legs. They lock one leg during rest; the other foot typically has only the tip of their hoof connecting with the earth. Looking closely, it’s almost like they’re cocking their hips during rest.

4. Horses Don’t Sleep 6-8 Hours Like Humans

You need 6-8 hours of rest for your body to function each day. However, to thrive, a horse doesn’t need to sleep in long spurts like that. Through the 24 hours in a day, they alternate between rest and activity. They take short naps and then graze for a bit. When they’re on the ground sleeping, they get the deepest, most restorative sleep.

Their routine also dictates their sleep schedules, as horses used for a job will be accustomed to a human schedule of resting at night and working during the day. A horse in retirement will adapt to the sleep schedule that feels most natural to them.

5. They Get Cranky with a Lack of Sleep

If you don’t get enough sleep, you get cranky. Your horse will also become irritable with a lack of slumber. The effects of exhaustion can impact both man and beast. If they don’t lie down and get REM rest, their attitude will tell the tale. Remember, a horse can’t drink a cup of coffee or down an energy drink to give them a jolt to make it through the day.

6. Horses Sleep in Shifts

Equines are herding animals, so they do better in a group. You’ll also notice that they don’t all sleep simultaneously, which is part of their natural instincts. To protect the group, some will sleep while others are standing watch. They switch back and forth between these roles to ensure everyone gets the rest they need.

7. Stress and Anxiety Causes Sleeping Disturbances

If your horse is stressed out, perceives a threat, or is anxious, their sleep will be disturbed. It’s often best to bring them into the barn at night and ensure they have sufficient room to lie down and rest.

Some equines are overstimulated by the world around them and the threat of danger, which affects their sleep. They can also be impacted by health issues and other detailed things that cause them to be on edge.

Horses are Amazing

Though we’re crazy about horses and have gained much knowledge at Oak Haven Acres, we still learn things daily. The horse is a magnificent creature that’s complex and very much like us. They get the same sicknesses and diseases, require sleep and sufficient nutrition, and long for a bond with people and other animals. For all your equine retirement and boarding needs, keep us in mind.

Phone: 252-478-5239 or 919-818-6241
515 Huford Harris Rd, Spring Hope, NC 27882, USA
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