Have you ever gotten a call from someone saying your horse is dead in the field? Your heart stops and you quickly run outside only to find your horse is just having a snooze? Does your horse have a favorite place to sleep? Can you set your watch to their nap schedule? How Does your horse sleep? Today’s episode takes us into our horses’ sleep schedules and habits. How long do horses really sleep in a day? How do they not fall over when they are sleeping standing up? These are just a few of the questions that we answer in today’s podcast. You won’t want to miss out, make sure you share with your friends.
Horses and Sleeping – How Does your Horse Sleep?
Horses certainly can and do sleep standing up, but at some point, all horses must lie down to achieve a full sleep cycle and avoid sleep deprivation. In horses managed in herd situations, a variety of factors impact which horses lie down and for how long, potentially limiting the availability of the much-needed shut-eye.
Although sleep requirements in horses remain largely unknown, some facts gleaned from various research groups include:
- 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
- In a 24-hour period, horses require a minimum of 30 minutes for recumbency to fulfill their REM sleep needs.
Sleeping standing up – How do they do that?
Why don’t horses fall over when they doze off while standing up? The answer lies in the stay apparatus, a complex arrangement of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that stabilizes the front and hind legs while calling for very little muscular energy to maintain a stable posture.
In the horse’s shoulder, a bony groove locks the biceps tendon in place, while other tendons in the upper foreleg hold the shoulder blade and elbow in just the right position for balance.
The horse’s hindquarters are arranged so that the stifle and hock joints are stabilized by a reciprocal mechanism involving tendons and muscles. Neither joint can move unless the other moves also. When a balance point is found, the horse can maintain a standing position while expending minimal energy.
Standing sleep is restful, but horses do lie down for their deepest sleep periods. Dozing horses may appear to be completely unconscious of what is going on around them, but they can rouse almost instantly if a strange or threatening sound or other stimulus is perceived.
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Don’t forget to check out the resources section in this article!
- Sleep patterns
- How long do horse sleep
- Standing vs lying down to sleep
- How do they not fall over
Thank you for tuning in and happy trails!
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