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365 Days in Horse Country – When Horses Sleep

Blog by Michael Stuart Webb | October 19th, 2013

365 Days in Horse Country – When Horses Sleep



Many people think that horses never lie down.  This must mean they sleep standing up, right?  The truth is that they do lie down, and yet they also sleep on their feet.

Unlike humans, horses don’t need eight to ten hours of sleep a night.  Because they are prey animals, nature designed them to be able to function well on very little sleep; only a few hours a day, in fact.  After all, a sleeping prey animal is a vulnerable one.

Humans needs about two hours of REM sleep per night, but horses only need fifteen minutes of this type of sleep in a twenty-four hour day.  To get this deep sleep, they must lie down.  She either lies flat on her side or lounges in a recumbent position, her legs tucked to the side and her chin resting on the ground.  The rest of the sleep time can be standing up, thanks to a “stay apparatus” in the legs that allow her to lock her leg joints so she can doze without falling over.

For a horse to get the sleep she really needs, she has to feel safe and completely relaxed.  Most horses can’t achieve this level of comfort without a buddy horse nearby to stand guard in case of predators.  Researchers believe that horses living alone are often sleep deprived because they never feel secure enough to lie down for REM sleep.  That’s just another reason in a list of many, why every horse should have a friend and why no horse should ever be kept in solitary confinement.