Many wonder how does a horse sleep? Especially given they barely see them lay down, and most of the day they are just standing upright.
Well, the truth is that they sleep in that position and with their eyes open too. It is an astonishing fact about horses, that baffles many into disbelief.
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While standing up?
A horse sleeps while standing up. Absolutely crazy, but scientific based.
How does a horse sleep without falling?
This state is called "stay apparatus." Which is when the horses are able to relax the muscles while maintaining their legs locked in position to hold him up.
Can a horse lie down at all?
Horses cannot lie down for a long time. They are very large animals, so when they are laying their weight prevents the blood flow to certain locations, when they get up once more it goes back to normal, and it can cause severe problems.
If they were to stay in that position for long periods of time clods of blood would form, and they would get reperfusion injuries.
Moreover, muscles and nerves on the downside can become gravely damaged if they remain spreading in this position.
Besides, another problem would be blood accumulating due to gravity on the lung that happens to be on the downside.
Do horses lie down safely?
Now, horses do lie down, sometimes if they are too tired, they will rest for a bit, as they are unable to do it for long periods of times.
When a horse is very sick, they will collapse, and after that, it will be necessary to take care of them as quickly as possible.
In this case, doctors need to swift the position of the horse often, as they can develop life-threatening bedsores.
Also, when they incur into REM sleep, a horse will need to lie down, but his REM sleeping cycle is very short.
That being said,
How much does a horse sleep?
A domestic horse usually sleeps an average of 3 hours, but that is for REM sleep.
They, unlike humans, don't have a well-established sleeping pattern, therefore take short naps from time to time.
Horses can be from four to fifteen hours in the "stay apparatus," usually depending on the time he is given to rest.
About the REM sleep, it can go from minutes to hours, but no more than 3, as it could be lethal to him.
These sleep cycles are done usually over small periods of 15 minutes each.
How to know if your horse is sleeping
Horses use the "stay apparatus" mechanism when they are exhausted too, after a long workout session, they will relax their muscle while locking them in the standing position to give them some rest.
That is why they can be either sleeping or dozing off when you see them with their lower lip drooping and relaxed. Also, look at the horses' hind feet. Do you see it cocked or maybe resting on its toe? That's a tale-tell sign, together with eyes wide open.
Why does a horse evolve to sleep standing up?
It is quite interesting to go on a journey to discover why horses became animals that sleep standing up.
The most sound theories say that as they are prey animals, they are at all times ready. If they hear a sound of danger or see a shape that resembles a predator they mustn't go for the trouble of standing up; instead, they can gallop away from their attackers.
It is true that in modern times, most horses, especially those bred by humans, don’t need to protect themselves. What danger can await them in a barn? But, those are the animals they are today.
Community amongst horses
Horses also do something quite peculiar concerning their resting hours; it is called the "buddy system." It is basically when one horse watches as the others sleep, even do the REM sleeping.
They rotate the watch-horse as they are completing their sleeping cycles. They adopt this habit either when they live in herds in the wilderness, but even on the home barn settings, or a paddock. This way every horse gets to sleep, and the team stays save.
What if your horse doesn’t lie down?
If your horse is not allowed to lie down for many days. As he hasn't completed his sleeping pattern, he will become sleep deprived.
This is a very stressful situation, and in any sort of place, he can collapse, and just fall asleep.
Due to the horse being extenuated, he may oversleep, leading to complications already explained about a horse laying for long periods of time.
If he becomes sleep deprived often, he may develop some sleep disorders, including narcolepsy. This is that in the middle of an activity the minds shut and your horse goes to sleep suddenly.
It is not common, but it has happened, so make sure your horse gets its full sleep.
Now, primarily for those that keep horses on a stall, sometimes the horse lies down, and his legs get trap in the space below the walls.
Then he is unable to get up and might remain in this position for hours, while you are sleeping or away. And, as we explained, it could be deadly, and for sure it is dangerous and perilous to your horses' health.
Therefore a little trick is to pile up bricks to fill in the gaps or set up long wooden planks. They are not foolproof, and accidents may still happen, but for the most part, it should be alright.
We can conclude that the way that horses sleep is quite peculiar, as well as the number of hours that they spend resting. Even odder that they sleep with their eyes open, but they serve only to show how magnificent and varied is the animal kingdom. And how unusual horses are.