You may have noticed your horse’s sleeping habits aren’t quite like your own.
For one, they don’t sleep all night like most of us do. And of course, many people know that, unlike us, horses can sleep while standing—all thanks to the ‘stay apparatus’ in their forelegs as well as a locking mechanism in their stifles. But here are a few more interesting facts you may not know about horses’ sleeping habits:
1.) They don’t sleep for long periods of time. Instead, horses will snooze for short periods throughout the day or night with the average nap only lasting around fifteen minutes.
2.) Horses can only reach full REM sleep (the deepest level of sleep) while laying down and stretched out flat on their side. Therefore, it’s important they have somewhere comfortable as well as roomy enough to do this. If a horse is deprived of REM sleep for a long period of time, this could very well have a negative impact on their health.
3.) Horses in herds will often have a “guard horse” whose job is to stand watch at group nap time. In a wild herd, the guard horse will alert sleeping horses of impending danger. Though the same types of dangers aren’t usually present for domesticated herds, different horses will still often take turns acting as the guard horse while others sleep.
4.) Horses’ sleeping patterns change as they age. For example, foals under three months sleep for around 12 hours a day while adult horses only need about 3 hours of sleep per day. Like senior people, however, senior horses may sleep a bit more.
5.) Some horses “talk” in their sleep, making grunting noises or even nickering. Though we don’t have proof, this, as well as some of the jerking movements they make (such as trotting motions) lead us to believe that horses dream too!
6.) Horses are neither nocturnal nor diurnal, but every horse develops their own sleeping patterns, having preferred times to doze off. Because of this, any big changes we make in their routine could affect their sleeping patterns.
If you’d like to share a strange sleeping habit you’ve noticed with your horse(s), feel free to do so in the comments below!
Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as an owner/barefoot trimmer and certified equine acupressure practitioner. She hosts the blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse, where she regularly shares information on barefoot, equine nutrition, and holistic horse health. Once an avid barrel racer, Casie now enjoys just giving back to the horses who have given her so much. Follow Casie at www.casiebazay.com.