Hitting the Hay

Horses sleeping in the sun
Here’s an old picture of our herd with three horses sleeping and two standing guard.

How many hours a day does your horse sleep? I hadn’t thought about it much but I came across a statistic that made me tired just thinking about it! What’s your guess? 8 hours? 10 hours? 5 hours? 3 hours?

The answer is 3 or less.

Lots of people are surprised to see our horses flat out, sleeping on the ground. Everyone knows that horses sleep standing up, so over the years people have helpfully told us that our horses were dead!

Horses, it turns out, do need to lie down to enjoy REM sleep, but if you blink you might miss them because they don’t sleep much — often less than 3 hours per day and sometimes just snatching a few minutes of deep REM sleep at a time.

As prey animals, safety is paramount. You know from watching your horses

Curly takes her mid-day nap.
Curly takes her mid-day nap. She doesn’t care if anyone is watching and she doesn’t care about snow.

that they don’t get up from the ground quickly, so to stay alive, horses relax while standing up. They are able to lock their knees and stifles so they can drowse and go into slow wave sleep (SWS) while standing up.

As shown in the photo above, the horses in our herd tend to take turns with some standing guard and the others lying down. Curly is the exception. She takes a nap mid-day, every day. She enjoys her beauty sleep.

I rarely see Zelda lying down so she must do most of her sleeping at night. Freedom enjoys a good snooze, as does Willow.

How about your horses? How often do you see them flat out and asleep?





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