Horses Sleep. Like most herbivorous mammals, horses are not characterized by their ability to sleep, however, the characteristics of their short sleep are in all respects similar to others. Quality rest is essential to promote correct physical and mental development and a healthy body. You can be sure that a living being deprived of his hours of rest will fall ill and will certainly die.

How do Horses Sleep

In this new article, we will discover together how to sleep the hair! Do horses sleep upright or do they sleep to sleep? Discover the answers to your questions in the following of our new article How to sleep horses!

Sleep physiology

In the past, sleeping was considered a “state of consciousness” defined as a period of immobility during which individuals did not respond to stimuli, so this state was not treated as behavior and was not part of ethological research related to a species. It is also important not to confuse rest and sleep, as you may well be resting without sleeping.

In order to carry out studies on the sleep of the horse one uses the same methodology as with the human beings. Three parameters are measured, using an electroencephalogram that measures brain activity, an electrooculogram that will show the movement of our eyes, and an electromyogram that measures muscle tension.

There are two types of sleep, slow or non-REM sleep, and REM sleep.

Slow-wave or non-REM sleep is characterized by slow waves and is composed of 4 phases that overlap during the whole night:

Phase 1 or “ falling asleep”: this is the first phase of sleep, this phase does not appear only when an animal begins to fall asleep but can appear throughout the night, depending on the depth some sleep. This phase is characterized by the appearance in the brain of so-called alfas waves. The slightest sound can wake up the animal, there are traces of muscle activity and the eyes start to turn down.

Phase 2 or “light sleep”: sleep begins to be deep, and cerebral and muscular activity decreases. Appears the theta waves, slower than the alphas waves, and announce the appearance of spindles as well as K complexes. This set of waves causes a deeper sleep. K-complexes are like a kind of radar that our brain sets up to detect any movement that might occur around us while we are sleeping.

Phase 3 and 4, “delta wave sleep or deep sleep”: during these phases, delta waves or slow waves predominate, which correspond to deep sleep. The brain activity is reduced but the muscle tone increases. This is the phase during which the body really rests and recovers. It is also during this phase of sleep that most nocturnal terrors and/or sleepwalking occur.

REM sleep or REM sleep :

The most characteristic of this phase is rapid eye movements or rapid eye movements in original English. In addition, there is a muscular atony of the neck down, that is to say, the skeletal muscles are completely relaxed, and that increases brain activity.

It is believed that this phase serves to consolidate memories and learning during the day, so for growing animals, this phase serves them for good brain development.


How are the horses sleeping?

As with all animals, a change in routine and an increase in stress can interrupt the natural course of the horse’s sleep phases, which obviously has a significant impact on the animal’s daily life.

But how are the horses sleeping?

A horse may sleep upright or lie down, but may only enter the REM phase when lying down because, as we have seen together, this phase is characterized by muscle atony of the neck down, so a horse does could not enter REM standing because if he did, he would fall.

Now that we know how horses sleep, let’s see how long a horse sleeps!

How long does a horse sleep?

The horse, like many other animals that can sleep standing up, is an animal of prey. That is, during its evolutionary history, horses have had to learn how to survive multiple predators and it is for this reason that they have developed this technique allowing them to sleep upright because they are less vulnerable in this position only extended on the ground, at the mercy of their enemies.

But, how long does a horse sleep?

Still, in this spirit of survival of the species, the horse sleeps very little to be the least vulnerable time to the ferocious predators! A horse sleeps on average less than 3 hours a day!

How should be the stable of a horse?

A stable of a standard-size horse should not be less than 3.5 x 3 meters, with a height exceeding necessarily 2.3 meters. In order to build an ideal bed that will allow our horse to rest well and satisfy all his needs, you will need to use a straw.

However, some equestrian hospitals prefer to use other non-edible materials that do not accumulate dust and are more absorbent. Since for some diseases, the consumption of large amounts of straw may eventually cause colic. In addition, the use of straw in the construction of a bed for his horse is not recommended for horses with respiratory problems.

In the rest of our article How to sleep horses we offer some tips and tricks so that you can enrich the environment of your horse to promote his rest.

How to enrich the environment of my horse to promote his rest?

If the physical and health conditions of a horse permit, a horse should not spend many hours inside his box. Walking and grazing in the field are two activities that greatly enrich the lives of these animals and reduce the possibility of unwanted behaviors such as stereotypies.

In addition, these activities promote the digestive health of horses because they reduce the risk that your horses suffer from digestive problems generated by lack of movement.

Another way to enrich the environment of the rest area of ​​a horse is by putting toys on it, one of the most used toys is the unbeatable balls! If the stable in which your horse lives is big enough, he can roll it on the ground and chase it!

You can also suspend it so your horse can hit it, or if your diet allows it, you can fill it with a succulent treat to stimulate it both physically and mentally!

Of course, a quiet environment with an adequate temperature, free of any acoustic or visual stress is crucial for your horse to rest!

How and why can the horses sleep upright?

In fact, it is not true. The horses sleep in bed (like cows or stretched out all the way) and even dream! In a flock, the horse that remains standing is the one who watches over the sleep of others, so he does not sleep completely.

Horses only go to bed around 4h / day and in short periods (15/20 min). This comes from the fact that in nature they are prey. The lying position represents a danger for them since lying in the high grass, they do not see coming the predators and take more time to get up to flee.

The horses can sleep despite everything without falling.

How do they do?

To sleep upright, a horse has the ability to block his joints. To understand, when a horse bends a posterior, the muscle contracts, the femur, connected by a tendon, to the metatarsus, bends the leg, and the patella slides on the joint.

Before falling asleep, the horse blocks its articulation by placing its patella in a cavity located on the femur. The ligaments are stretched, which will prevent the femur from moving. But as the femur is connected to the metatarsus, the whole leg is blocked.

When a horse is standing on three legs, it uses its locking mechanism, which allows it to rest. For the previous ones, it’s different. The tendons that connect the bones to each other act somewhat like prings. Therefore, it takes a huge weight, sees a few hundred pounds for the leg to sag. As at rest, a leg only supports about 150 kilos, it is not enough for the leg to give way. Thus, a horse can sleep up, and be ready to act if any threat arises.


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