Does My Horse Sleep Badly?

Horses need little sleep, but regular rest periods. Minor injuries to the legs and head can be a sign of sleep deprivation.

As prey animals, horses are always alert. Nevertheless, the animals naturally need regeneration and deep sleep to be able to call up their performance.

In principle, horses can sleep standing up or lying down, whereby the so-called REM sleep is only achieved when lying down. REM stands for “Rapid Eye Movement”, which translates as fast eye movement, since the eyes move quickly in this sleep phase, and increased brain activity can also be recorded. Although the brain and eyes are particularly active, this phase is particularly important for the regeneration of the animals.

How long do horses sleep like this?

Horses need much less sleep than humans. They only need 3.5 hours of sleep per day, but they shouldn’t lack that said REM sleep stage. Horse owners need to observe whether their animals lie down and rest. This can lead to problems related to husbandry: especially in open stables, low-ranking animals often do not find rest if there is not enough lying space. There are also leader animals that are so vigilant about the herd that they hardly ever lie down.

What are the consequences of sleep deprivation in horses?

Horses that do not get enough sleep sometimes stumble, which can show as fetlock, head, and hip injuries. Performance degradation is also possible, but not always present. This is also due to the flight reflex, flight animals often successfully hide their symptoms. In rare cases, the horses collapse all of a sudden, then a brain disorder must be considered. This so-called narcolepsy is much less common than REM sleep deprivation. This has nothing to do with a brain disease.

What can I look out for?

Horse owners can pay attention to whether their horse is covered with straw or shavings in the morning. Likewise, behavioral changes (increased tiredness, but also excitement) can be an indicator of poor sleep. If there are minor injuries of unknown cause, this can also indicate REM sleep deprivation.

Frequently Asked Question

Why do horses sleep so little?

Horses snooze for about two hours a day. They spend most of it standing up, but also lying down. The muscles are hardly tense. This way the horse gets its rest without actually having to sleep.

What to do if your horse is sleep deprived?

The treatment of REM sleep deprivation depends on the triggering cause. In general, the prognosis is better if the problem is detected early. The use of psychotropic drugs can help in situations of upheaval. Nervous horses can benefit from more robust companion horses.

How does a horse show stress?

Some horses get nervous just by seeing a trailer. Typical signs of this are nervous prances and frequent defecation, which can manifest as diarrhea.

Can a horse be under-challenged?

What does it mean when a horse is over or under-challenged? If it is under-challenged, boredom, listlessness, stress, and often stomach problems set in.

Can a horse be depressed?

A horse that is listless in the herd or is easily irritable can simply be having a bad day. If this condition persists, this behavior can also indicate depression. Because depressed horses show similar symptoms as people who are affected by the mental disorder.

How do horses relieve stress?

Horses relieve stress in nature by escaping. If there are threatening situations that frighten the horse and cause stress, the horse responds to this situation by fleeing. The hormones released by the stress enable the horse’s body to mobilize all its strength to escape.

Why doesn’t my horse lie down anymore?

Possible causes are too small a lying area for sleeping (in the box, but also the open stable) incorrect litter management – too little, unsuitable, damp litter that the horse doesn’t like, or no litter at all. stressful barn climate, for example, due to noise or an unfavorable hierarchy in group housing.

When do horses go to sleep?

Unlike humans, they sleep at short intervals throughout the day. They sleep about six times a night, with the longest sleep cycle lasting a good 15 minutes. In addition, there are about three and a half hours of snoozing per day.

What has a calming effect on horses?

Well-known herbs that can have a calming effect on stress and nervousness include valerian, ginseng, hops, and St. John’s wort. Lavender and lemon balm can also help stressed and nervous horses to calm down and keep their nerves strong.

What does it mean when a horse yawns?

Horses yawn (or flehm) mainly in connection with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract: colic and stomach ulcers. Frequent yawning without cause and in the box can indicate inflammatory processes in the gastric mucosa and should therefore be taken seriously.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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