Heavy on His Feet - Why Your Horse Sleeps Standing Up

ArticleHow To - HealthMonday 02 December 2013

Did you know? Horses, Zebras and Donkeys (or Equids) are the only animals that sleep standing up.


According to scientists at the Department of Natural Sciences at the Florida Museum of Natural History, they developed this ability as a way to remain alert for predators. After all, the horses that could simply wake up and run if it sensed a predator would be better served than the horses who had to wake up, stand up and run.


Although horses do lie down, they typically only sleep that way for 15 to 20 minutes at night. Generally, horses spend the majority of their REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep cycle laying down. The rest, they spend in Slow Wave Sleep (SWS). Their joints lock naturally and they can sleep through the entire SWS cycle standing up.


Another reason for this phenomenon is that horses typically weigh too much to lay down for long periods of time without obstructing blood flow. Foals can lay on their sides for longer than adult horses because they weigh less, and therefore won’t obstruct blood flow as much as a heavier horse.


There is still much to learn in the field of equid sleep cycles, but some studies have shown that horses will typically wait for clean bedding before lying down to sleep. Studies have also shown that the type of bedding matters too. Most horses prefer to lay on straw bedding rather than wood shavings.

So the next time you’re asleep in your warm bed worrying about your horse being comfortable, just remember that he’s happier that way.

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