Fun Horse Facts: Horse Sleep Patterns

Horse Sleeping in the grass

Have you ever wondering about your horse’s sleep patterns.  Do you notice that sometime your horse lies down to take a snooze, but other times he/she looks to snoozing standing up?  In this article the sleep patterns of the horse are discussed. 


Horses are able to sleep both standing up and lying down.  They have adapted to sleeping standing up from their natural “flight or fight” behavior in reference to life in the wild.  Horses only lightly sleep when standing, making it more of a doze.  They are able to doze while standing due to a “stay apparatus” in their legs.  This allows the horse to remain standing and not collapse while sleeping. 


Horses will sleep better in groups than alone.  This is as result of their “flight or fight” behavior.  Horses will sleep better in a group because some horses will sleep while others stand watch.  A horse that is kept alone will not sleep as well because they will try to keep a constant eye out for danger. 


A horse must lie down to reach REM sleep.  However they only need to lie down to sleep for an hour or two at a time every few days to meet their need.  If a horse is not allowed to lie down then after a few days they will become sleep deprived.  When a horse becomes sleep deprived they may suddenly collapse as they slip into REM sleep. 


Unlike humans horses do not require as much sleep.  They do not need to sleep in long unbroken periods such as a human.  They take many short periods of rest.  A horse typically will stand resting/ dozing form anywhere between four and fifteen hours.  They may only lie down a few minutes to a couple hours a day.  A horse’s sleep time will vary but on average a horse will sleep hitting REM from several minutes to a couple hours a day.  Most of the time these periods of REM sleep are broken up into short fifteen minutes intervals.  The average horse sleeps 2.9 hours a day. 


So sweet dreams to all those horses out there!