Monday, 30 May 2016

How much do horses sleep?

Tommy often lies down in the field for a little nap.  Over the winter I found him lying down in the stable when I arrived in the mornings if it was still dark.  Chesney used to sleep a lot when he was young and used to lie flat out and Basil enjoys a lie down too.  Mostly though they all nap standing up - so how much do horses actually sleep?

 Horses generally sleep for less than 3 hours a day, unlike cats who sleep for about 16 hours - Daisy definitely does!  As predators cats can afford to sleep but horses are prey animals.  Their wild ancestors were hunted night and day and therefore they cannot afford to make themselves vulnerable by sleeping deeply.  Instead they take frequent rests for short periods.

Horses can rest their bodies while standing, actually it is easier for them to rest that way than when lying down.  This is because when they lie down the pressure caused by their heavy bodies lying on the ground uses much more energy.  Their circulatory and respiratory systems have to work much harder.  

 Horses have 'stay apparatus' in their forelegs and 'check apparatus' in their hind legs - a function of the tendons and ligaments - which allows them to rest standing up. They will put most of their weight on to their forelegs and one hindleg and will then rest the other.  As they tilt their hips into this position the 'check apparatus' in their hindlegs is triggered.  As their muscles relax the 'stay apparatus' in the forelegs automatically engages.  Their heads and necks get lower and if they are sleeping deeply the ears will relax, the eyes close and the lips droop (Chesney's lip droops).

A horses age affects how much they sleep.  Foals sleep lying down and spend about half of their day doing so.   As they get older they take less naps and tend to stay standing.  Older horses doze more often too.  They are all different and all have slightly different sleeping habits.

Horses also enjoy sunbathing.  Several will often lie down together BUT one or two will stay standing, on guard.  

Horses need to feel safe to sleep, so Tommy must feel safe, which is great news :)

Have you seen last week's video 'Basil's Spring Makeover' on my You Tube channel. Look out for Chesney's later this week! 
Horse Life and Love.  Please check it out and SUBSCRIBE.

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Until next time!

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