Have you ever found yourself wondering if a horse lying down is sick or hurt? A 1200 lb. horse lying on the ground looks a little odd, even scary at times. It’s normal to wonder if they should be lying down or what it means. Horses are unique in that they can sleep standing up and do frequently. They doze and even reach a deeper sleep standing by locking their back legs for balance and relying on herd mates to take turns “keeping watch”.
But horses also sleep lying down, especially in an environment that feels safe and warm. Picture a horse’s stall or small paddock: it is familiar, enclosed, sheltered from the weather and as comfy as it comes. When in a herd environment, horses love to sleep outdoors in a pasture, if they have herd mates to help them feel secure. A horse who sleeps lying down feels safe, secure and content. Adult horses may sleep for a couple hours a day lying down in total, and younger horses for even longer. They will typically be partially on their side, legs folded underneath with chin resting on the ground. Only seldom, and when feeling very comfortable will a horse roll completely out on their side and lay still for several minutes or even longer. Most horses will still react to loud noises even in this position, but just like us they can take a few moments to wake up.
Horses don’t typically lie down just because they are feeling sick. But things to watch out for could include a horse who stands up and lies down to roll over and over, though some horses do this when they find a particularly nice place to roll. This might be a reason to pay closer attention for signs of colic (abdominal pain). You might also notice a horse lying on their side nipping at or looking at their belly as if to ask, “why does my tummy hurt?”
By April Phillips, Marketing Manager