Do Horses Lay on Their Side? Your Question Answered

Equine Sleeping Patterns

Do horses lay on their side? This is a very common question. When you see a horse lying down, do you think about whether it’s hurt or sick? 

Horses may sleep standing up by locking their hind legs for balance and relying on their herd mates to take turns “keeping watch.” This allows them to doze off. However, horses can sleep when lying down, particularly in a setting that provides a sense of security.

Shire horse laying down

Do Horses Lay on Their Side to Sleep?

Even horses require a certain amount of restful sleep to perform adequately throughout the day. It’s obvious that horses spend the day dozing off in a standing position. They have a stay apparatus in both their front and rear limbs, enabling them to perform this action. 

Because of this one-of-a-kind device, their legs can “lock” into position, preventing them from rolling over while sleeping. The stay apparatus is one of the most distinctive features of equine anatomy. It allows horses to lock their kneecaps using the surrounding ligaments and tendons.

The stay apparatus can break down into parts to reveal a survival mechanism. The shift from lying down to standing up is not something horses can do. Because of this, they can maintain their standing for the bulk of the day. Horses won’t sleep until they have the impression that they are comfortable, safe, and secure.

Even though horses can sleep while standing up, they must lie down to get enough sleep during the day. REM sleep is something that a horse can achieve when it is in a supine position. Horses are susceptible to suffering from a lack of sleep if you deprive them of their necessary deep slumber.

The average amount of time that most horses spend dozing off each day is between two and three hours. Most of this type of sleep, known as REM sleep, occurs during the night, typically in intervals of thirty minutes.

To attain REM sleep, mature horses must spend anywhere from one to three hours a day lying down, even on their sides. However, this time does not need payment in one continuous stretch. Usually, kids can only lie down to sleep for a few minutes at a time, and this only occurs during the night.

Young horses have a greater sleep requirement than adult horses, but as they age, they lie down for a shorter period overall.

How Long Can a Horse Lay Down?

Although they can relax comfortably while lying down for up to three hours each day, horses often only do so for shorter periods. When it lasts more than four or five hours, it’s a red flag that something might be wrong with their physical or mental health.

To prevent bloating and other health issues, you should not allow horses to lie down for longer than five hours at a time.

Brown horse laying down on the grass

Why do Horses Lay Down?

Many of the reasons that a human might lie down are also applicable to horses. By being familiar with the typical patterns of behavior exhibited by your horse, you will be able to discern why they are lying down more readily.

Horses Lying Down to Achieve REM Sleep

Horses have unusual sleeping routines. Even though you will discover your horse dozing off while standing most of the time, they must be lying down to enter REM sleep. The average horse needs between two and three hours of REM sleep every 24 hours. 

They normally accomplish this through a series of brief naps that last anywhere from 10 to thirty minutes at a time! Horses won’t lay down unless they have the distinct impression that they are in a secure setting. It is essential to ensure that your horse has a sense of safety and security since this will allow them to experience REM sleep daily. 

This is of the utmost importance if you are traveling with your horse. In the same way we do, horses will quickly begin to exhibit sleep deprivation if you deprive them of enough quality sleep.

Horses Lying Down for Relaxation & Comfort

You may come upon your horse dozing off in the warm sunshine. Your horse’s natural behavior may include periods spent lying down, particularly if they are in an atmosphere that makes them feel at ease. On the other hand, the vast majority of the time you find them dozing off in the sunshine, it is most likely that they are taking a short sleep.

Horses Lying Down Due to Physical Pain or Illness

You can observe that your horse is lying down more frequently than usual if they are experiencing some bodily discomfort or if they are ill. If you keep track of their sleeping patterns when they are healthy, you will be better able to recognize when something is awry with their behavior.

You may force your horse to lie down for extended periods if it is experiencing common health issues such as colic or musculoskeletal pain. When you inquire about why your horse is lying down more than normal, you will frequently find other signs associated with the illness or injury causing it.

Addressing any physical pain or disease as quickly as possible is essential. You should contact an experienced veterinarian if you suspect something is wrong with your pet. If your horse is ill, letting it lie down for extended periods is risky because this can cause considerable damage. We will discuss this topic further in the following sections of this post.

How do Horses Lay Down?

They will often position themselves so that a portion of their body slants downwards, with their legs curled below them and their chin resting on the ground. Rarely, and only when they are in a state of extreme contentment, can a horse turn completely over onto their side and remain still for several minutes or even longer. 

While they are in this position, most horses will still react to loud noises, but similar to humans, it may take them a few moments to fully wake up.

Is it OK for Horses to Lie Down?

You may be wondering, is it bad for horses to lay down? Laying down while riding a horse is not only safe but also entirely typical. On the other hand, it is highly risky for a horse to remain supine for an extended period. 

Lying down for extended periods while horses are such massive animals can reduce the amount of blood that flows to vital organs and limbs. Your horse is in danger of suffering severe physical harm due to this!

This is another justification for why it is of the utmost need to pay attention to the typical routines of your horse. If you see that they are lying down more than usual, you will be able to give them the care and attention they might require if you recognize this behavior. 

Even though it varies from horse to horse, it is generally okay for horses to lie down for many hours before they need to stand up again.

FAQs on Equines and Laying on Their Sides

Do Horses Sleep Standing up or Lying Down?

Many times, you will find horses sleeping while standing up. Stay muscles are an interlocking network of ligaments and tendons that allow horses to lock their legs in place. Horses have stay muscles. When horses need to take a little break or nod off for a few minutes, they will use their stay muscles and sleep standing up, with their weight distributed across both the front and one back leg. 

Other members of the herd may stand guard during certain periods. It is better for horses, mentally and physically, to take short naps while standing up rather than lying down.

We may also ask ourselves, do horses lay down on their side? Because horses are such massive animals, if they lie down or cast, they risk developing various medical conditions, including significant concerns with their blood circulation. You will reveal more at a later time.

When a horse is in this position, it isn’t easy to rise and go rapidly. They have the innate ability to protect themselves from potential danger by dozing off while remaining alert for potential threats.

When living on a farm, a horse may sleep from four to fifteen hours per day but spends only a small portion of that time dosing. However, this does not constitute complete rest, which is necessary for horses.

Do Horses Lay Down in the Rain?

How did we conclude that it would rain today? The horses are currently on a recline. They carry out this behavior whenever there is a shift in the weather, and there is a possibility that it will rain. 

Because animals, including horses, are so sensitive to their surroundings, it’s likely that when they sense a storm on the horizon, their natural impulse is to take cover because they realize there’s a good probability they won’t get another chance.

Heavy rain can affect your horse’s skin, which can get damages from rain rot, scrapes, and hooves. In damp weather, several hoof diseases become more prevalent, including thrush, cracks, white line disease, and hoof abscesses. As a preventative measure, you should ensure that your horse has access to a clean and dry place where it can stand.

Why Should a Horse not Lay Down for Too Long?

Many ask, why can’t horses lay down? After 10 to 20 minutes of lying down, a horse will have difficulty getting back on its feet. The first explanation is straightforward: blood circulation in limbs gets interrupted. It will get increasingly difficult for the horse to stand up with each passing minute. In addition, the horse suffers a physical loss of muscle tone.

Other severe difficulties may arise if the horse is lying on its side or pushed against the stall wall with its legs spread apart. These problems include the following: 

The sheer weight will cause damage to the muscles and tissues on the side of the horse that it crushes against the ground, and if the horse remains in that position for an extended period, the damage could be irreversible.

Because of gravity, the lower portions of the lungs can become filled with blood. The horse will have a great deal of discomfort due to the buildup of gas in the intestines, which will not be able to come out naturally.

What are the Signs Something is Wrong?

There may be cause for concern if a horse appears to be lying down an unusually high percentage of the time or for an exceptionally extended period. There could be a few other factors at play here, including the following:

It is possible to tell if a horse is suffering from colic or stomach pain if it is staring toward its stomach. In this case, the horse should stand up and walk around while you contact a  veterinarian.

A variety of ailments to the legs, ranging from inflammation within the hooves to fractured bones

The term “tying up” refers to muscle injury, disorders related to metabolism, etc. After a few hours, a consultation with a veterinarian is essential, particularly if the horse is hesitant or unable to stand even when you assist it.

Two horses lay down to sleep

Final Thoughts

The majority of the time, horses that are lying down in a flat position exhibit behavior that is typical of horses. When owners notice trends like these, they shouldn’t let their anxiety levels rise. After engaging in strenuous activity, horses will either lay down to recover and relax or go into a deep sleep.

It is not typical for horses to lie down for extended periods or show symptoms that they are in discomfort or sickness. Therefore, you should contact a veterinarian if your horse has been still and is refusing to get up for a significant amount of time.