Can Horses Lay Down?

One of the curious facts about horses, that tends to surprise people, is that they sleep standing up.

They do this because, out in the wild, horses had to remain alert, and had to be able to quickly flee if any danger came near them. So if they sleep standing up, they are ready to bolt when needed!

Can horses lay down?

The way they do it is quite efficient too, as they have something called the apparatus. This is essentially a system of tendons and ligaments, with which a horse can lock the joints of the legs in place.

This way, they can completely relax their body and sleep, without falling down!

But, if horses sleep standing up…do they ever lay down? Are they even able to lay down? 

The answer is yes. Horses can lay down! In fact, if a horse feels especially safe and comfortable, and is especially tired, it might sleep laying down!

However, it isn’t that common to see a horse laying down on the floor, which is why some people think they never do so. It is also why, sometimes, people confuse a horse laying down with it being dead!

So yes, horses can lay down. But since they don’t do it that often, we will talk about when and why they might do so, what it means, and when it is something to worry about. Does that sound good? Then let’s get right into it! 

Reasons Why A Horse Might Lay Down

Horses can indeed lay down, even though they don’t do so super often. And the reasons for which they lay down can vary! Most of the time it’s nothing to worry about, and it is completely normal behavior. 

Here are some of the main reasons why horses might lay down from time to time:

To Get Some REM Sleep

Okay, so you know how we said that horses sleep standing up? Well, although they achieve most of their sleep while standing, they need to lay down for a small amount of time in order to get some REM sleep.

This is because they cannot get REM sleep while standing, as a part of their brain is still somewhat alert, in case they need to flee.

As a general rule, horses need between two to three hours of REM sleep every 24 hours, and they will usually get this REM sleep by laying down for short amounts of time (usually around 10 to 30 minutes), in the form of power naps!

So although they get most of their sleep while standing, they will have very short power naps in which they lay down, every now and then.

The problem is that a horse will only lay down if it feels comfortable and safe within its environment, so it is important to ensure that your horse has this, so they can get their REM power naps in!

To Relax And Laze About

If your horse is happy and comfortable and feels completely safe in the environment it is in, it’s quite normal for them to lay down and relax for a bit.

This is especially common on nice sunny days, in which horses will lay down and laze about, enjoying doing nothing at all. You could even join your horse and lay down with them!

Because They Are In Pain

If your horse is in pain, due to an injury or an illness, it could be that they are unable to remain standing for long periods of time, which is why they are laying down.

In fact, if a horse sleeps laying down all through the night, this is usually a sign of illness or injury, unless it is a sign of old age or exhaustion.

If you do notice your horse laying down more than usual, make sure to check for any injuries or illness!

Can horses lay down?

Because They Are Extra Tired

If a horse is extra tired and has reached a point of exhaustion, it is quite normal for them to lay down rather than remain standing, as their muscles will be in pain.

Should You Worry If Your Horse Is Laying Down? 

Now that we have gone through some of the main reasons why a horse might be laying down, you should be able to better identify and understand why your horse does so.

That being said, if your horse is laying down more than usual, it might be something to worry about. 

If your horse lays down many times throughout the day, or through the night, it might be a sign of something being wrong. Here is why you need to keep an eye on how often your horse is laying down, and why it might be bad: 

Laying Down Too Often Is Not Safe For A Horse

Horses are quite large animals, and as such, laying down for long periods of time can actually cause physical damage.

This is because laying down can restrict the blood flow to different organs and limbs, due to the weight placed on them, and over long periods of time, this can seriously harm your horse.

This can depend on the horse, and some horses are okay to lay down for longer than others. If a horse is overweight or especially big, this is something to watch out for more.

Laying Down Often Can Be A Sign Of Injury Or Illness

Laying down can often be a sign of your horse being in pain, which is why you should always worry if your horse is laying down more than usual.

It could indicate that your horse is unable to stand for long periods of time, or that your horse is in serious discomfort due to an injury, or an illness.

It’s best to be safe than sorry, so if you do notice your horse laying down, when it usually wouldn’t, make sure to contact a veterinarian and have your horse’s health examined.

(if your horse is old, laying down more often could be a sign of the body weakening, which is normal).

Final Thoughts

So…can horses lay down? The answer is yes, and in fact, horses need to lay down in certain situations!

For example, horses need to lay down in order to get some REM sleep, despite them doing most of their sleeping standing up.

So it’s normal for them to power nap for short amounts of time throughout the day, while laying down! 

It is also okay for a horse to lay down every now and then in order to relax, especially if they feel comfortable and safe.

However, if a horse is laying down more often than usual, this could be a sign that they are in pain, and that they have an injury or illness that should be checked out.

Catherine McDowl
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