Why do horses lay down?
The short answer is yes they do lay down. Horses normally will only lay down for up to a couple hours every few days. This is mainly to reach their REM (Rapid Eye Movement) minimum requirements.
(If Your Horse is laying down a lot or laying down and continuously rolling see our article on Horse Colic)
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Although this is all they need if they don’t get this 1-2 hours every few days they can fall into an REM sleep while standing and will more then likely not be able to catch themselves and fall down.
This is a good major reason your horses stall should be big enough for them to lay down. They will more then likely sleep in their stall since they feel safer with them being a prey type of animal. If not in their stall if they are in a group they will also even take shifts with them sleeping and getting their REM requirements in. A horse alone out in the pasture more then likely will not sleep well because its basic instinct is to always watch out for predators and any other dangers even if there isn’t any.
Horses do sleep both laying down and standing throughout the day. This derives from there ancestors life out in the wild and being a prey animal. When any animal is laying down on land it usually makes them more vulnerable to predators that may attack. Horses have adapted and can sleep standing but may only do so in short increments of only a few minutes at a time. Over the course of the day they will continue to do this so they can reach their sleep requirements. They are able to lock their legs in to complete this task with what is generally called a stay apparatus.
They are considered a prey animal which for them is either fight or flee when their first reaction to danger being flee as most of you know. Over a 24 hour period a horse will normally sleep around 2 to 2 1/2 hours all made up of short sleeping periods.
In short try to make sure your horses are in groups of 2+ and if they have to be by themselves make sure they have a big enough stall to lay down in with fresh bedding. Paying attention to your horses sleeping pattern will lead to knowing your horse better and you will be able to help them out when needed in this area.
(If your horse is laying down for long periods of time continuously or laying down and rolling a lot see our article on Horse Colic Symptoms)