Sometimes I go to the barn late at night to check the horses’ water. It amazes me that I’ll be greeted by them regardless of what time it is.

Sure, some of them are sleeping, but others are awake. Yet, there are times during the day that the horses are sleeping too.

So, what are the sleep patterns for horses? Don’t they need a few solid hours of sleep like other mammals? I know our dog will sleep all day and all night if we let her!

Horses, I’ve learned nap more than they sleep. Power naps! Maybe it’s part of their makeup since, as prey animals, they always have to be ready to move on a moment’s notice. I always say they nap between riders to keep their strength up.

So horses have learned to take advantage of quiet times to get a nap in. They can and do sleep standing up most of the time – they have to be ready to leave if the “horse eater” shows up.

But, they also need to lay down and sleep. From what I’ve read, horses need about 15 minutes of REM sleep every day. That’s a lot less than what we need. When they are getting their REM sleep, their nose touches the ground. And just like us, if the horse is deprived of REM sleep, it could affect them negatively. Typically, when horses are in a herd, one or two horses stand guard while the others sleep.

Horses do dream, just like other animals and you might even hear them nicker once in a while. Hmm… Talking in their sleep.

The question still is, are they really sleeping when they are standing up? And if so, how do they not fall down?

Well, horses have a locking mechanism in their stifle that hold one rear leg in place while the horse can rest the other leg. This way, they don’t fall over and if they have to move quickly, the “locked” leg will have time to unlock while the unlocked legs start making the getaway.

So there it is. Sleep while standing, sleep while laying down. They take naps during the day as well as at night. And here we thought that they worked hard for their oats!

Pretty Pony Pastures is an inclusive horseback riding facility located in Davisburg, MI. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities. The recently published book, Fifty Blades of Hay, that highlights how horses help riders is available on Amazon.