Horses, with their ability to sleep without lying down for long, have evoked a sense of mystery in the human brain. Although most horse owners know that their four-legged companions don’t prefer sitting or lying down for too long, exactly why this is the case is yet for many of them to unveil.
For starters, horses are faultlessly amusing creatures for all the right reasons. Their ability to serve as cart pushers is exceptional and oh-so-useful to several humans who can’t afford an electronic vehicle to travel to and FRO. But the fact that they are so apprehensive about their predators renders them insanely mysterious. Find out more!
The fear of predators is real-time
Horses may seem all buckled up to fight their battle and return victorious, but nothing can hide their fright for predators. Since they are so afraid of being attacked by their predator, they feel an urge to constantly remain alert and save themselves from any attack from these ferocious creatures.
So, when horses get to sleep, they find it more comforting to sleep standing up. This position helps them to escape quickly from an attack by a predator as lying down could mean a lot of work to them. Even during standing up, they mostly keep their senses alert against predator attacks.
Horses do sit or lie down for a bit when they want REM sleep for two to three hours and not more. But they do not need enough REM sleep regularly, which makes it easy for them to sleep while standing up. Usually, you will find a horse sitting or lying down only when they need some comfort. So, when the horse is lying down or sitting and sleeping, they are in their deepest state of sleep.
Now, the question is, how do horses even do this? The answer is simple- Stay Apparatus. This is a method that helps horses to keep them upright even when they are sleeping while standing up. It is a special system of tendons and ligaments that help horses to lock the major joints of their legs as they sleep standing up.
Horses have legit buddies
What is most interesting is that this isn’t the only trick they apply to stay alert against predators. They also use their fellow buddies to help them get sound sleep by assigning them to keep a lookout for predators. Basically, they follow a buddy system where one-horse watches over the other horse while the latter is getting a sound sleep while lying down.
So, the role of the horse-watch keeps rotating for utmost safety and convenience. It also helps make sure that someone is keeping an eye on the predators and is there to protect them when the horses have their REM sleep. Mostly, this is possible when horses are in paddocks or next to their regular neighbours.
Another reason why they sit or lie down at minimal sleep is that their bodies are susceptible to reperfusion injury. This is a type of problem that can occur when the horse’s body weight is on them for quite a long time. As they are heavy-weighted creatures, it can prevent their blood flow from circulating properly throughout the body. Since they want to avoid such injuries, horses try and get the weird sleep that they do.
Most doctors who have to operate horses for such injuries have spoken about how horses find it really difficult to fend for themselves after such problematic situations.
“After surgery, we usually give them around one to two hours in the recovery stall and let them try and stand on their own,” explains Schaefer, an equine surgery resident at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
It is complicated for these poor fellows
Doctors suggest that apart from such problematic situations, horses can undergo several other bodily issues. Due to excessive lying down or sitting for proper sleep, horses may even damage their muscles and nerves. Thus, excessive pressure for them is a strict no-no in all cases.
Apart from all that, horses may even find their lungs in trouble as excess blood pools due to gravity. So, neurological diseases are also pretty common among these poor creatures. However, doctors and surgeons often bring them under intensive care to help them recover immediately without much hindrance. Once they recover, they are left to fend for themselves peacefully.
So, no matter how sleepy a horse may be, it is always best for them to sleep standing up, even if it is too weird for us. After all, that is how they can prevent themselves from most injuries and diseases.
The Bottom Line
Horses are fascinating creatures with lots of mysteries yet to unravel. But the next time you see a horse standing up and sleeping, you will know why they do that