Why do horses sleep standing

When we feel tired and our body demands sleep, we automatically start longing for a comfortable bed to lie down and a nice soft pillow for resting our head. It is never a good idea for any of us to snooze while standing up, but it is something that horses usually do. If you love horses and you have always wanted to find out why they sleep standing up, this article is going to get you a step closer to your quest.

The stay apparatus

Horses owe their ability to sleep while standing to the stay apparatus mechanism. It is a group of ligaments, muscles and tendons, which lock the major joints present in the horse’s limbs. Joints locked in a special way allow horses to relax their muscles while standing and enjoying a light sleep. This mechanism allows horses to doze without collapsing. Moreover, in comparison to lying down, sleeping while standing is much more convenient for them. The reason behind is their big muscles and delicate bones. They could injure themselves while lying down in one position for too long.

A defense against predators

Being prey animals, horses are hunted in the wild. Therefore, they require being watchful all the time and they need to have a potential to escape quickly as the danger approaches. If they lie down, getting up fast enough to escape becomes difficult for horses due to their straight backs. If compared to most other animals, horses take longer to pull themselves upright. Therefore, sleeping while standing up is a defense that horses have against their predators.

The buddy sleep system

Horses do sleep standing up but this doesn’t mean that they never lie down to sleep. As a part of their buddy sleep system, they do lie down when they require REM sleep. If compared to other animals, horses require a very small amount of REM sleep, which gives them a chance to rest their legs. You must have seen a group of horses lying down in the sunny field enjoying their summer snooze. However, you must not have realized the presence of a horse standing and watching over the others sleeping. As per the buddy sleep system that horses follow, that one standing horse guards all the sleeping ones by keeping an eye out for the intruders. As each member of the group gets the sleep required, the role of watch-horse rotates.