Unwanted Horse Behaviors and Sleep Deprivation by Alternative Horsemanship

 Horse Health, Behaviors & Sleep

When we say "horse" the initial image in our mind is that of the horse galloping through a field, or some other majestic movement. But there's also the aspect of thinking about how comfortable mentally and emotionally the horse is.

Many mornings after breakfast around 10 am as I'm working horses I notice those still in the pasture tend to lay down and enjoy a mid-morning snooze. Although it may seem "cute," it is crucial feedback as to the horse's level of comfort and feeling safe.
The horse's level of comfort with the human is also reflected when he is lying down if you head into the pasture; if the horse can acknowledge your presence, without re-actively bouncing up from his lying down position, he is not feeling defensive towards your spatial presence.
In all horses I meet, but especially in extreme behavioral cases, one of the things on my checklist is to assess if the horse is getting enough QUALITY "sleep" time. Many horses are so bothered and anticipative, that they literally cannot let down enough emotionally, to physically lie down.
Although horses can sleep while standing up, to reach a REM state, they must lie down.
Over the years I've found a major contributor to "issues" can stem from sleep deprivation in the horse.
Many fearful and anticipative horses cannot find a "safe" time/location to sleep, this can lead to a variety of dramatic and inconsistent behaviors that seem unaffected or unable to absorb new experiences.
I believe it is one of the most under-assessed, and overlooked aspects of the horse's health and well-being.
So perhaps if you have access or the opportunity to watch your horse sleep, think about when, how long, or even if you see him lie down. It could be a contributing factor to your horse's mental health if he is always uneasy, hyper-alert, or a highly reactive horse.
The black and white photo was taken at a client's house...
I had just arrived and was very happy to see her mares were napping.
It initially took some experimenting and changes in herd dynamics for them to reach this point.
How often do you see your horse lie down?
Are they always in the same location?
Do they sleep at the same time of day?
How long do they sleep?
I've lost track of how many horses I've seen transition into amazing equine partners once their health issues were addressed.

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