Many horse owners panic when they see their horses lying flat in the field, but don’t worry! Usually, lying down means the horse is comfortable and feels safe in its environment for a short nap. Here are the top three most common reasons for a horse lying down.
The most common reason for a horse lying down is because they are sleeping or resting. Even though horses only need 3 hours of sleep daily, they regularly take short naps throughout the day, while deep sleep happens mainly at night. Horses are prey animals, which is why they can also sleep in an upright position, standing up to allow them to escape a dangerous situation. If you see a horse lying down while sleeping, it means the horse feels in a safe environment, as this is a very vulnerable position for a horse. Horses also love sunbathing on sunny days; this is normal behavior in a healthy horse, so there is no need to worry.
They often lie down at night for their deeper sleep states (REM sleep); blood flow is restricted when they lie down, which is why they only do it for their deeper stages of sleep. Wild horses that sleep out in open plains take turns sleeping; some horses in the herd stay awake on the lookout, and then they turn to sleep for short periods. The minutes of rem sleep are vital for them to have a good night’s sleep.
2. Abdominal Pain
Seeing your horse lying down for long periods and resisting getting up could be a sign of colic. Other colic symptoms to look out for are: Is your horse drinking water, passing manure, eating hay, or rolling over and over? Colic can be a severe condition in horses, and any colic signs should always be taken seriously.
Please seek medical treatment immediately if your horse is not passing manure or eating and the horse rolls over and over.
The word colic makes many horse owners panic as it can lead to death if it’s a severe impaction of colic. Surgery can usually be done, but this is very pricey, and your horse is not guaranteed to survive.
3. Other Physical Pain
Other common health problems that may cause your horse to lie down are musculoskeletal pain, single leg lameness, hoof abscess, overweight, or other physical problems. If you see your horse lying down over excessive periods, then check your horse over. Is there pulsating or heat in one of the legs? Then, it may be a sign of a hoof abscess. If you keep your horse turned out on grass, also monitor your horse’s body weight, as any extra weight will put more strain on the legs and ligaments, which can cause severe pain over a long time.
How long can a Horse lie down before it dies?
If a horse lies down for more than 24 hours, the likelihood of its survival is minimal. The internal organs can’t handle the pressure of their body weight, crushing them while lying down for longer.
Should I worry if my horse lies down for extended periods?
No need to panic! It could simply be signs of sleep deprivation. All horses have different routines, so if you notice any odd behavioral patterns of your horse lying down longer than usual, this might be a sign of something being off, or it’s just the routine. Have you been away at a show recently, or have there been any potential stressful elements at your barn? Maybe a new horse that is dominating your horse? It’s still important to look over your horse and ensure it is.