When you see a horse it’s typically standing, right? But when you see one laying down, you may find it a bit novel and worrisome. You may think “what does it mean when a horse lays down?”
A horse will lay down because it is either tired and needs to catch up on much needed rest, or it simply wants to relax. In rare cases, a laid horse could indicate a medical problem which would require a trained veterinarian.
Being able to tell the difference can be challenging, so let’s learn more about why horses lay down.
Is it Normal For a Horse to Be Lying Down?
A horse lying down is normal. Layind down for a horse can indicate that they are lacking REM sleep, which is the deepest form of sleep that allows for the best regeneration of energy and strength.
Additionally, laying down to rest and relax in the sun is seldom, yet still a normal act for a horse. If you see a horse laying down flat, there’s not much reason to panic; simply assess them to assure that they are still healthy.
When to Worry About a Horse Lying Down?
If you see a horse laying down for more than a few hours, then it’s time to worry. Excessive laying down tends to be inconsistent with the normal behaviors of a horse. Medical concerns could be the cause of it or even sudden onset illness; either way, lying down for too long goes against their typical routine.
Considerations such as reaching out to your veterinarian or, if trained, assess the horse for physical signs of sickness, including teeth color, lumps, swollen or weak muscles, or even neck distortion.
Why Is It Bad for a Horse to Lay Down?
It isn’t recommended for horses to lay down for long periods of time for several reasons. One of these reasons is because of pressure. Too much pressure on a horse’s body can cause serious damage to their muscles, with the first stage being soreness leading to potential nerve damage in their legs and torso.
Another reason is because of gravity. The strong force has the ability to cause excess blood to pol to their lower lung. Between the potential nerve and muscle damage, and the excess blood pooling, extensive lengths of a horse laying down is unsafe.
How Long is Too Long For a Horse to Lay Down?
Generally, any time more than two hours is too long for a horse to lay down. Typically, a horse will relax or rest in the shade or sun for about 20 to 30 minutes, which is considered their “nap” phase.
However, for deeper sleep, they will have to lay down for a least an hour to reach REM sleep, which is how their body rejuvenates. Once a horse has been laying down for more than an hour, it’s best to check on your horse to ensure their stability.
Why is My Horse Lying Down and Not Eating?
A horse could have an unpalatable feed or maybe gastrointestinal issues which makes it stop eating. However, if your horse is lying down and not eating, it could be a sign of colic. Colic is an abdominal pain stemming from or radiating to the gastrointestinal tract.
Symptoms are caused by the microflora in the horse’s gut that causes loss of fluids, electrolytes, and protein in their intestines. Once malignant, it can spread to the horse and make them lay down without the desire to eat.
Can a Horse Sleep Lying Down?
Horses are capable of sleeping while lying down; in some cases when it feels warm and safe for them, they prefer it. Yet, although they can sleep lying down, they are biologically prone to resting while standing up via a process called “stay apparatus.”
This allows horses to connect their muscles and bones together and “lock” them into position so they don’t fall over while they sleep. Because of these mechanisms, horses can sleep lying down and standing up.
Do Horses Lay Down to Give Birth?
Yes, horses naturally give birth while lying down. A horse’s foaling process is similar to that of every other mammal. While having contractions, the mare (female horse) will either choose to stand up or lay down, depending on which option is more comfortable for them.
As the contractions continue, the mare will begin to descend to the ground. At this moment, the horse is choosing to give birth while lying on her side because it’s the more efficient form for her. Once the birthing process is complete, the horse is capable of standing up right after.
Can a Horse Eat While Lying Down?
Horses typically stand up and eat by stretching their neck down to the ground and eating their meal with little-to-no problems. A horse can eat while lying down, but it isn’t a normal habit for one to engage in. They may be lying down eating for one of two reasons: either pure laziness or possible gastric ulcers.
Gastric ulcers may be related to acute colic, which will cause discomfort and pain to the horse’s abdomen, making them engage in natural activities while laying down. Eating while lying is possible for horses, but they may require a check-up if it happens frequently.
Can a Horse Die From Lying Down?
If it’s lying down for just a few minutes, then no, the horse is just fine considering that it’s based on comfort or deep sleep. However, if the horse is lying down with minor motion, then yes, a horse can die from lying down and it can happen fairly quickly.
A horse’s heavy body puts too much pressure on itself due to gravity, which can crush its organs. Also, when a horse is lying down not in motion, neither are their organs which causes restrictive blood flow. This leads to their organs eventually shutting down, causing the horse to die within minutes.