Poor management and physical problems can lead to a lack of sleep in horses and can cause serious injuries when they collapse. It also may result in behaviour issues such as lack of motivation, aggression or even not be able to learn. So, sudden behaviour changes can be a result of sleep deprivation and should be considered in the holistic thinking of finding the source of the behaviour change.
Think about yourself...About a situation where you needed to manage your daily routine (e.g. getting up in the morning, getting ready for work, driving, working...) after you had several night with almost no sleep.
You could not function as normal I guess, you were more impatient, very tired, maybe forgot something or felt less energetic than normal. Well, that's how I feel after a bad night sleep...
Believe it or not, our horses can suffer from a lack of sleep or bad quality sleep as well!!!!
I found a recent study about sleep deprivation in horses, done by a German Vet called Christiane Fuchs published here in 2019: equitationscience.com/media/the-dangers-of-sleep-deprivation-in-horses .
If you click on the link you find the whole article and video.
Christine Fuchs and her team of scientists at the Ludwig-Maximilian-University of Munich, Germany set out to research sleep deprivation in horses. She presented their findings at the 14th International Society of Equitation Science (ISES) conference in Rome in September.
Some of the results I want to copy here for you:
So, it is essential for the horses health and wellbeing and be able to perform well, to get good sleep. As a prey and herd animal they need to feel safe to do so. A companion who watches over the other can help to feel safe as well as knowing the environment is safe.
For a good deep sleep (REM sleep) the horse needs to lay down. They can sleep while standing, but it is not that "recovery" sleep as the muscles are still used to not fall down.
REM sleep is important to relax all muscles in the body for recovery, to be able to process learned stuff and get some rest. Similar to our sleep when we are really asleep and dreaming.
Often, when horses have a physical issue or injury they CANOT lay down due to mobility restrictions or pain.
Some facts about horses sleeping patterns:
And I know, nobody can watch their horse 24hours to see if it gets a good laying down sleep. If you think your horse might not sleep you can install an outdoor or trail camera ( there might be someone who can borrow you one....) to observe your horse.
Anyway, it is just something else we need to consider if our horses behaviour or learning pattern changes in a negative way.
Resolving sleeping issues include searching for the cause : is it in pain? does it feel safe? has there been a change recently in the environment or management? just to give you some ideas...
Sleep is important for us and for our horses!!!! For happy horses and a joyful riding experience as well as for good performance and the ability to learn.
If you have any questions or comments please contact me or leave a comment here:).
If you want to discus your horses behaviour issues with me: I am happy to help!
Thank you for your interest and I see you here next week!
Britta Bruns, Invercargill