Yes, horses do sleep lying down. In fact, in order to get the REM sleep that they need to stay healthy, they need to be down for between thirty minutes and an hour a day. When out in a herd, one horse will act as a sentinel, scanning for danger, while others rest.
This is usually true even with stabled horses. But it’s a sign of how safe these three horses feel that they all dozed at the same time. (There are three! Max, the bay gelding is behind Talon.)
Lowering her thousand-pound body down onto the ground puts a horse in a vulnerable position. See how awkward this is? And it takes time to heave oneself back up.
A horse that is anxious it its herd, or experiencing pain in its joints, or on high alert because of noise or a new environment will not lie down.
On the other hand, a horse that feels truly secure won’t even bother getting up when his person arrives. This photo was taken only two months after I purchased Tonka. My kind-eyed horse had already decided that he could trust me.
Just like you feel grumpy and out of sorts when you haven’t gotten enough sleep, so will your horse. Providing your horse with clean, deep bedding in a stall that is large enough to stretch out in will enable them to sprawl out.
Like dogs, horses will twitch in their sleep. Some will even snore (watch this hilarious video.) I’m always happy to see shavings in Tonka’s tail. That means that he’s had a good night’s sleep.