Do horses sit down or lay down-Answered
Horses don’t normally sit. They may assume what appears to be a sitting posture as they get up from lying down, but they only hold the posture briefly. Sometimes they are trained to assume a sitting position by their owners.
Horses do not easily sit such as dogs and cats do. This posture is part of the sequence of movements involved in rising from lying down to standing, since horses raise their forehand first, unlike cattle which raise their hindquarters first. But maintaining a sitting position would be an indication of a problem preventing the horse from completing getting fully upright.
Horses normally do lie down to sleep, or sometimes even to relax in the sun. Sometimes older, arthritic horses do not lie down.
They seem to know they may have trouble getting up again. Similarly, sometimes very large horses do not often lie down. Horses do not need to lie down to sleep. They are able to sleep standing up.
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Sitting is not a normal pose for a horse.
Horses can rest standing up or lying down. The most interesting part of horses resting standing up is how they do it. In horses there is a special arrangement of muscles and the parts that connect muscles and bones together (ligaments and tendons). This is called the stay apparatus.
While sitting is not a normal pose for a horse, they can do it. I once saw a horse who did not want to be ridden. I don’t know what experiences he must have had in the past, but after he was saddled up, they tried to drag him over to the rider and he sat down, like a dog, to keep from going anywhere.
He also blew up (held his breath) when he was being girthed, so when the rider got on, and the horse exhaled, the saddle slid down his side.
Do horses sit down Or Lay down?
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Yes, horses CAN sit, but they rarely do so on their own.
Reasons why a horse might be sitting:
- they have been trained to do so
- they are getting up from a lying down position, and are pausing temporarily because there is an underlying issue (soreness in the back legs, colic symptoms, very tired, etc.)
Horses are large animals with relatively thin legs and small feet (hooves). The weight is supposed to be evenly spread over all four legs.
Therefore, it would be very uncomfortable for a horse to be in a sitting position, because the weight of the animal would be shifted to the back end.
Also, the vertebrae in their backs are “fixed” – meaning the spine is somewhat flexible, but not nearly as flexible as a cat’s or dog’s (that’s one of the reasons why horses are relatively easy to ride, and can carry things on their backs).
While sitting for an extended period of time, the spine would not be flexible enough to make this comfortable.
Also, horses are prey animals – they do not want to be caught in a vulnerable position where they can’t easily run off. That’s why you only see them lying down to sleep if they feel very comfortable and safe.
Horses can sit, however, bio-mechanically, it is awkward for them to do so.
Both horses and cows lie down by putting their front half down first, followed by the back half. However, horses get up front half first, and cows get up back half first.
Horses almost certainly can’t have their bottom on the floor while also having their feet flat on the floor, unless they have unusually long thighs and short shins.
The lengths of the bones in their legs, and overlying muscle structure, mean that a seated position places a lot of strain on some of the most delicate structures of the horse’s body – their legs, and in particular, their joints, particularly in the hocks, and to a lesser degree, in the stifle.
The seated position also applies a lot of strain to the caudal (tail) vertebrae – as someone with a previously injured coccyx (what remains of the human tail), I can tell you this can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.
With these two things combined, you have a good bio-mechanical reason why most horses will not sit.
There are some horses who do, and they are either trained to do so, or are very unusual for their species.
At best, most horses use a seated position as a transitional phase between laying and standing, and even then, will generally go from a lounging position with the weight distributed more on one hip than another, than from a perfectly symmetrical sitting position.
Let’s clear up a common misunderstanding about horses: they do not sleep standing up. They snooze standing up. There’s a big difference.
Horses, like humans and, in fact, all land mammals, require deep sleep for proper mental and physical functioning. But for a prey species like the horse, whose existence in the wild depends on its ability to outrun predators, deep sleep can be a serious threat to personal safety.
So how do horses get enough sleep?
For starters, horses doze a lot. On any given day, drive past a pasture of horses and count how many are grazing and how many are just standing there, heads down, lower lips drooping. Those are your snoozers, standing up.
The reason horses can sleep while standing for most of their sleep cycle is because it allows them to quickly escape an attack by a predator without having to waste time standing up (which can be a slow process compared to a predator attack).
The method by which horses stand while sleeping is called the “stay apparatus,” and it’s a system of ligaments and tendons that keep them upright with relative ease.
Horses also like using the buddy system for sleeping, where one horse watches over the others while they’re sleeping.
The role of watch-horse will rotate as each member of the herd gets the sleep they need, including lying down for necessary REM sleep.
Many horses adopt this kind of rotation when they’re in their home barn setting, either in a paddock or in a stall next to their regular neighbours.
Most horses remain in the standing position
Most horses remain in the standing position because their weight places excess pressure on their internal organs when lying down. Adult horses only lie down for brief periods of time. Foals spend more time on the ground during naps until they get older.
Horses have two anatomical abilities that allow them to remain standing. One function is the “stay apparatus” of the forelegs. The horse engages the stay apparatus by shifting the hip and locking the patella into position.
The “check apparatus” allows the hind legs to relax without collapsing.
When sleeping, an adult horse rests most of its weight on the two front legs and one hind leg. Horses enter a light sleeping phase in the standing position, which is an instinct left over from when they were wild animals.
On average, horses spend four to 15 hours sleeping and several minutes to a few hours on the ground.
Horses must also lie down to get their minimum REM sleep, which stands for rapid eye movement sleep. To achieve REM sleep, they must rest on the ground for one to two hours every three days.
You can Train Horses to Sit!
Actually many movie horse trainers do teach their horses to sit, and I taught a number of my horses too. And there is every now and again a freak horse who does it naturally and prefers the position but I have yet to meet one.
The reason that they don’t naturally sit however is about distribution of their body weight and just like us they do what is more comfortable for them.
Most horses if you watch and slow down what they are doing will sit for a microsecond as they are lowering themselves to the ground to lay, however if they stayed in the seated position, especially for young horses whose legs haven’t fully formed yet [they don’t start doing so until about four years and the 3DE and Dressage authorities wont let horses compete till they are eight for this reason] .
It would place so much strain on those bones that they would start to develop fractures that are really small that over time would calcify and keep building on top of each other which you want in a small amount [its similar to human shin splints you need some to build strength but too much results in long term damage] but not a large amount as it can effect the horses ability to perform, especially in horse racing.
And due to the horses upper body and upper torso weight distribution it is also more natural for the movement to continue to take the rest of the horses body close to the ground and into the classic seated position that you are most likely thinking of when you think of horses who are awake and not basking in the sun- Head upright, four legs tucked under like a dog and head curled in.
It is all about natural physiology and preservation of body and energy and the horse knowing what is best for itself.
If you ever train a horse to sit, you never keep it in that position for long periods, never do it over and over again on the same day, and never make the horse do it every day.
How Horses Relax
Horses only have to lie down for an hour or two every few days to meet their minimum REM sleep requirements.
However, if a horse is never allowed to lie down, after several days it will become sleep-deprived, and in rare cases may suddenly collapse as it involuntarily slips into REM sleep while still standing.
Horses have two anatomical abilities that allow them to remain standing.
One function is the “stay apparatus” of the forelegs. The horse engages the stay apparatus by shifting the hip and locking the patella into position. The “check apparatus” allows the hind legs to relax without collapsing.
When sleeping, an adult horse rests most of its weight on the two front legs and one hind leg.
Horses enter a light sleeping phase in the standing position, which is an instinct left over from when they were wild animals.
On average, horses spend four to 15 hours sleeping and several minutes to a few hours on the ground. Horses must also lie down to get their minimum REM sleep, which stands for rapid eye movement sleep. To achieve REM sleep, they must rest on the ground for one to two hours every three days.
Horses also lie down to sunbathe, and there are times when they rest in the sun together. One or two other horses stand guard as the others sunbathe. Horses lie down less frequently in snowy conditions, but some sleep in an outstretched position on the snow.
For more about horses see our other articles below
Colin Parker loves Pets! Colin is an animal lover. She loves caring for and sharing her knowledge of all kinds of pets. Her Love for pets made her Join the pet paws hub Team, to share knowledge with the world.
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