Horses spend most of the day feeding, which takes up to 70 per cent of their time. They spend the rest of the time standing, moving around or dozing off. Horses, just like people, are able to relax while snoozing. People can use this to further strengthen the social bond with their darling on four hooves. Slight physical contact between humans and animals intensifies their relationship.
How Do Horses Rest?
There are four different phases of sleep in horses. First of all, there is dozing off. The animals stand completely relaxed, mostly with half-closed eyes. The lower lip hangs down and they loosely turn their ears outwards. The hind legs support the sleeping animals alternately, meaning they stand on one leg and switch to the other after a while. The animals spend most of their resting phases in this position.
When slumbering, on the other hand, horses lie in the chest-stomach position. They fold their legs under the body. The head is supported upwards or placed on the ground. In this position, the animal is entirely relaxed but can react immediately to danger in the event of an emergency. Then the horse jumps up with lightning speed and is ready to fend off possible threats.
R.E.M. Stands for Rapid Eye Movement
The deep sleep of horses is similar to that of humans. The head, neck and torso lie on the floor, the heartbeat and breathing become slower, and the eyes are competely closed. Now the animals can fully recover and find the rest they needs after a strenuous day. The fourth and final sleep phase is the so-called dream strike. Then the animals’ brain becomes very active. Some horses even move in this phase. The so-called R.E.M. phase describes rapid eye movements in dream sleep. This phenomenon in horses was a deciding factor when naming this behaviour, which you can also observe in other animals or humans. However, this stage of sleep is essential for both animals and humans, because only after resting memory and learning processes can take place.
In the animal world, sleeping means trust. In strict accordance with the hierarchy, the leader lies down before all the other animals follow. Horses also feel more comfortable being in a herd. Hence, they follow the “pack leader’s” example. Research shows that horses sleep longer when they are in a group, which makes them feel more secure and allows them to sleep longer and more comfortably. People can also participate in this for bonding.
When the beloved owner is around, the animals relax and doze off faster. In return, that also brings a significant increase of confidence in people. Horses like light physical contact because it strengthens the relationship with the owner, they make their caretakers happy, and vice versa. When the animals see and interact with a familiar person, their well-being increases as well. In this way, humans and animals grow together even more and create a strong bond to last a lifetime.