Do Horses Sleep With Their Eyes Open

Do horses sleep with their eyes open?, Sleep is critical to the health of a horse. Horses have unique sleeping habits than humans. Human beings need eight hours of sleep to do well while horses need much less. Horses spend most of their time standing upright which makes many wonders how do horses sleep.

Horses take frequent short naps during the day while they have REM sleep, during midnight, in the darker hours. Sleeping patterns change as the horse ages. Adult horses spend more time dozing in the standing position.

Do horses sleep with their eyes open– Short Answer

The answer is yes. Horses often sleep with their eyes open or half-open. They are often seen napping with one eye open.

Eyes either opened or closed is an indication of how sound sleep your horse is having. 

Horses sleeping with eyes open or half-open indicates lighter sleep.

Horses lie down with eyes closed to get REM or deep stages of sleep. Horses need little REM sleep than human beings.

Horses sleep with their eyes open because being a prey animal, they are always on predator alert. They sleep with their eyes open to look out for a predator.

Do horses sleep standing up?

Horses are polyphasic sleepers as they need less REM sleep. Horses take naps and slow-wave sleep while standing up.

“Horses have sleep patterns typical for prey species that evolved on an open plain,” says Sue McDonnell, head of equine behaviour lab at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. 

Horses follow the instinct of their ancestors while sleeping to always watch for a predator’s attack. They sleep with their eyes open or always a horse guarding the herd to survive a potential predator attack.

Horses have a very unique mechanism called  “stay apparatus,” which helps to relaxation in muscles. Even in standing position, he can relax his muscles by ”stay apparatus”.This helps him to relax after a long workout or can take a break between hard workout.

You can observe him by looking at the lower lip and hind feet. If the bottom lip is relaxed and one hind foot cocked than he is sleeping.

How do horses sleep without falling?

The state is called the stay apparatus where the horse locks its kneecaps with ligaments and tendons. This locks joints making them stand even not conscious.

Do horses sleep lying down?

Horses snooze while standing up but for deeper sleep, they need to lie down with their eyes closed.

Like human beings, horses do dream in their REM sleep. Horses have REM sleep when stretched flat on their sides with rapid eye and feet movements.

Often horses have deep sleep in short bursts.

Horses are very active against their predator. Even barn is secure and the pack of lions can not attack them, still, they are very active. In a group of horses, one horse always keeps an eye on the surroundings for danger.

Is it bad for a horse to lie down?

Being a big mammal, lying down for longer hours will bring trouble. The weight of the body prohibits the blood flow to different locations which may result in reperfusion injury.

Lying down for a long time cause a lot of pressure on his legs. It can cause pressure on other internal organs. In older horses it is a common problem, when you feed them joint supplements they can be active otherwise they lay down most of the time.

Do horses sleep at night?

In addition to taking naps during the day, horses get the REM sleep at midnight hours. The average 3 hours of REM sleep are spread out in smaller periods like 20 minutes to finish the sleeping cycle.

How long do horses sleep?

Horses require 2-3 hours of REM sleep While they do need to rest for 5-7 hours a day.Foals take frequent naps and sleep half of the day for first three months.As they got old ,try to stand instead of sleeping for long time.

sleeping horse


Horses need fewer hours of sleep which they can have while standing up, lying down with eyes opened or closed. Horses lose sleep when they feel stressed and unsafe. They feel the exhaustion as horses get cranky when gone too long without the REM sleep.

Hi, I am Waqar and active in the horse world since 2012. I have MSc (Hons) in Agriculture from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. I love to solve equine health care issues and note down in the form of research papers. I have written hundreds of equine health care, accessories, names, and history-related blogs. My equine related work is watering a lot of horse-related magazines and blogs.

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