Why do horses lay down?
by John Hilger
(Hamilton, ON Canada)
Hero taking a nap while Cash stands as protector
When I met the horse for the first time in the indoor exercise arena and was walking beside him, he decided to lay down beside me, he let me stoke him about his neck and face and did not show any animosity , on the contrary, he seemed quite happy. His ears were mostly pointing towards me, never laid back. That was going on for about 10 min.
The owner classified him as a "Medicine Horse", but she was worried about his behaviour, since he had never done that before.
Any enlightenment would be appreciated.
Thank you in advance and
Horses lay down for basically three reasons:
1.To roll, get bug protection from the dirt, scratch, massage their bodies.
2.To take all the weight off of their legs and have a short nap, to relief exhaustion.
3.Illness – for example many consecutive rolls with thrashing, looking at the belly which are common signs of colic and a vet should be called immediately or the horse is refusing to get up again after awhile.
What happened after the 10 minutes? Did he just get up and seem fine? If so, I suspect he just wanted to lie down and rest. Yet under the circumstances you described I would also look closer into the living conditions for this horse because it is the effect of this. Is he stalled or does he live outdoors 24/7 with herd mates? Another reason for not stalling horses is, many can’t (or won’t) lie down in them without casting themselves (getting stuck up against a wall unable to get up again) and they get no relief from #1 or #2 above.
The most natural way horses lie down is in the open and often a member will remain standing to alert the others in the event of danger approaching.
As always if illness is suspected do not hesitate to consult with a vet.
P.S. It would be helpful to know what the owners definition of the term "Medicine Horse" is.