Can a Horse Get up From Its Side? (+5 Simple Tips)

Being a horse owner, you learn new things about their behavior every day. While roaming around the horses’ stable or taking care of them, you must have noticed a horse lying down.

That might lead you to ask questions like how long can a horse lay down on its side? Can a horse get up from its side? and more.

A horse can effortlessly stand up from its side if it is not having physical infection or pain. If having any physical illness, a horse will show different sleeping patterns, lameness while standing up, and irregular eating habits.

Why Do Horses Lie Down On Their Side?

The reason horse lying down on its side is a hot topic is because of its unique sleeping routine. Horses are well-known to sleep in the standing position.

Whenever you or any other horse owner encounters a horse lying down, especially on its side, the first thought that arises is: Is the horse sick?

There can be several reasons why a horse lays down on its side. Despite completing the sleeping hours in a standing position, horses lay down to attain the REM sleep on their side. Besides that, sometimes they also want to relax their body.

Here are the main reasons for which horses lie down on the ground.

1. Relaxation & Comfort

Don’t you think standing the whole day is tiring? Of course, it is. Be it a horse, cat, or an elephant, lying down offers relaxation to tighten muscles, soothes the mind, and recharges the body to continue the activities.

In a comfortable environment, a horse loves lying down and moving here and there, showing he is enjoying the time. This activity strengthens their body and calms the mind for better attention.

2. Pain or Illness

The sleeping patterns of a horse will be different if he is having any issue with his physical health. Observe your horse. Is he lying down more than usual? That can be due to any physical pain or illness.

The most common health issue that forces horses to lie down on their side is musculoskeletal or colic. If the illness is severe, the horse might not even get up from its side. Have a detailed inspection.

REM Sleep

No matter how many hours your horse spends sleeping in a standing position.

If it is not getting proper REM sleep, the horse will be lazy and show sickness symptoms.

REM sleep is also known as Rapid Eye Movement sleep. This sleep is different from the regular standing sleep and only achieved by lying on the floor in a comfortable position.

A horse requires 3-4 hours of REM sleep during the whole day. The REM sleep is achieved in short naps ranging between 10-30 minutes.

When Do Horses Lay On Their Side?

There is no specific time at which horses lay on their side. To complete the short REM sleep routine, horses lay down whenever they feel tired and need some moments of relaxation.

According to research, the most common recorded time a horse lays on its side is midnight. At night, the horse, like every other animal, is not in an active state.

The whole tiring day demands REM or SWS sleep; if a horse sleeps by lying down, it will be short (like a few minutes).

Is A Horse Laying On Side A Bad Thing?

A horse lying down on its side is not a bad thing in general. However, things sound problematic when a horse lays down more than usual. If you suspect any illness, observe the moves.

In this case, you need to be attentive to its sleeping patterns. Is your horse rolling around or stretching its legs? Make a note of every single detail.

If you suspect colic illness, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible; colic is an emergency and needs on-time treatment.

Another way to check if your horse is okay is by observing how effortlessly he stands up; if you encounter lameness, stiffness, or ache, time to contact the veterinarian.

If all seem alright, and your horse is lying to sleep, let him enjoy his time. Ensure the surface you are offering is comfortable enough to loosen the tightened muscles and avoid physical injuries.

Do Horses Need to Lie Down to Sleep or not?

Like humans, horses also necessitate adequate hours of sleep to continue the life cycle and regain lost energy.

What horses are well-known for is the unique sleeping habit of standing throughout the day.

Horses have a unique apparatus that allows them to sleep without falling by locking their fore and hind limbs in the standing position. This unique feature raises the confusion; do horses need to lie down to sleep?

For SWM sleep, horses do not need to lie down to sleep. Nevertheless, for REM sleep, horses necessitate lying down to sleep. REM sleep takes 3-4 hours a day and completes in short intervals of 10-30 minutes.

Horses can not transit swiftly between standing and lying positions; that is why they do not lie down frequently. First, they make sure the environment they are in is safe and comfortable, if not, they prefer standing throughout the day.

The maximum time horses spend lying on the ground is 3-4 hours. Yet, not in a continuous manner. Horses take short intervals to complete the REM sleep.

The reason horses take short intervals to complete the REM sleep is they are more likely to get prey in the sleeping state. In a standing position, it is somehow easy to protect themselves.

Is It Safe for Horses to Lie Down?

It is 100% safe for horses to lay down like any other animal. Moreover, lying down improves blood circulation, offers comfort, and recovers limbs’ condition.

A horse never lays down unless it feels safe and comfortable; A fact about the horse. Horses have strong senses that keep them guided about their surroundings.

The animal only mingles with those whom it feels safe around. In short, they can feel the inner human with their strong senses.

To make sure your horse lying down is safe, observe how long he is lying. When noticing your horse is laying more than usual, offer him more care and attention. Also, contact a veterinarian if the condition is critical.

Is a Horse Sick When He Lay Down?

It is hard to say whether a horse is sick or not by seeing him lying down. In normal cases, horses lie down to sleep or find comfort. Other reasons why a horse might lie down include musculoskeletal or colic pain.

Look for the signs of symptoms while your horse is lying down. If it is rolling on the ground, lying more than usual, or changes in eating and sleeping habits, your horse is probably sick.

Before concluding anything, it is advisable to contact a veterinarian. A veterinarian will guide you better about your horse’s condition and how to cure illness.


Undoubtedly seeing a 1200 pounds horse lying down is a bit odd. End the myth that horses only lie down when they are sick; they might want moments of relaxation or probably sleep.

Yet, you have to be very observant when it comes to horses. Their change in mood and behavior tells what they feel and what they want.

Make notes of every single move your horse makes. If your horse is lying down for REM sleep, let him enjoy the moments.

Whenever you notice a change in sleeping patterns, call a veterinarian and take things seriously. Lastly, give your time and love to the horses. Possibly, that is what they need the most.


How long can a horse lie on its side?

It depends on the mood. Horses can lie down for up to 2-3 hours if they are in a relaxation or napping mood. However, the time may vary depending on the attitude and physical health.

How do horses get up from lying down?

First, they shift the position from side to proper sitting. Then, the horse exerts a force on the forelimbs and stands half on the fold forelimbs. Once the forelimbs are unfolded, they unfold the hind limb and stand properly.

What happens if a horse can’t get up?

This situation represents serious health problems. If a horse can not get up even after several hours or a day, he is suffering from colic, sore pressure points, pneumonia, or musculoskeletal pain. Contact a veterinarian.

Can horses stand up after lying down?

The horse lies down to regain lost energy. A horse can effortlessly stand up after lying down after regaining the lost energy and shifting himself to a comfy state.

How do you get a horse to lay down?

Train your horses on how to lie down.

  • Teach him to lower his head.
  • Teach him to pick all feet up on one command.
  • Teach him to fold the hind limbs under himself.
  • Teach him to lift the forelimbs.
  • Repeat the process until he learns the art.