While most of their time is spent on their feet, horses have to lie down sometimes. But for how long? And how often? What’s too much? And what isn’t enough?

Canadian researchers have determined that horses’ lying behavior could be significantly important in evaluating their stress levels and general welfare. But studying this behavior in horses isn’t an easy task, because horses tend to get down and back up again before you even realize it.

That’s why Katrina Merkies, PhD, associate professor at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, and her research group have been testing a novel device to measure lying behavior in horses. With this tool, researchers will soon be able to not only study what’s normal—and not normal—lying behavior in horses, but also suggest how that behavior relates to welfare.

“The importance of studying lying behavior in horses is to gain an understanding of what normal parameters are and then be able to use observational studies to infer effects of various environments on horse welfare,” Merkies said.

In their study Merkies and colleagues tested a specific commercial data logger attached to two adult Standardbred horses’ hind limbs for five days. The logger was set to take measurements every 20 seconds, and the team compared results to actual observations of the horses’ lying behavior, either by watching the horse directly or by reviewing his actions on a video recording.

The data logger they tested was more than 99% accurate in measuring both frequency and duration of lying episodes, Merkies said.

“In our technological age, u