Equine Sleep Patterns’ Effects on Performance

Knowing if sleep patterns affect performance could prompt interest in sleep as an important horse management factor.
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The importance of a good night’s sleep before a physically or mentally demanding day has been ingrained in us since childhood. If you don’t get enough ZZZs pre-half-marathon or bar exam, for instance, you know you’re at risk of feeling groggy, sluggish, and unfocused. Why should your horse feel any different when asked to perform on little sleep?

A group from Hartpury College’s Centre for Performance in Equestrian Sports that involved Darcy Murphy, Linda Greening, and Lucy Dumbell, MSC, PgCE, BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences, in the United Kingdom, recently investigated whether horses’ sleep patterns affected their performance.

Dumbell, the acting Associate Dean Quality and Standards, presented the research at the 11th International Society for Equitation Science Conference, held Aug. 6-9 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“Research in human sleep patterns demonstrates links between sleep—particularly REM sleep—and cognition, memory, and performance,” Dumbell said. “Knowing if sleep patterns in horses affect performance may instigate interest in considering sleep as an important management factor

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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