Study Evaluates Cribbers’ Sleeping Habits

British researchers found horses that crib spend less time in “standing sleep” mode than horses that don’t.

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Is worrying about your horse’s cribbing habit keeping you up at night? It turns out that cribbing might keep your horse up at night, too. New research has revealed that the stereotypy could be related to a lack of certain kinds of sleep. Specifically, British researchers say, horses that crib spend less time in "standing sleep" mode than horses that don’t.

Standing sleep is a form of "slow-wave" sleep in horses, said Jane Williams, PhD candidate and researcher in the equitation science department of Hartpury College in Gloucester, England. Another form of slow-wave sleep occurs when horses are lying down but upright. When horses sleep lying down completely on their sides, they enter a non-slow-wave sleep called paradoxical sleep.

In a recent study, Williams and fellow researcher Kirsty Roberts, BSc equine science graduate, studied 14 cribbers and non-cribbers from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for five nights in a row via video camera, without human intervention.

They found that "crib-biting" horses had a 48% reduction in standing sleep time compared to "non-crib-biting" horses, Williams said. In other words, horses that don’t "crib-bite" are getting nearly twice as much standing sleep as horses that do. The study revealed no significant differences in the other kinds of sleep

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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