Unsettled Slumber

My horse might have sleeping problems. I have seen him almost fall over trying to sleep. Is this normal?

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Q. I believe my horse is having sleeping problems. I haven’t seen him lie down. I have seen him roll about once a day, then get right back up, but no resting or sleeping like the other horses. When he goes to lie down the front feet go down fine. With the back, it seems like he gets three-quarters of the way down, then falls the rest of the way. I haven’t seen any cuts or bumps on him.

Today I saw him outside, lying flat on his side. And this is going to sound odd, but it looked like he kept jerking, like a human would do with a bee sting (trying to move fast, I guess). He didn’t seem to be able to lie still. Then he just got right back up, all in less than about three minutes.

I am starting to get worried. The vet said he was fine, but I disagree. He is about 27 years old. I have had him for one year. When I got him, he was really underweight. He is looking much better, but he still looks tired to me. He is always in the pasture–he has no stall. He has not been ridden in four years. I have seen him almost fall over trying to sleep

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Written by:

Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

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