Does Night Turnout Disrupt a Horse's Sleep?

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Does Night Turnout Disrupt a Horse's Sleep?

Most horses easily and quickly adapt to environmental and management changes in terms of their sleep functions.

Photo: Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Q. This year, I’ve switched my mare to overnight turnout so she can get a break from the sun (and bugs). She’s in a stall with a fan during the heat of the day. She’s handled this new schedule well so far, but I am curious whether it could disrupt her normal sleeping pattern. Horses being prey animals, I've heard they don't lay down unless they feel comfortable and unthreatened. Is it possible she will come to feel safe enough and lay down to sleep outside? Will she adapt to being a "night-shift" horse, or should I be concerned about her getting enough rest?

Jen Murray, Texas


A. The patterns of sleep in horses are not fixed to day or night schedules. Most horses easily and quickly adapt to environmental and management changes in terms of their sleep functions. However, some do not. So potentially the turnout changes could lead to a problem. If there is an adaptive problem, then it takes two to four weeks to manifest. You've been on the new program all year, so if you haven’t seen any differences in your mare then she has likely adapted well to the new change in management. That's a good thing.

About the Author

Joseph J. Bertone, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS

Joseph J. Bertone, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS is a professor of equine medicine at Western University of Health Science's College of Veterinary Medicine in Pomona, Ca.

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