Everybody thinks about getting a horse for specific tasks, but nobody wonders what horses like to do naturally. That happens because, unlike other pets like cats or dogs, you can use horses for a lot more things than pure companionship.
This brings us to today’s topic, which is explaining what horses enjoy doing every day when they’re not tasking for us. Here are some of their most favorite activities:
Grass is very low on calories, and horses are massive animals with high caloric requirements. These simple facts explain why horses tend to graze all day, given a chance. Not only that, but most horses will also graze during nighttime.
Horses don’t have a strict day-night cycle, nor have they adopted an unbending nighttime schedule. Every during night, the horse will move, stand up, lie on its side to sleep, graze a bit, groom itself, etc.
This is typical behavior for both feral and domestic horses. This means you should provide your horse with access to grass or hay even during nighttime so that it can eat whenever necessary.
This is one of the horses’ most favorite activities. If they’re not roaming around looking for grass, play with each other, or take part in necessary equine activities, horses love to relax and lay back. This allows them to groom themselves, graze a bit, play with each other, and simply lay back and relax. They might even take short naps during the day if time allows them to.
Make sure you provide your horses with the space and time they need to do their thing. Keeping the horse busy with continuous activities throughout the day will lead to overworking, which comes with a multitude of health issues. Limit the horse’s physical activity to about 2-3 hours per day.
That being said, don’t fall into the other extreme, where your horse doesn’t get any physical activity. Horses are active animals in need of regular physical activity, which will help with blood circulation, digestion, muscle tone, bone strength, and overall better mental state.
Horses need sleep like all the other animals, but curiously enough, they fall on the lower end of the spectrum. An adult horse will only require around 3 hours of sleep during a 24-hour window. At most, the horse will sleep 30 minutes in a single session. This is the REM sleep that only occurs in the dark hours, during nighttime, usually after midnight.
Other than that, the horse may take short naps, including during the day, always standing, and always only several minutes long. These naps are enough to replenish the horse’s powers and reset its nervous system.
When the need for REM sleep comes, the horse will need to lay down since REM sleep leads to the loss of muscle tone and coordination.
The aspect to keep in mind here is that some factors may affect the horse’s ability to sleep and rest. The horse’s sleeping behavior may be disrupted by factors like:
- Social insecurity – In herds, horses are organized in social classes, if you will. The pecking order dictates which horse gets the best food areas, mates with the mares, or sleeps. If you have several horses living together, some may outweigh the rest in terms of authority. The horses lower on the pecking order will get less sleep as a result.
- Perceived threats – If the horse doesn’t feel safe, it will not rest properly throughout the night. Or day, for that matter. This behavior tends to be more typical for feral horses who may be threatened by natural predators or poachers.
- Unfit habitat – The environmental conditions will also affect the horse’s sleeping pattern. We include here unfit sleeping quarters, which may include wet and dirty bedding, insufficient space to lay down, and the weather. This is an essential aspect that many horse lovers tend to overlook.
- Physical problems – Some horses may develop muscular or skeletal problems that will affect their ability to lie down. This generally happens when horses are overworked or forced to perform tasks that they are not fit for. High-speed racing isn’t recommended for horses with extremely thin legs and joints, for instance. Call your vet specialist to check its health status if you see your horse struggling to lie down.
Horses love to sunbathe whenever possible. It relaxes them and keeps them warm while also providing them with the much-needed vitamin D. Don’t keep your horses in stables around the clock.
Make sure they get their full of sunlight while grazing and have some shade available where they can cool off.
All animals play, which includes horses. Playing allows them to interact with each other, strengthen their bonds, and establish hierarchies. It also removes tension and stress and releases dopamine which puts horses in a good mood.
Not to mention the physicality involved. Horses always look for reasons to run and move around, and playing with other horses will allow them to remain in shape. If you only have one horse, all this playing needs to involve you as well. I recommend riding your horse at various gaits for at least 1-2 hours per day.
This will help them remain in shape, help with digestion, and improve their circulation.
Do Horses Get Bored?
Yes, they can. Horses are highly intelligent animals who can get bored under the right circumstances. These include performing the same tasks repeatedly or lacking any meaningful physical activity or stimulation. The interesting aspect is that boredom affects horses pretty much the same it affects people.
Furthermore, it can lead to health problems along the way. Several signs are informing you that your horse may be bored. These include:
- Easily distracted – If your horse is trained and generally obedient but sometimes seems distracted, that may be a sign of boredom. The horse signals a lack of interest in the activity it’s performing. This behavior may occur at any time, but especially when performing the same activity every day, with little-to-no variations.
- Lack of energy – Boredom comes with energy depletion, causing the horse to appear apathetic and lethargic. If you notice this behavior, first make sure that your horse doesn’t have any health problem that would cause that behavior. If nothing comes up, there may be boredom at play.
- Slow response – The horse will have slow reactions to your cues. This behavior may become visible regardless of the task in hand, including riding, training, or other situations. Horses are typically good learners and will react to your cues almost instantly. The exception is when they are tired, bored, or have health issues that may need addressing.
- Aggressive behavior – This includes kicking and biting or simply swirling away. They aren’t that aggressive when bored, but their temperament will be obvious. The same high-aggression temperament will lead them to chew doors, beams, and other objects, attempting to cool off their frustration.
So, if you notice these signs in your horse, what should you do? You have several tools at your disposal:
- Increase the living space – A claustrophobic space will restrict your horse’s movements, and forced immobility leads to boredom and frustration. Make sure the horse’s stall has enough room for the animal to turn and move a bit. You should also take the horse outside, even if not for anything special. At least the horse will get to run around and put its blood in motion.
- Have several horse toys around – Yes, horses play with toys sometimes just as much as dogs do. There are many horse toys for sale available, which the horse will carry around, nibble and bite into, or kick. These will keep your horse entertained throughout the day when there’s nothing else scheduled.
- Ensure meaningful interactions – The horse is more likely to get bored when living alone. You can fix that by providing your horse with barnyard mates like goats, ponies, other horses, etc. This will keep them busy and playful and prevent boredom.
Do Horses Like to be Ridden?
Amazingly enough, yes, they do. This isn’t, however, a universal behavior. Most horses like to be ridden, while some don’t. Their disposition varies depending on several factors, including the terrain, the horse’s temperament, and current mental state, the activity, etc.
Many people believe that riding a horse causes them discomfort as a general rule, but that’s not true. They enjoy having you on their backs since it allows them to bond with you. But, sometimes, there may be some factors preventing them from enjoying the experience. These include:
- The rider – If you’re too heavy, you can’t ride a horse that’s obviously too small for you. It will cause the horse discomfort and pain and it will not enjoy the riding. The same goes if you’re too aggressive or don’t know how to ride the horse safely and smoothly.
- Inadequate tack – The tack needs to fit the horse’s measurements. If it’s too small, it will cause discomfort. If it’s too large, it will move in place and cause the rider instability while causing skin sores for the horse. The tack will cover these sores and, if you’re not paying attention, they can turn into more serious injuries.
- Proper saddle attachment – Even a fitting saddle can cause problems if the setup is poor. Take the time you need to prepare the horse and make sure no loose parts may cause the entire harness to become unstable.
- Post-riding care – After the riding is complete, give the horse some time before giving it water. The horse needs to cool off a bit and relax its breathing before drinking. It’s also worth mentioning that the sweat accumulated from hours of intense activity can feel itchy after it cools off. This makes the post-riding brush grooming and washing necessary, as it keeps your horse satisfied and happy.
- General grooming and care – If you brush and groom your horse regularly, you increase your chances of detecting any potential injuries in their early phases. These injuries may occur at the hoofs, leg joints, neck, mouth, or belly due to the harness, rocks, insects, or other causes. Detecting these issues early will allow you to seek proper treatment before the injury aggravates.
Check its behavior before preparing the tack if you’re unsure how your horse feels about the incoming riding session. There are several signs that may suggest higher levels of irritability. These include:
- Pinned back ears
- Raised head and a more prominent chest
- Keeping the legs apart and moving its body weight on the lower legs
- Stomping the legs when walking
- Raising one of the back feet
- Quivering nostrils even in a relaxed state
- Clamping the tail or swishing it around aggressively
If you notice these behavioral signs, you might want to look for the cause. Generally, these signs suggest that your horse is irritable, aggressive, or fearful.
Horses can get bored quite easily if they go extended periods with no new stimulus. To prevent that, engage with your horse regularly, provide barnyard mates, and engage it in a regular activity regularly.
Knowing your horse’s temperament and state of mind will allow you to tell when it’s upset, joyful, energetic, or bored. Interact with your horse as much as you can, groom it, and ride it to create that horse-rider bond, and everything will be fine.Horse Facts