SLEEP­ING LIKE A BABY

EQUUS - - Surveillan­ce -

New horses, like new hu­mans, spend a lot of their time asleep. In fact, a study done years ago at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia showed that in his first week of life the av­er­age foal spends about 32 per­cent of his time in re­cum­bent (ly­ing down) sleep.

The re­searchers found that this per­cent­age steadily de­creases over the next four months of life. A month-old young­ster spends 27.5 per­cent of his time ly­ing down sleep­ing; at 3 months, this per­cent­age drops to 15.1, and at 4 months he spends only 5.1 per­cent of his time in re­cum­bent sleep.

The Ge­or­gia re­searchers also found that a young­ster’s sleep habits change as he grows. Up­right rest, mean­ing doz­ing or sleep­ing while stand­ing, be­gins to ap­pear dur­ing the first week of life. At first, a foal spends only 3.6 per­cent of his to­tal sleep time on his feet, but as he ma­tures that per­cent­age steadily in­creases un­til he spends 23 per­cent of his sleep cy­cle up­right. Foals were more likely to rest up­right while their mothers were do­ing the same, as op­posed to eat­ing or en­gag­ing in other ac­tiv­i­ties.

Fi­nally, ob­ser­va­tions of foals in a herd setting led the re­searchers to posit that the young­sters have an in­nate un­der­stand­ing of the im­por­tance of hav­ing a peer­group sen­tinel, even when adult horses were present: One foal would re­main stand­ing on guard while the rest slept, usu­ally in lat­eral re­cum­bency.

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