The days have been sunny, and Silk and Siete enjoy lying down in the pasture after they’ve kicked up their heels. The first time I came out and saw one of them stretched out, I have to admit that my heart started pounding. Colic was my first thought. Then, I noticed how warm the sun was, and soon both horses were dozing.
I noticed that Siete’s feet were moving as she slept. My dog sometimes dreams and runs in her sleep. I wondered if horses also dream. I decided to do some research. Dr. Sue McDonnell, who is the head of the Equine Behavior Lab at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, has studied horses’ sleep patterns. She discovered that when they lie down flat on their sides, they experience REM (rapid-eye-movement) deep sleep, and she believes that they do dream. She also saw horses “trot” in their sleep like Siete was doing.
Dr. McDonnell determined that horses sleep best when they are with other horses. As prey animals, they set up sentries for the herd when they are in the wild. Several horses will stay awake and guard those who are resting. I often find Silk and Siete in the same stall in the afternoon. Silk will be lying down, having a siesta while Siete stands close to her mother with her nose touching Silk’s back.
The research showed that even in stalls, horses usually stand on either side of the same wall while they sleep so they can feel less isolated. Wild horses had better, deeper sleep than ones that live in stables. We have a window cut in the wall between our two stalls, so Silk and Siete can touch noses and see each other. They both lie down every night to sleep.
What are they dreaming? It’s fun to conjure up possibilities, but we’ll never really know. I often dream about horses, which probably comes as no surprise. A friend who is a therapist and a shaman suggested to me that the horses might represent my creativity.
Last night, in my dream, Siete was walking in the woods and she fell down a hole near a tree. I ran to help her but couldn’t get there in time. I saw her tail disappear. Shouting for help, I kept running until I found her swimming underwater in a muddy river next to the trees. She swam past me and then emerged from the water, covered with mud. I woke up asking myself, what in the world does that dream mean? Then, I sat down and wrote for two hours, slogging my way through something that I’ve been procrastinating about for weeks. Creativity, Siete, falling down holes and emerging victorious but muddy……I was in the barn, mucking Siete’s stall when it all began to fit together, the dream and the breakthrough in the writing.
“The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul…If we meditate on a dream sufficiently long and thoroughly, if we carry it around with us and turn it over and over, something almost always comes of it.”