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5 Best Types of Horse Bedding & Their Uses

Choosing the right type of stall bedding for your horse is essential for their health, comfort, and safety. There are many different types available from the traditional straw and wood shavings to modern alternatives like rubber mats, making it quite overwhelming for horse owners.

We’ll discuss which factors you should consider when choosing the right bedding for you horse, as well as the pros and cons of each.

Choosing The Right Bedding For Your Horse

Availability

You need to determine what type of bedding is readily available in your part of the country as this has a significant influence on your choice. Speak to other horse owners in the area and your local feed store.

Dust

If your horse has respiratory problems or allergies or you have asthma, you will need bedding that has little or no dust. Much depends on what dust-free materials are available in your area. Seek advice from your vet who can advise on the most suitable option.

Amount of Time Horse Spends Inside The Stall

Consider how long your horse spends inside his stall. If he is in a paddock for most of the day, you will use less bedding than those horses that are inside for most of the time. Other factors to consider are if your horse is clean or messy and how much he drinks and urinates.

Absorbency

The primary purpose of bedding for horses is to absorb urine and moisture. You do not want your horse exposed to ammonia odors which could damage the lungs or for them to stand on wet bedding.

Think about how absorbent your chosen material is as it will affect the amount you need to use, especially if your horse inside for most of the time. Bedding that is not so absorbent will be more time consuming when it comes to cleaning out your horse’s stall.

Comfort

Different types of materials offer different properties when it comes to how much bedding you need to use for your horse’s comfort.

The amount required depends mainly on the surface in the stall. Concrete bases require lots of bedding to limit concussion to your horse’s joints. Having rubber matting on the floor increases the cushioning effect reducing the amount of bedding needed.

Storage

Storage of bedding is a significant consideration. If you plan on buying in bulk, you need enough room that protects materials from the sun, wind and rain. Many insurance companies offer clients incentives for those who store their bedding away from the barn.

Disposal

Composting is the best and most environmentally friendly way to manage your horse’s bedding and manure as it becomes a natural fertilizer.

Straw bedding composts easily, but wood chips and shavings take longer to break down. The other alternative is to arrange for the removal of waste by a waste disposal company which will involve costs.

Each type of horse bedding material has its pros and cons, and the one you choose depends on a variety of factors. We will discuss each type of horse bedding, its uses, and its pros and cons.

5 Best Types of Horse Bedding

Straw

Straw horse bedding

Straw has been used as bedding for animals for centuries. It is readily available in most areas and is a preference for many as it creates a warm and comfortable stall.

However, straw is not as absorbent as wood-based products and can cause problems with ammonia if the stall is not cleaned out regularly and replaced with clean straw.

Providing deep bedding can keep moisture levels down by creating a barrier between the horse and urine. By adding thick layers, the urine soaks through the straw and settles to the bottom of the stall floor.

One of the downsides to using straw is that it is often dusty, so is not suitable for horses or people with respiratory issues. It is also edible which may lead to a horse becoming overweight or having colic.

You require a large, dry covered area for storing straw as you need several bales for just one stall with the average horse using around five per week. One significant advantage is that straw composts well and favored by farmers and gardeners alike as fertilizer.

Wood Shavings

Wood shavings

Many horse owners favor wood shavings as they are soft and absorbent, but their quality can vary greatly. It is crucial you only buy shavings manufactured as animal bedding mainly because of the dust content. Also, some wood products found in shavings like black walnut or cedar can cause an allergic reaction to horses.

If you use wood shavings, the wet content must be continuously removed to avoid a build-up of ammonia. Shavings can be difficult to dispose of as they take longer to rot than straw.

To save money, you can buy loose shavings in bulk, but you need somewhere large and dry to store them. Bagged shavings are far easier to store and use.

Wood Pellets

wood pellets

Wood pellets are made from sawdust and kiln-dried wood and are an ideal choice for stall bedding. The pellets are sterilized, creating very little ammonia odor from the horse’s urine and are typically dust-free. They also come in small-sized bags, making them easy to store and handle.

The pellets are low in moisture so are highly absorbent and composts well for easy disposal. They are easy to clean from a stall since only the wet spots need removing and replaced with fresh, new pellets. If you choose to use wood pellets, you must sprinkle water on them first, so they soften and expand into fluffy bedding, increasing their absorbency.

The downside to using pellets is that they are expensive. Like wood shavings, make sure you buy pellets specifically produced for animal bedding.

Paper Shavings

paper shavings horse bedding

Many owners choose paper shavings for their horse’s bedding as they are dust-free and more absorbent than straw or wood shavings. They are ideal for horses with respiratory problems and allergies as well as those with allergic skin conditions. They are usually available in both bales or bags, making them easy to store so long as they are in an area protected from the wind and rain.

If using paper shavings, your stall must have good insulation from the wind as this type of material can blow around. Although they are relatively cheap to buy, several bales or bags are needed to create a thick and comfy bed.

The downside of using paper shavings is that it becomes quite heavy and slippery when soiled and can also mat together, reducing the cushiony effect compared to other types of bedding. It is also difficult to dispose of as it is no use as fertilizer and burning is too dangerous.

Rubber Stable Mats

Rubber stable mats

In their natural state, horses sleep on hard surfaces and do not require a soft and comfy bed like us making rubber mats ideal for use in stables. They can make mucking out less time consuming and more efficient and provide a sturdy but comfortable surface with excellent absorption and cushioning.

Rubber mats can be used on their own or with another type of bedding. It is, however, advisable to add a light layer of alternative bedding like straw or wood shavings. Used on their own rubber mats are not aesthetically pleasing plus do nothing to prevent a horse from becoming cast.

Final Thoughts on Horse Bedding

We have looked at some of the common choices of horse bedding, but there are many other materials available for use in stalls.

Deciding on the best type of horse bedding depends on many factors like what is available in your area, storage space, disposal and your horse’s individual needs. It might be a process of trial and error, but whatever you choose must be safe, absorbent, dust-free and clean.

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