Different types of horse bedding
Have you ever thought about changing your horse’s bedding material? We’ve taken a look at some of the choices of equine materials to help you choose a bedding material that will work best for you and your horse.
Seen as an old fashioned bedding material, and is one of the cheapest beddings on the market. Straw can easily be brought from a local farmer, and produces a traditional, deep bed. There are many different types of straw to choose from, including wheat and barley. It is considered as the best bedding for foaling, as shavings can stick to the foal and can carry a risk of infection if small particles get within the foal or mare.
A development on from straw are the chopped and treated straw products which is dust extracted. It clumps together when wet making mucking out very easy and time effective. A version with citronella and eucalyptus to combat odors and aid respiration exists.
Straw is one of the most commonly used bedding for horses, and has been since horses were first domesticated. It is readily available and affordable – although it is becoming less so. The bio-fuel industry provides an alternative market for straw, and rising fertiliser cost leads many farmers to plough the straw back into the soil to reduce the need for fertiliser. In addition, shorter-stalked grains have been developed, so that much less straw is produced.
- One of the cheapest bedding materials
- Rots down to produce garden compost
- The beds look traditional and aesthetically pleasing
- Easily produces a thick bed, which is warm
- Best for broodmares with newborn foals
- Can be messy to store
- Quickly makes a large muck heap
- Can be expensive to dispose of
- Horses can be allergic to it as it can hold in dust
Horses can like to eat it
This tends to be a mixture of newspaper, magazines and other unwanted printed material. It is often considered to be a cheaper option, but dependant on the size of your stable you will need a large number of bales to create a nice thick bed. It is also worth considering cardboard, which has similar advantages to paper but is heavier and is easier to manage as it is less likely to blow around the yard.
- Dust-free and non-palatable — a good choice for allergy-suffering horses
- Makes a warm, soft bed
- When the bales are wrapped they are easy to handle and store
- Can be costly as you need a large amount to make a good bed
- Easily blown around, which makes it difficult to keep the yard tidy
- Disposal can be a problem
Beds can quickly become soggy, so need good management
Shavings are a popular type of bedding, but the quality can vary hugely, with regards to dust content. It is important that you only buy shavings that have been specifically produced as animal bedding, as these would have been properly treated. They are compact and easy to store but they vary a lot in quality. Look for one which is thoroughly dust extracted as some owners find that they can cause breathing allergies. In this case they can be bought as pellets which are really clean and dust free. Some shavings are also treated with natural oils to add extra respiratory support.
- Widely available
- Wrapped bales are clean and easy to handle and store
- Easy to sweep up and keep the yard tidy
- Can be hard to dispose of – shavings take much longer to rot down compared to other materials such as straw.
- A shavings bed needs regular mucking out, with the wet being removed to limit the buildup of ammonia.
- Cheaper brands can contain high dust levels, it is always best to go with trusted brands.
Price can fluctuate dependant on supply.
Wood pellets are growing in popularity as an economical bedding material. These are made from heat-treated and compact sawdust which are made into pellets. To ‘activate’ the pellets, water has to be added to allow them to swell increasing their surface area and absorbency . They are seen as a cost effective bedding solution, as commonly only one bale needs to be added per week.
- Environmentally friendly bedding, made from surplus wood and sawdust
- High absorbency rates keeping the bed drier for longer
- Cost effective as you do not need to add multiple bales per week
- No dust due to the soaking process
- Rots down quicker than shavings
- Can be a messy process to activate the wood pellets
Soaking the pellets, does add time to laying beds.
Hemp bedding is made from chopped hemp which is growing in popularity, as it is cost effective and great for deep littering. They have no bleach or chemicals added and are designed to be be used in a thick bed which is then disturbed as little as possible. Hemp is also great for horses that are messy in their stables as you do not need to add many bales per week as it has high absorbency.
- More absorbent than most other materials
- Dust-free and the horse will not eat it
- Easy to muck out, you can easily take out the wet
- Hemp rots down quickly and makes great compost
- Wrapped bales are clean and easy to manage on the yard
- Bales are relatively expensive and the initial cost of bedding can be off-putting, but once you have your base it can work out cheaper in the long run.
Rubber matting is a great base for a horse’s stable. Many people install rubber matting and have a light ‘dusting’ of shavings on top to soak up any wet. This provides a soft layer for the horses and is also thought to add some warmth to the stable.
- Provides a non-slip base, which is thought to limit knocks and capped hocks or elbows.
- You can hose down the mats preventing them from smelling
- Is thought to keep a stable warmer than a concrete base
- Initial cost to buy the matting - mats can be expensive depending on the size of your stables, the area you want to cover, and the thickness of the mats.
- Not aesthetically pleasing and does darken the stable
- Can be difficult and heavy to move