Horse bedding is an equine necessity that many owners resent paying for. Something that effectively gets thrown away on a daily basis yet seems to eat away at your purse strings. For this reason, it can be tempting to scrimp on horse bedding, however choosing the right product amongst various types of horse bedding is important for the welfare and health of your horse.

A stable environment

Bedding may seem to be just a necessary commodity, however it can have a huge effect on your horse’s health. Cost, ease-of-use and biodegradability are all factors that people think about, however the main emphasis on types of horse bedding should be about creating a safe and hygienic haven for your equine.

Hoof health

Your horse may well be standing in his stable for many hours, and after a short time your immaculately mucked out stable will soon be turned upside down. If your bedding is not absorbent, urine can sit on the surface and not only cling to rugs when your horse lies down and create a strong smell of ammonia, but as your horse’s feet are in contact with the bedding throughout their stabled time, it can increase the chance of fungal and bacterial infections such as Thrush. For this reason look for horse bedding that is ultra absorbent as a priority.

Breathe easy

Respiratory issues can range from a mildly snotty nose and cough, to serious conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Even if your horse does not suffer from such issues, thinking about respiratory health when choosing your horse bedding is vital. The inhalation of dust, dirt and ammonia can damage their delicate respiratory system and cause all manner of problems, not to mention reduce performance levels. Make sure you choose a product that has been thoroughly dust extracted as this will make for a safer and more hygienic environment for you to spend time in, particularly if you are prone to respiratory compromise yourself!

What types of horse bedding are available?

There are many different types of horse bedding available now, which can often make it even harder to find one that suits your horse. Take a look at the most common varieties of horse bedding below:

Shavings

Wood shavings are very commonly used and create an absorbent, soft horse bedding base. It is important to select good quality shavings that have been dust extracted, as wood based products can harbour a lot of mould and spores. Wrapped bales of wood shavings are easy to handle and store, saving you lots of space in your stables whilst providing convenient, quality bedding for your horse.

Straw

Traditional straw has been used as horse bedding for centuries as it provides a big, deep and soft base for horses. It is readily available and low in cost, although it is important to bear in mind that it can be dusty and some greedy horses will eat it. Straw horse bedding is not overly absorbent however, and requires fully mucking out on a daily basis to maintain a hygienic environment. Some people find that ammonia builds up when using straw bedding, but it is quick rotting so can be cost effective.

Chopped Straw

With technological advances in dust extraction and processing methods, chopped straw is fast becoming one of the most popular horse bedding products on offer. Different types of chopped straw are now available, including wheat straw, which is a more traditional approach, and rape straw, which is highly absorbent. Chopped straw is very biodegradable, taking on average two to three months to rot down rather than two to three years in the case of wood based products, making it highly beneficial for owners who have to pay for muckheap removal. Chopped Straw horse bedding products can often be treated with formulations to ensure that horses do not find it appetizing, and also to offer additional health benefits such as respiratory support and anti-bacterial properties.

Paper

Traditional paper horse bedding has been used for years and offers a dust free option for your horse. In more recent years cardboard bedding has become increasingly popular, as it is more insulating, absorbent, and less messy. However, any paper based bedding will not rot down quickly so is likely to cost more in terms of waste removal.

Hemp

Derived from the flax plant, hemp bedding for horse stalls is sustainable therefore a ‘green’ product offering a number of benefits including high absorbency, easy to use and dispose and economical.

Wood pellets

Wood pellet horse bedding offers very high absorbency and expands when water is added. Pelleted wood is a cost effective way of bedding your horse, however slow rotting times will mean larger muck heaps with more to remove. It can also be dusty which may not be suitable if you or your horse have any respiratory concerns.

Rubber Matting

This type of horse bedding is becoming very popular nowadays and can either be used with a small amount of bedding, or with a full bed, depending on preference. Rubber matting provides an excellent non-slip base, insulates, protects against injury in the stable and helps to reduce the stress and strain placed on your horse’s joints. It also enables horse owners to use less horse bedding, and although it can be expensive to lay in the first place, it will cut costs in the long term.

We ask bedding expert, Lisa Cooper, from Nedz, what her top money-saving horse bedding tips are…

  • Don’t be fooled by looking at the costs per bale – look at the cost of bedding your horse per week, or per month. What appears a cheap price per bale may not be as effective as more expensive types of horse bedding product and you may end up using twice as much!
  • Find out how many bales of your chosen horse bedding you will need to get your stable started – some bedding requires a lot more product to form the initial base than others. Choosing a product that requires fewer bales will be a less costly investment.
  • Absorbency is key – the more absorbent your bedding, the less product you will end up throwing away and wasting, which results in fewer bales to ‘top up’ the bed on a weekly basis. The result, more money to spend on exciting things like riding!
  • Will it rot down? Choosing types of horse bedding that biodegrades quickly will save money on expensive muckheap removal. Think of each bale of un-biodegradable bedding as a proportion of the cost of your muckheap being taken away – it may make the cheap bale price seem less appealing.
  • Quality raw material that has been thoroughly dust-extracted will provide a cleaner, healthier environment for your horse, which could result in a healthier respiratory system. Ultimately this reduces the chance of coughs developing which can not only become costly to treat, but also hinder performance levels.
  • Save your time. If you are on a busy yard and have many horses to muck out, choosing bedding for horse stalls which is simple and easy to use could save you many man-hours and you, or staff, could be doing more beneficial jobs such as riding.

Do you have any horse bedding questions or tips to share? Comment below or share your experiences with us on Facebook and Twitter.