In my many years of traveling with horses to different areas of the country I have seen a number of different methods and types of stall bedding. When choosing which stall bedding is correct for you and your horses, there are a number of things to consider. You will want to begin from the bottom…literally. The first question to ask is, what kind of footing lies at the base of the stall? Common flooring types are dirt and cement. This is important to know as the material can affect the amount of bedding and additional support the horses will need. For example, horses on concrete or asphalt will need more support through mats and bedding than those on dirt, clay or sand. Next to consider is the use of stall mats. Stall mats have many pros including support, traction and it helps cut cost of bedding.
The goals of stall footing and bedding:
- Provide support to the lower legs and hooves
- Keeping horses dry
- Providing traction
- Comfort of your horse
Considerations when choosing bedding:
- Use of horse (show horse, trail horse, pasture horse brought in during storms, etc.)
- Your budget/Cost of shavings
- Amount needed for horse
- Availability of material
- Is your horse allergic to certain materials?
- Amount of barn ventilation versus dustiness of material
- Ease of use
- Storage availability
Types of Bedding:
- Wood Shavings: Arguably one of the most popular options. Can be bought, loose in bulk or bags. Be aware of where the shavings are coming from, as black walnut shavings are extremely toxic to horses.
- Wood Pellets: Many prefer this material because they do not take a lot of storage space and have much less disposal than regular wood shavings.
- Sawdust: Very easy to clean, generally bought in bulk. A major downside to this type of bedding is the amount of dust generated. However in large logging areas, this will be readily available.
- Peat Moss: Extremely easy to compost which makes disposal very simple. Very little dust, and extremely supportive material, which is great for older horses.
- Straw: Excellent for broodmares and foals. On the other hand, without proper management can become moldy, in addition, disposal can be bulky.
- Shredded Newspaper: Noted as one of the most absorbent material, which helps cut down the amount of ammonia that collects in the stalls over time.
- Corn Cobb: An all-natural alternative bedding source that is incredibly easy to dispose of due to its biodegradability.
- Rice/Soybean Hulls: Noted from there softness as a material, and ease of sifting. Alternatively, hulls are very light and can blow away in windy environments and are not very absorbent.
- Sand: Very easy to clean, urine will drain down right away and manure will be easy to sift out. However if horses eat off the ground they may be more susceptible to sand colic.
- Shredded Cardboard: Be aware of the source of the material as mold can be an issue if boxes where exposed to the elements. Cardboard is excellent for its absorbent characteristics.
- Hemp: A material I had not thought about using before however is noted for its absorbent and dust-free qualities. The horses generally will not eat it and disposal is simple as it degrades quickly.
Whatever bedding you choose to go with just make sure it works for you and your horses. I personally use wood shavings and pellets. The combination creates a low-dust, highly absorbent, and easy to clean product. Disposal is lessened through the use of pellets, rather than shavings alone. My horses like the added cushion of the shavings, as opposed to the pellets alone. Wood pellets are easy to store and have a longer life expectancy as opposed to savings.
To learn more about types of bedding sources, especially the alternative bedding sources discussed feel free to check out these great sites: