When it's time to bed your horse down for the night, there are a wide variety of options to use for bedding your horse's stall. Here are some things to consider when deciding on what your horse will stand and sleep..
- What are you going to use it for?
The most common use of bedding for stalls is to absorb urine and make cleaning manure easier in your horse’s stalls. In this case, shavings or wood pellets or even newspaper are your best bet. Most will absorb the urine and some will even help with odor control. However, be careful when you select your shavings – black walnut shavings can be dangerous to your horse.
However, if you plan to use bedding to help protect your horse’s legs and give him a soft spot to stand, you will probably want to use shavings. But also consider putting stall mats (like those offered by Classic Equine Equipment at www.classic-equine.com) down first. This can help reduce the amount of shavings you use and give your horse another layer of cushioning.
- What’s available in your area and in your budget?
Not all products are available everywhere. For example, I saw several advertisements in national magazines for a pelleted product called “Woody Pet.” It sounded perfect, but it was not available in my area. If you live near a woodworker or lumber mill, you might be able to get a deal on shavings or sawdust – must make sure you ask what type they are as some can be hazardous to horses.
- Where are you going to store it?
Bedding made from shavings or sawdust requires a large, covered area to keep them from flying around and/or getting wet. If you have a large horse operation, buying bulk shavings may be economical. But if you have a smaller farm with 4 or so horses, you may find that wood pellets that come in bags are the easiest to store and use.
- How long will it last?
You want a bedding that does the job of cushioning your horse and absorbing urine, but does not become so saturated that it is hard to remove or causes irritation to your horse. It’s better to clean more often than to wait until bedding becomes thoroughly saturated. Damp or wet bedding softens the horse's hooves and provides a bacterial breeding ground. Bedding that does not absorb well also allows more ammonia to be released and can irritate your horse's respiratory system. Dusty or moldy bedding can also be a respiratory irritant.
It’s important to develop a good mucking routine when cleaning the stalls. By teaching workers to only pick up manure and soiled bedding, you can make all products last longer. In addition, consider where you put your shavings. If you spread them all over the stall, even under the water and feed buckets, you are probably wasting your bedding. Some horses have favorite spots where they urinate – bed more heavily there and skip areas where your horse doesn’t go.
- What are you going to do with it after it’s been used?
Once the bedding has been soiled, you will, of course, have to get rid of it. Composting is one way, but certain beddings don’t break down as quickly as others. Straw and wood pellets break down quite quickly in the compost pile. Wood shavings and sawdust do not.
Photo credits: Horse & Hound, Classic Equine Equipment; Red Worm Composting