How to Choose Horse Bedding

How to Choose Horse Bedding
Equestrian

Horse bedding is not a straightforward choice. It can depend on a number of factors including cost, transport, storage, disposal and the individual. In general, the most common types of bedding used are straw and shavings. There are also several other options available at Countrywide:

Wheat Straw

When baled, it is often heavily compacted and brittle, affecting its durability and reducing its value as bedding. Good wheat straw makes excellent bedding. It is still the most popular bedding. It can be used for a deep litter, and it will take you four to six bales to start a bed. You will need around five bales a week for a horse that is stabled at night.

Advantages

Wheat Straw is cheap, easily available, absorbent, warm and easy to muck out. It rots down well, and is easy to dispose of in a muck heap or can be sold or given away as it makes a good garden fertiliser.

Disadvantages

Wheat Straw is not suitable for horses with dust allergies or respiratory problems. It can be very dusty and poorer quality straw can be mouldy too. Storage can be a problem - bales need a lot of space in a dry area.

Oat Straw

Oat straw is palatable and more expensive. It quickly becomes saturated, which makes it the least suitable straw for bedding.

Advantages

Firstly it gives a clean and bright appearance. Straw manure can be disposed of more easily than other types of materials. In a good harvest year it can be cheap.

Disadvantages

Some horses will eat the straw and it can cause several problems such as allergic coughing to the dust. In a bad harvest it can be quite expensive.

Wood Shavings

Wood Shavings are a popular form of bedding as they are very absorbent and easy to muck out. It is important to buy wood shavings that have been specially produced for use as animal bedding. If you use alternative wood shavings, such as waste from a saw mill, you may find the shavings are sharp and contain rubbish. Wood shavings can be used for a deep litter and will take four to five bales to start a bed. You will need one or two bales a week for a horse that is stabled at night. They can be expensive.

Advantages

Wood Shavings are easy to muck out, easily stored and easily disposed of (they will burn). They are absorbent and for allergic horses, dust-free (or dust-extracted) shavings are available.

Disadvantages

If you are unable or concerned about burning the shavings to dispose of the waste, wood shavings can be hard to get rid of. They take a long time to rot down and are generally unwelcome on muck heaps.

Wood Fibre

White wood fibre products have recently introduced to this expanding market, manufactured from carefully selected recycled whitewood fibre.

Advantages

Environmentally friendly product. Fairly dust free bedding that is warm, comfortable and supportive. Free-draining bed that stays dry on top. Horses also stay cleaner as it doesn’t cling to manes, tails or rugs.

Disadvantages

Bales are often small due to heavier weight of product and can become heavy when mucking out, due to high absorbency.

Shredded Paper

Shredded Paper is becoming more popular as a choice of bedding as it is one of the cheapest options and has many advantages. It is not suitable for a deep litter bed. It will take five bales to start a bed and one or two bales a week for a horse that is stabled at night. Newsprint has the same insulation qualities and storage qualities of straw or wood shavings, but requires more cleaning and maintenance. For grooming qualities, shredded paper is excellent because it keeps horses cleaner than other bedding products.

Advantages

Shredded Paper is completely dust free and is an excellent choice for allergy-suffering horses. It's easy to store, light to work with, quite absorbent, very warm in the Winter and can be cheap.

Disadvantages

The most effective method of disposal would be to burn it. It can be difficult to keep a tidy muck heap as shredded paper tends to blow around in the wind. The dye from the paper can sometimes mark a horse's coat and it can ball up leaving a bare floor for the horse to lie on.

Wood Pellets

White wood fibre products that have been heat treated and compressed. When water is added to the pellets they expand in size and can absorb nine times more liquid than regular shavings.

Advantages

Environmentally friendly product. Dust free bedding that is highly absorbent. In addition, wood pellet bedding composts much quicker than shavings or straw which often do not fully compost or take a long time to decompose.

Disadvantages

Can be slippery whilst still in pellet form. Need to add water to bedding when initially put down to make if fluff up.

Hemp

Hemp is a relatively new type of bedding. It is a natural fibre derived from the hemp plant. It can be used in a deep litter bed, and can be shown to be economical in the long run.

Advantages

Hemp has good absorbency qualities and makes a very soft bed. It is dust free and breaks down very quickly. It is ideal for a deep litter bed.

Disadvantages

Hemp is initially expensive, it is not edible and may cause swelling to a horse's stomach if ingested.

Rubber Matting

Rubber matting has many advantages and while initial costs can be high, running costs can be practically non-existent. Once fitted, running costs can be very low.

Advantages

Completely dust free and can be used with a bedding of your choice. Drains well and is warm. Very safe for your horse - soft rubber reduces risk of injury. Easy to muck out.

Disadvantages

If your horse is messy, then the no bedding option may make the horse/rugs dirty. Some extra bedding may also be required to stop draughts. Initial cost is high. The stables need to have good drainage if no bedding is used to absorb the urine.

The Importance of Good Stable Maintenance

Maintenance of stables and a good mucking out routine is paramount to ensure your horse has a healthy environment to live in. Follow these ten tips to ensure your horse has a clean and healthy stable environment.

1. Clear the area. Take your horse out of the stall and removes any objects such as feed and water buckets.

2. Keep a cleaning kit to hand include a wheelbarrow, shavings or manure fork and a yard broom.

3. Clear all the soiled bedding. Remove manure and wet bedding thoroughly.

4. Dump the waste product in the assigned area, ensuring it is well away from the stable. Muck heaps can attract flies and other parasites which can provide a nuisance factor as well as spreading disease among horses.

5. Once all waste has been removed spread the leftover bedding in the stable.

6. Add fresh bedding to replace the amount removed. Buff the bedding up with a fork to maximise comfort and warmth.

7. Have a routine complete clean out when once a week or a fortnight, where the stable is completely stripped out. Use a disinfectant such as Virkon to prevent the spread of disease. Let the stable dry out completely before re-bedding.

8. Clean up outside the stable. Any residue dirty bedding will carry disease so make sure all waste is tidied away and dumped on the manure heap.

9. Replace the feeding equipment and toys that were removed to enable an effective clean.

10. Return the horse into a better, healthier and cleaner living environment.

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