Here at Prime Stables, we take great pride in our experience with horses and our years of manufacturing beautiful timber stable blocks in the UK. As such, we are always happy to offer advice on the types of horse bedding which may best suit your circumstances and your stable.
When fitting stables and supplying them with everything your horse could need to live a comfortable, happy life, it is only natural to wonder if you are making the right decision when it comes to particular products. This is especially true in terms of horse bedding, as not every material available will make the best bedding for your stable, or for your horse.
Choosing Your Ideal Equine Bedding
Your horse deserves nothing but the best in bedding, of course, but there are a number of different factors that should be taken into consideration when deciding just which sort of bedding will be ideal for your animal. Each horse has his or her own individual needs after all, and some types of bedding may prove more suitable than others.
Questions to bear in mind when selecting horse bedding for your stable include:
- Does your horse have any health concerns, such as a respiratory disease, which may make certain types of bedding unsuitable?
- Is your preferred equine bedding available to you locally? Will you have to travel, or can you have it delivered to your stable?
- Where will your bedding be stored once it has arrived?
- Will you be willing to pay more in order to have your preferred type of bedding? Will a cost-effective alternative suit your horse’s needs just as well?
- Will your chosen bedding be suitable for your stable floor?
- How comfortable will your chosen bedding be for your horse?
- How absorbent is the bedding?
- How palatable for horses is your chosen bedding type? Will your horse attempt to eat the bedding?
- How will you dispose of the bedding once it becomes wet and unusable?
- Are there any other advantages or disadvantages to take into consideration?
Below, we have listed some of the most popular bedding types for horses, alongside some of their most notable advantages and disadvantages. We’ve set these out to help you take every aspect into consideration, as well as the greatest care when selecting animal bedding.
As the most traditional type of equine bedding, straw has covered and cushioned the floors of stables across the world for centuries. It is harvested from three different types of cereal grains (wheat, barley and oats), which also gives it a distinct advantage in terms of availability and price. However, this does sometimes also come with a complication, as it is a crop, which means the bedding will also be susceptible to mould. If your local harvest has been interrupted by a significant amount of rain, it may begin to rot quickly. Prices may also increase during shortages.
Straw is often recommended as bedding for broodmares and foaling stables, as it is more difficult for newborn foals to inhale. It will also not contaminate the umbilical cord, keeping both mother and baby safe during and after the birth.
Wheat straw is the most common type of straw used for equine bedding, as it makes a comfortable, warm covering that can be easily handled and that also allows free drainage. It is usually readily available from local providers in bales, which makes for easy storage. It is also the dustiest straw, which must be taken into account if your horse has respiratory issues.
Barley straw is the least expensive of the three, but is not always suitable as the prickly ears in the material can often cause skin irritations.
This is the highest quality of the three straw types and is often more absorbent than barley and wheat. However, horses also find it tasty to snack on, so they may attempt to eat it, and the absorbency makes it rather heavy when the time comes to muck out your stable.
An alternative straw product to the three traditional types is treated straw, which consists of chopped straw that may also contain other bedding materials. Essential oils are sometimes added as well, and come in wrapped bales which many stable owners find easier to store than traditional bales. Treated straw also tends to be more consistent in quality, but may be more expensive to purchase.
This highly absorbent bedding may just be the type for your stable if your horse suffers from any type of respiratory problems. High quality wood pellets can absorb up to four times as much moisture from urine as straw, removing the worrying issues of eye or respiratory irritations caused by excess amounts of ammonia.
If you are considering wood pellets as a bedding option for your stable, you should ensure that the product has been made from a soft wood such as pine. It is also of paramount importance to avoid pellets which have been heated too fast and at too high a temperature by their manufacturer. These pellets will tend to be darker and more brittle, making them less absorbent and more likely to produce dust.
Cheap horse bedding that is marketed as wood pellets may also be made purely of sawdust, which may break down over time, and imported products often contain chalky additives.
Wood Shavings, Chips and Sawdust
Wood shavings and chips come with a number of advantages over traditional bedding types, such as straw. The first of these is that they are suitable for any stable flooring type and often provide a more consistent and comfortable footing for your horse. This gives their feet and legs a rest when they have been working, or running around in their paddock during the day. Wood shavings and chips are also rather absorbent and just as readily available as straw, but have advantages over it by being less susceptible to mould and offering less wastage.
However, it must also be noted that raw wood products such as shavings can often be dusty, do not always compost easily and are often less friendly towards one’s budget. It is also important to avoid products made from yellow poplar, oak, red maple and black walnut, as these woods have all been associated with problems ranging from skin and respiratory problems to liver and kidney issues, as well as laminitis.
Sawdust can also offer your horse a consistent, comfortable bedding that is also very absorbent and easily stored. However, it may not be suitable for horses with respiratory issues because (as is suggested in the name) it is also very dusty.
Shredded Paper and Cardboard
The greatest benefit to be found with shredded paper and cardboard bedding is its absorbency. Unfortunately, this may also come as a disadvantage if the bedding is exposed to the elements, as it may also easily grow mould. It may also create a large amount of mess in your yard, as it has the potential to be blown about in the wind. You must also try to find out the source of your cardboard or paper bedding, and avoid using glossy paper, or anything made with staples, glue or non-vegetable-based ink.
Paper and cardboard are both relatively cheap, store easily and are suitable for most types of stable flooring, with the exception of concrete, as this can be made slippery when combined with wet bedding. They also compost very well, but some farmers may not accept them, and the bedding itself can sometimes be difficult to muck out. You should also watch out for the high ink content if your horse has a light-coloured coat ‒ they may often stand up with whole new dark patches!
Flax and Hemp
Hemp and flax bedding have grown in popularity as stable bedding over recent years, owing to their low dust content, absorbent qualities and quick decomposition. They are also easily stored in heavy-duty bags. However, both flax and hemp are crops which may be inconsistent in overall quality depending on the season, and are therefore susceptible to mould.
Horses are unlikely to eat flax or hemp and both are relatively indigestible, but rare cases have been reported so it is best to keep an eye out if you choose to use them for your horse’s bedding.
This bedding is made from partially decomposed moss, making it ideal if you’re looking for a material which can easily be mucked out and composted once it has been used. The particles which come from peat moss are large as well, meaning that horses with respiratory problems are unlikely to suffer any effects, and the material is suitable for all types of stable flooring.
Horses with lighter coloured coats may easily become dirty if this bedding is used, so be prepared to give your horse a good, regular wash if you intend to make this your choice! You should also ensure that their water is cleaned out regularly, as peat moss has also been noted to create a film over water buckets and troughs.
Rubber Stall and Stable Mats
Rubber matting is not only a rather popular bedding alternative for partial stable coverage, it is also widely considered a long-term investment. It provides excellent support and extra grip for your horse’s hooves, minimising the risk of injury that may come with a more slippery alternative. They also come in separate forms; either as interlocking mats, or as one fluid flooring which doesn’t have to be lifted for cleaning.
It is strongly recommended that another type of equine bedding is used on top, if you intend to place down rubber mats. This helps to contain urine and droppings, and ensures that your horses, rugs and floors are kept dry. To maintain excellent standards of hygiene in your stable, we would also suggest that mats are lifted at least once a month and thoroughly cleaned underneath, with this practise increasing during the hotter summer months.
This bedding type may be slightly more difficult to find from local sellers (it is most commonly used as horse bedding for stables in different regions of the USA), but you may have some luck if you choose to order it online. The result will be a dust-free, comfortable bedding for your horse. However, rice hulls are also extremely lightweight and can easily be blown around your stable if left in open stalls.
To increase their absorbency, many stable owners choose to mix rice hulls with wood pellets.
A Purchase to Keep Your Horse Comfortable
Buying your bedding in bulk might appear costly at first, but if it is stored correctly, it can actually prove practical for your budget. In some cases, you may find that you will be reducing costs, alongside offering your horse the love, care and comfort that they deserve in their stables and stalls.
Keeping your bedding in a safe, dry location such as a weatherproof hay barn should keep it suitable for use for a long time to come, saving you money that might have otherwise been lost replacing mouldy straw.
Build Your Perfect Stable With Us
If you have been dreaming about the perfect stable for your horse but require a completely new building to make the fantasy a reality, or even if you know you’ll need a new storage space for his or her new bedding, contact our team at Prime Stables today.
We will be more than happy to discuss giving your horse a new home or space for their future bedding, and can ensure that each part of your planned build is crafted exactly to your specifications. Our products are all made bespoke to order, so you will never receive a ready-made block or barn which doesn’t completely fit your needs, or the needs of your animal companion.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or queries about our process; our phone number can be found at the top of this page, and our friendly, experienced staff are always on hand to provide answers. Alternatively, our contact form can give you a little bit of extra room to write out a summary of what you would like. We will come back to you as soon as possible to start work on putting together the ideal space for your horse.