The cleanliness and comfort of your horse stables depends on the type of horse bedding that you use. But the right type of horse bedding will not be the same for every stable or horse. There are a wide range of choices when looking at horse bedding. Bedding can be made from many different materials, including straw, wood shavings, compacted wood pellets, sawdust, or rubber matting.
Common types of stable bedding include:
Straw- Straw is harvested from cereal grains, such as wheat, barley, and oats. Straw is a type of drainage bedding, that allows fluid to pass through it and drain away. Straw is best used with stone dust or clay flooring so that excess liquid can drain away. If straw is used on a concrete or asphalt stable floor, excess urine that is not absorbed could make the floor slippery.
Straw is often the go to product for foaling down stables as it is more difficult for straw to be inhaled by a newborn foal and usually straw will not contaminate the umbilical cord.
All straw should be dry and sweet smelling. Old straw is better than new straw, provided it has been stored well, as it is drier and more elastic.
Straw is readily available and so it is reasonably priced, but there is a lot of wastage and a high volume must be used. Straw tends to shift, exposing the flooring; this could be hard on feet and legs if the exposed floor is concrete. Some horses might eat straw bedding, and this should be monitored.
Shavings- Shavings have some advantages over straw. They are quite absorbent, readily available, provide a more consistent footing and there is less wastage.
Wood shavings have been a popular horse bedding for many years and can be used on any type of flooring. The quality of wood shavings varies greatly, particularly in respect of the dust content. Dust extracted shavings are the most popular as they are of a higher quality and have a low dust content.
Shavings are usually packed in polythene wrapped bales, making them easy to stack and store, they can also be purchased by the truckload.
Sawdust- Sawdust is inexpensive, it is easy to manage and light to handle. Whilst more absorbent, sawdust is dustier than shavings, which can lead to or exacerbate respiratory problems. Pine sawdust smells pleasant, has both a deodorising and antiseptic effect, but is not as commonly used as shavings due to the high dust content.
Wood pellets- Of all the different types of horse bedding, wood pellet bedding is by far the most absorbent. It will absorb up to four times as much moisture as straw, three times as much as shavings and is available in many brands. When looking for a good-quality wood pellets, the use soft woods such as pine is paramount, and you should avoid products that have been exposed to any type of chemical.
True wood pellets are not made from raw wood. Pellets should be made from heated wood, which is then compressed, squeezing out all its moisture. Wood pellets are often considered more costly than other sources of stable bedding.
Some wood pellets require wetting down and this depends on the brand. Also some horses may attempt to eat the wood pellets and this should be monitored.
Rubber Matting- Rubber matting has become commonplace as a partial alternative to bedding in stables. Rubber matting provides excellent support for the horse’s hooves and limbs and minimises the risk of injury as it covers the concrete floor and provides better grip. Rubber flooring comes in separate mats that interlock, or it can come in a liquid that forms a seamless floor that does not have to be lifted for cleaning. A layer of bedding material is usually still added on top of the rubber, as this will help soak up urine and contain droppings.
Overall, rubber matting is easy to manage and although the initial cost is high, the amount of bedding used can be significantly reduced, saving time mucking out and reducing waste.
Overall horse bedding usually serves two main purposes: to cushion the stable floor for the horse and to absorb urine. Different types of bedding offer different properties when it comes to cushioning the stable. This means that, depending on the type of bedding you choose, you may need more or less of it to create a comfortable bed. Each type of bedding has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Factors such as cost, composting ability, level of dust, level of cushion, and absorbency are all different for each bedding type. The amount of bedding that you will use will also depend on the surface that makes up the base of your stables.