Horse owners have several choices when it comes to bedding. The choice of bedding material is an important aspect of horse-barn management.
Bedding can increase dust levels that can pose respiratory problems in both horses and their handlers. In addition, bedding choice will have an impact on the cost of housing horses, the labor involved with stall cleaning, manure storage capacity and, ultimately, nutrient management.
Aesthetically, bedding type is important because material that clings to a horse’s coat can make a horse appear dirty. A good bedding material must absorb urine and excess water from the feces to keep the horses dry and comfortable.
Labor considerations and a happy barn staff are essential when considering choice of bedding, but let us not forget the horse. It is, after all, the horses that will be using the bedding. Horses seem to like straw and shavings equally, not preferring one over the other. Clean straw is preferred for mares and very young foals. Some horses will eat straw bedding – a problem if you are trying to keep your horse on a diet.
There is also naturally occurring lightweight volcanic aggregate used as bedding today. Due to its porosity, it is an ideal medium for aerating, softening, and draining your soil. It is more absorbent and offers better soil conditioning than decomposed gravel or sand. Wood pellet bedding is a shaving material that is hammer milled to consistent size and compacted into pellets wood lignin (a natural binding agent) that holds pellets together until moisture releases the compressed fiber to provide fluffy bedding making these smaller particles more absorptive, easier to pick out and a less wasteful choice of bedding.
Rice hulls bedding is also unique, as it makes the rice hull not only resistant to water penetration but also fungal decomposition. Peat moss has countless tiny air-filled cells that provide a comfortable cushion under the horse’s foot, making it bedding recommended by veterinarians for convalescing horses with severe foot problems. It naturally neutralizes (not covers up) ammonia fumes. Veterinarians have long recommended peat as a beneficial alternative stall bedding for horses suffering from COPD, commonly known as “heaves.” Not only is it important to think about the absorbency, labor and horse issues, but where one can obtain the best suitable bedding for their horses. Geographically some bedding choices may be easier to find then others.
This tip was brought to you by KAM Animal Services, home of KAM’s “Equine Learning Circle” FREE webinars, which take place monthly. These webinars are an expansion of KAM’s weekly tips. Go to www.kamanimalservices.com to sign up for the next webinar. The FREE webinars will conclude with a question and answer session, so be ready with your nutrition questions.