Horses, especially performance horses, spend more time in their stalls than they do out of them. It’s where they eat, sleep, and take shelter from harsh weather. However, any horse owner knows that while these are large, strong animals, they are also vulnerable to injuries and disease. To properly care for your horse, quality stall bedding is vital to their wellbeing —every detail matters, from the design of the doors to the material used to make the floor.
Horse stall bedding is available in many brands, materials, and forms, each with pros and cons. Maybe you’ve used the same type of bedding for years with satisfactory results. However, a change in the bedding might make the barn a little safer and more comfortable for your horse. It could even make removing soiled and wet bedding from your stalls easier and less time-consuming.
Purpose of Horse Stall Bedding
Most of us think of bedding as a soft place for animals to lie down. However, horse bedding does this and a lot more. It provides cushioning between the horse’s hooves and the hard floor, preventing stress and fatigue on their feet and legs. It also provides warmth and helps reduce drafts.
Stall bedding soaks up urine, helping to keep horses dry and clean. Horses that spend a lot of time in their stalls might require more absorbent bedding than those turned out during the day. They also need their bedding replaced more frequently.
Along with an assortment of beddings to choose from, barn stall floors also can be designed and made from a variety of materials. Some are primarily topsoil, while others are clay, sand, concrete or road base mix. Floors made from clay, concrete or wood are incredibly slippery when they get wet. An absorbent bedding material helps absorb moisture and provides traction for the horse to prevent falls.
If you have rubber stall mats in your barn, you should still spread stall bedding on top of them. While mats help reduce fatigue and drain away moisture, they don’t provide the same level of absorbency and warmth as bedding.
Common Materials Used in Horse Stall Bedding
Straw – This is one of the oldest and most traditional choices for bedding in all types of animal stalls. Horse breeders often use straw as bedding for foaling mares as it doesn’t stick to horses or clog their nostrils. However, there are some potential risks of using straw as horse stall bedding. For one, some horses will try to eat it, putting them at a greater risk of impaction.
Another disadvantage is that straw bought from other farmers might be old. If it hasn’t been stored correctly, it could be dusty or moldy. Horses are sensitive to dust, especially when it comes from mold spores. Breathing it in can cause a respiratory disease called recurrent airway obstruction (RAO).
You should only use straw bedding for non-equine animals. Also, purchase quality brand products from the feed store rather than from unknown sources.
Wood – Sawdust, wood shavings, and processed wood products are all popular materials for stall bedding. Wood in any form is naturally absorbent and readily available in most areas. Wood also makes it easy to clean the stall.
Wood bedding from an untrusted source can put horses at risk for certain health problems. For example, sawdust can have tiny particles of irritants in them that can increase respiratory health risks in horses and foals. In addition, wood containing black walnut in any form can lead to laminitis. If the source of these products can’t guarantee they are free of these harmful ingredients and other types of debris, you shouldn’t use them.
Wood pellets are a great cost-efficient bedding option, along with being ultra-absorbent and compostable. Easily remove used pellets from the stall and add them to the compost to biodegrade. Later, you can use the pellets to form fertilizer for your garden. Wood pellets come from untreated wood that is 100% natural and chemical-free. Pellets don’t stick to horses or other bedding, and they are low-dust. As a result, wood pellets save time and money while helping to keep your horses healthy.
Pine Pellets – The primary reason people use pine pellets for stall bedding is to neutralize odor in the barn. The pinewood has a fresh, natural scent that absorbs moisture and helps prevent unpleasant odors.
Horses produce urea in their urine that breaks down into ammonia over time. Sometimes horse owners use a stall freshener under their stall bedding to help soak up the urine. An absorbent and deodorizer can help reduce ammonia levels, absorb moisture, and eliminate odors.
Rice Hulls, Peanut Hulls, and Shells – While any of these materials aren’t optimal for horse stall bedding, they are suitable. Availability is the biggest issue as they are hard to find in some regions.
Peat Moss – Peat moss is more commonly thought of as a material used for gardening. However, its absorbency and low palatability to horses make it a good choice for bedding. The biggest problems are that it is expensive and difficult to find in adequate quantities. Peat moss bedding is probably the only stall material you must buy at a gardening center instead of a traditional feed store.
How Much Stall Bedding To Use
If you are using wood pellets, a 40lb bag should cover an area of about 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 feet. Measuring the size of the stall will quickly allow you to know how many bags are needed.
The average depth for wood shavings and other bedding materials is four to six inches. If you have stall mats, you can go on the lighter side. Always spread the bedding evenly across the mats to cover them completely. For stallions and other horses who prefer to use one corner of the stall as their “potty,” you can add more bedding to this spot and use less in other areas. For older horses or those foals that lie down a lot, you might want to have better coverage over the entire stall.
Shop for Horse Stall Bedding at Grange Coop
At Grange Co-op, we offer high-quality products that you can depend on to keep your animals healthy and comfortable. Contact or visit us in-store to speak with one of our Grange Equine Experts and learn more about horse stall bedding options. We have what you need to make your horse’s stall a safer, healthier place to spend its time.