The Best Bedding Options for Horses

It’s likely that you use the bedding that’s readily available at your stable yard, but if you have noticed any issues, it may be time for a change. There are loads of different options, all with their pros and cons. 

If your horse has a particular health condition, it is best to ask your vet for the best bedding for his individual needs. Otherwise, let’s explore some of the most common solutions.

1) Hemp

A relatively new alternative, hemp bedding for horses has several pros that make it well worth considering for your equine friend. It is excellent for horses with respiratory issues such as heaves or ROA as it holds little to no dust. It doesn’t have phenols, and horses don’t like eating it. 

It is highly absorbent, taking in as much as four times its weight. Hemp also allows the bedding surface to stay cleaner and drier than other options. It keeps odors and moisture below the surface level. 

Hemp is easy to muck out. It clumps together when wet, making it easy to remove only the bedding that is soaked with urine and dung. This means you will not have to replace bedding as regularly, which will save you money. Hemp also composts well.

2) Straw

Straw is the old faithful of horse bedding, and it is often the most available, depending on where you live. It’s a comfortable and aesthetic bedding option and is the first choice for foaling. It is typically not as dusty as wood products, though it can be so if it is harvested by machinery that chops it into small stalks. 

If harvested in damp conditions, it can also be prone to mold. It will need to be as carefully checked for mold as your hay. Horses often find straw palatable, which is a no-no as it can cause colic. 

Straw’s absorbency is quite low. You may notice pools of urine seeping along the stable floor. Straw bedding is also one of the most difficult options to clean out. Dung can fall through the stalks, so you end up having to take out a lot. It also gets everywhere in the mucking out process! Straw also takes time to break down. 

3) Wood-based Products

Wood shavings and pellets work well and are widely used. They are highly absorbent and easier to clean than straw. They also compost well. However, they can cause health complications. Wood products can be very dusty, which can cause or exacerbate allergies and respiratory conditions. The oils in certain wood types, like cedar shavings, can give horses an adverse reaction. Watch out for black walnut, as this can cause laminitis

Wood shavings can also be more costly. They are affordable if you are getting them from woodwork factories, but this can be dangerous as they will not have been processed properly for use as horse bedding. Wood pellets are especially costly, though they are a convenient and effective option. 

4) Sand

The popularity of sand bedding comes and goes. It is extremely convenient as you may not have to replace it as often as other options. For this reason, it is also highly cost-effective. It is very easy to keep clean and creates a natural environment. It isn’t as inviting for your horse to lie down on, however, and it can make his coat a bit gritty. 

Sand ingestion can cause colic, so you have to manage feeding. You must make sure your horse’s hay is in a net or pan and that sand doesn’t get into his feed bin or manger. 

Some Final Thoughts

There are other options, such as paper bedding or peat moss. However, many of these can be challenging to find or have other cons. Picking one of the most used bedding alternatives will serve you well.