Natural Bedding: Using the Power of Miscanthus, the Sustainable Bedding Company is Changing the Way We Take Care of Our Horses

Photos by Alan Youngblood

By APRIL BILODEAU

Let’s face it, there aren’t that many great bedding options out there.

Traditional shavings can cause unbearable odor, dust, excess of flies, and even mold, which can be harmful to your horse’s respiratory system, and the process of mucking stalls is at the bottom of everyone’s list of preferred barn chores.

Natural Bedding, a sustainable animal bedding company backed by Nexus Development Capital, is providing an alternative option to administer bedding that is not only healthier for your horses, but also makes cleaning easier and faster. The bedding is 100% miscanthus, a type of grass that almost looks like a chopped straw, that is more absorbent and completely biodegradable. While it is a grass, miscanthus is naturally unpalatable, so your horses won’t want to consume it. It is a totally natural material, so apart from it being cut and having the dust extracted, the bedding has not been artificially processed.

Miscanthus has been used for over 50 years by horse trainers and owners in Europe as horse bedding. Utilizing miscanthus primarily grown in the southern and southeastern parts of the United States, Natural Bedding is making it possible for barn owners stateside to bring the high quality material into their stables.

The Benefits

In a recent study with Robert Holland, DVM, PhD, a Kentucky-based equine veterinarian who specializes in equine respiratory and infectious diseases, Natural Bedding was shown to improve the overall air quality in the stalls, which plays a huge part in helping horses with respiratory or allergy issues maintain comfort in their stalls.

“Natural Bedding seems to reduce allergies because there is comparably less dust than in other beddings such as shavings and straw,” says Dr. Holland.

Since it’s naturally antibacterial, Natural Bedding doesn’t host a variety of fungus. Customers have seen a significant reduction in odor and number of flies in their stalls.

Outside of the respiratory benefits, the use of miscanthus is also more absorbent, holding nearly four times its weight. Natural Bedding has been shown to reduce waste disposal volumes, resulting in 30-60% savings on manure removal for owners.

Natural Bedding is 100% biodegradable, making it a great choice for stable owners looking to use their waste as fertilizer.

How To Use

Users will want to start with a base layer of two to three inches of bedding, leveling the bedding with the back of the pitch fork, then misting with water to allow the miscanthus to start the absorption and to allow the bedding to interlock.

Then, top dress the bedding with additional bags until it’s four to six inches thick, depending on how you like to bed the stall. Setting up the stall this way allows for the urine to gravitate to the bottom layer, which keeps the top layer clean and dry. The company has created videos in both English and Spanish, available on their website, to show users how to use the product.

The manure will be picked out throughout the day as usual while not disturbing the initial foundation layer. This is where the urine will be absorbing.

A “wet-spot” will form and is removed every five to seven days. The technique is so easy and is quite the time saver.

International Show Jumper Jenny Rankin used Natural Bedding this last season in Wellington, with FEI horse Ibiza. She was initially skeptical to wait to remove the wet-spot, as Ibiza is on electrolytes and his bedding can become quite wet, but was pleasantly surprised with the dryness of his bedding, the lack of ammonia smell, and how management of his bedding became quicker in the mornings as well.

Another customer of Natural Bedding that owns and operates a Dressage Training Barn in Loxahatchee, FL has been using the bedding for a few years. Her grooms can pick eight to 10 stalls in the morning and the total of those stalls equate to just one wheelbarrow load.

Photos by Alan Youngblood

Where to Buy

Natural Bedding is available across the country for customers to purchase and can be bought directly from the company or a local dealer. 

For more information on Natural Bedding, the power of miscanthus, and where you can buy the product, please visit gonaturalbedding.com. Instructional videos as well as interviews with real life customers can also be found on their website.

What Customer Are Saying

“We actually have had a few horses that are incredibly talented when it comes to urinating. Every day urine would run out of the stall and into the aisle due to the shavings not absorbing. Jenelle started to look for an alternative bedding and found Natural Bedding. We agreed to buy 30 bags for a trial and test it on four stalls and see what our team thought about the difference in the product. After the first week Jenelle thought it was incredible and wanted to continue. After the second week, all the team members agreed this was the product that they wanted for our facility. At JRB Equestrian our equine partners get the best of everything! We switched the entire barn over and have become dealers for Natural Bedding serving Central Florida.”

One of our full-time team members, Tabby, said, “If you ever switch back to shavings, I’ll quit!” She said it’s amazing as it’s so much more efficient to pick the stalls, it’s cleaner and easier to work with. It’s a huge time saver when we do deep cleans too.

“We’ve found that when we load 9,000 pounds of bedding a week into a dump trailer there is significantly less dust and it breaks down/composts so much faster than shavings.”

“It’s also the little things like the amount of dust on the stall fans and how quickly they get packed with dust and burn out. The first year that we started our business we went through four fans…in the last year and a half we have not replaced any fans.

We have also noticed to date that none of our horses eat the bedding. I think overall when the product is tested side by side with shavings or any other product on the market; you will find Natural Bedding product stands out above the rest.”

—Ron and Jenelle Branom, JRB Equestrian, Winter Garden, FL