According to the British Equestrian Trade Association in 2019 there are around 847,000 horses in the UK and the average frequency of horse riding was 3.5 times per week with an average riding time of 52 minutes. With all that riding it is important that horses get the rest they need during the night. There are many factors that go into a quality sleep, one of those is animal bedding.
What's in Your Bedroom?
Do you sleep well at night? Do you awaken rested, refreshed and ready for your day to begin? If you answered yes, it's most likely because your bedroom and the mattress are comfortable and conducive to a good night's rest.
Your horse(s) deserve the same type of retreat in their barn or stables. No, your horse doesn't require a high quality mattress, but it does need accommodating bedding that allows them to nest in comfort and get their rest. Read on to help you determine if your stable or barn best needs wood shavings, wood pellets, peat moss, or straw bedding for horses so your four-legged companion can also be the best he/she can be.
Demographics of Your Equines
Although various beddings will suffice for different breeds of horses and other equines, there are many other factors that should be considered, such as the quantity of equines and the storage space needed to keep ample bedding on hand.
Perhaps this topic can best be presented by listing the considerations of the different types of bedding:
Quantity and breed of your equines
Regardless of the breed of your horses, sometimes size does matter! Full-sized horses often do best with straw bedding, whereas pellets or chips/shavings/sawdust might serve the little guys or those adorable but wily donkeys more efficiently. If you are using straw for your horses, be sure and choose straw that is not conducive to being a snack for your horses. Some types of grass hay are occasionally used but be cautious to not use fescue hay for your breeding mares as fescue can cause foaling issues. Furthermore, speaking of health, straw bedding for horses may be the best choice for lame or old horses as it provides a greater layer of cushioning.
Availability of your choice of bedding
Straw bedding is often more easily obtained than other choices (unless you're friends with a lumberjack). It is also the most price-friendly. Newer bedding choices, such as some pellets and peat moss, tend to cost more and are not available in all areas.
Your Particular Climate
Do you live in a very cold climate or warm (even hot) climate? More than the type of bedding, it is critical to have bedding in your equines' stalls. Straw, shavings, and pellets all serve as insulation against not only cold but also against excessive heat.
Appropriate storage and organization is a major consideration. A well-run barn has effective storage for everything just like is shown in our guide to storing your horse rugs. Horse owners generally have a fear of running out of bedding, so they keep as ample a supply as possible. Storage is a critical component in making your horse bedding decision. If you choose shavings, you may need more square footage storage space and an awareness of termites. Straw bedding can also draw vermin but good barn cats will help. The bales are usually easier to handle than chips or pellets. Peat moss is available in bales but generally requires up to ten bales per stall.
Keeping it Clean and Ease of Disposal
This is a tricky topic. Although straw bedding lacks the absorbency of sawdust, shavings, or peat moss, it does allow drainage of urine to provide an effective barrier. Effective pitchforks make stall cleaning easier for all bedding types. Straw is lighter when it comes to clean-up time.
Potential for Allergies
This is a critical component to be considered by any horse owner. If you do not have allergies to your equines, then it's not likely you'll be allergic to your horses' bedding materials, although this is not a tried and true fact. Straw most often does not cause allergies than basic hay does. Pellets, peat moss, shavings and sawdust very rarely cause allergic reactions and are all a safe hypoallergenic choice for horses.
When considering any bedding type but especially sawdust the dust factor needs to be considered. Horses and your workers alike can suffer from prolonged exposure to dust which can be problematic in spaces not well ventilated. This you will need to look into further as it is a serious health issue and a study done into dust looked at the effects it had on the lungs and airways. We recommend doing your own research into this topic to be sure you well informed on the risks.
Some horses wear "Pyjamas"
It is not always necessary for your horse to be rugged, especially when it is inside. However, with that new hair cut they just had or that pre-show prep may require a lightweight fly rug. It is critical that your bedding is clean and fresh for these situations.
The Uniqueness of You
Just as your bedding and mattress choices are unique to you, so should your horse bedding options be unique to your horses' needs. It is not recommended to simply emulate what your friends or family members choose for their equine management. It is a unique and personal decision that only you should make.