Whichever type material or combination of materials
used it is a poor policy to skimp on the bedding as this can lead
to capped elbow and hock injuries.
There are three types of straw available to the horse owner i.e.
wheat, barley and oat. By far the most suitable is wheat, being
harder and shorter and less palatable than the other two. Barley
and oat straw can, if eaten, ball-up in the gut and cause colic.
A straw bed must be thick enough at the base to avoid displacement
and banked up on the sides as a precaution against casting. Straw
beds are warm and comfortable and provided that they are clean
will encourage the animal to stale and to lie down. They are less
harmful to the horse's feet, easier to "muck out" and the spoiled
straw can be disposed of via the dung pile or by burning.
On dry, sunny days, comparatively unsoiled straw can be dried
outside and returned to the box. Obviously there are many plus
points to using straw, grooming the animal can be much easier
than when bedded on shavings. But the minus can be
- Large areas needed for storage
- More dust content, even in clean straw which can cause respiratory
problems e.g. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
- Availability and price governed by the weather and subsequent
In recent years shavings have become more popular as they can
be stored outside, as long as the plastic bag containers are not
perforated, and in a year of poor straw harvest can be a cheaper
alternative. A bed of shavings is warm and absorbent. It is relatively
easy to "muck out" with a hand shovel and bucket. However, a thin
bed of shavings is not comfortable and can result in the before
mentioned injuries. Disposal of shavings can be a major problem
especially in wet winter months when it can be difficult to burn
and your local farmer will not be interested in removing your
dung pile. Removing shavings from your horse's mane and tail can
take considerable time in the morning.
Sawdust is much finer and consequently more dusty than
shavings. It is warm and clean but if left down too long can become
hot and maggoty. More care should be taken with the horse's feet,
as it is prone to pack and cause problems.
As with shavings, newspaper can be used as an
alternative to straw for an animal with respiratory problems.
Its real drawbacks are that very wet newspaper is cold and disposal
A peat bed is easy to "muck out" and a healthier
alternative as the urine and ammonia gases are absorbed. Horses
kept on peat must have their hooves regularly picked out to prevent
balling and possible frog rot due to the absorbent quality of
the peat. Initially, peat is expensive to lay as it must be 6"
deep. Once established, it is economical and comfortable. As soon
as the bed begins to wear thin and becomes congested it should
be cleaned out and renewed. Peat moss is an excellent addition
to the dung pile but if deciding on this type of bedding you might
like to consider the rapid depletion of the Peat bogs!
THE COMBINATION OR DEEP
The obvious advantage of a deep bed is that it is labour
saving, that is until the floor increases to such a height that
the whole lot must be cleaned out, a hard day's work!
A thick layer of peat is put down first, at least
6", followed by a generous amount of straw. Of course, the base
layer could be straw or shavings but I would not recommend sawdust
for previously mentioned reasons. Apart from frequent removal
of droppings and topping up, daily "mucking out" is not necessary.
This type of bedding is warm and will encourage the horse to lie
down more often and is ideal for the owner who has a limited amount