Bed­ding ba­sics

EQUUS - - Contents - By Heather Smith Thomas with Chris­tine Barakat

Even if you are happy with what you have now, it’s wise to pe­ri­od­i­cally re­view---and per­haps re­con­sider--your bed­ding op­tions.

Clean­ing stalls gives a per­son time to think. It’s the sort of rep­e­ti­tious chore that frees your mind to con­tem­plate your train­ing goals, pri­or­i­tize your tack wish list, con­sider names for an ex­pected foal and mull over other ques­tions. It’s also a per­fect time to reeval­u­ate your bed­ding choices.

Chances are, you’re us­ing what­ever bed­ding ma­te­rial is read­ily avail­able in your area and fits your bud­get. And there’s noth­ing wrong with that, as­sum­ing your horse doesn’t have any spe­cial health needs and the bed­ding you’ve cho­sen is

safe. None­the­less, it’s not a bad idea to con­sider your other op­tions. Af­ter all, the pur­pose of bed­ding may be fairly sim­ple---to cush­ion and in­su­late the floor sur­face--but a va­ri­ety of fac­tors can de­ter­mine the best choice for a par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion.

Be­yond avail­abil­ity and cost, the po­ten­tial for dusti­ness is al­ways an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion, as is the “palata­bil­ity” of a ma­te­rial--for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, you don’t want bed­ding that your horse will be tempted to eat. An­other vari­able is ab­sorbency: A highly ab­sorbent ma­te­rial that can cap­ture urine and slow the de­vel­op­ment of am­mo­nia fumes may be the best choice for horses

on high pro­tein di­ets and/or for horse keep­ers with tight muck­ing sched­ules.

Weigh­ing these fac­tors can be­come a lit­tle com­pli­cated. “The bed­ding ma­te­rial should be soft, so the horse won’t be re­luc­tant to lie down, and ab­sorbent,” says Brian Nielsen, PhD, of Michi­gan State Univer­sity. “The big ques­tion, how­ever, is whether the bed­ding ma­te­rial is eco­nom­i­cal---which is more likely to be the case if it’s read­ily avail­able in your area. Some­thing may be great for bed­ding but might be too ex­pen­sive, es­pe­cially if you have to ship it a long way.”

Cost will largely de­pend on your lo­ca­tion. “In some ar­eas, wood prod­ucts are fairly in­ex­pen­sive be­cause sawmills or man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties need to get rid of saw­dust or shav­ings,” says Bob Cole­man, PhD, the ex­ten­sion spe­cial­ist at the Univer­sity of Ken­tucky. “Sit­u­a­tions change some­times, how­ever, with changes in the econ­omy. If fewer peo­ple are build­ing houses and the lum­ber mills are not mak­ing boards, there are fewer byprod­ucts.”

Here’s an over­view of com­mon bed­ding op­tions, along with some ob­ser­va­tions from ex­perts. With this in­for­ma­tion, you can spend your next stall-clean­ing ses­sion giv­ing some pro­duc­tive thought to the ma­te­rial you’re sort­ing through.

Even if you are happy with what you have now, it’s wise to pe­ri­od­i­cally re­view---and per­haps re­con­sider---your bed­ding op­tions.

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