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.