The Magazine October 2017

Bedding choices explained

Posted 15th August 2017

As the days begin to get shorter, your horse will likely start to spend more time in his stable. It’s important to ensure the bedding you use is suited to his particular needs in order to avoid respiratory problems or infections, such as thrush, as he transitions to his cold-weather routine.

Beding choices

Your choice of bedding depends on your horse’s needs, your budget and the disposal options you have available. Each has it’s own benefits and drawbacks, which may impact your choice, so keep in mind the following…


Often the cheapest bedding option, straw is ideal for building a thick, warm bed.


  • Cheap – particularly if you live in an agricultural area or can produce your own
  • Warm – a straw bed retains heat, making it a cosy option for winter
  • Soft – straw beds tend to be thicker, giving your horse more cushion when he lies down, particularly on a concrete floor


  • Heavy – saturated straw is difficult to muck out and you may spend a lot of time trying to separate clean bedding from dirty
  • Palatable – a greedy horse may be tempted to munch on his bed
  • Dusty – low-quality straw can be dustier than other bedding options, so isn’t the best option for a horse with respiratory problems


Shavings are a readily available form of bedding.


  • Absorbent – more absorbent than straw, so can be effective as a thicker bed or as a thin layer over matting
  • Non-palatable – horses rarely try to eat them
  • Easy to store – baled shavings can be stored outside. Loose shavings, however, require a storage shed or unit


  • Less efficient – because they’re less absorbent than pellet or hemp beds, you’ll need to remove more
  • Higher ammonia levels – like straw, deep shavings beds pose a risk of ammonia build-up. Manage this by being militant in removing wet patches
  • Dusty – quality can vary widely between sources. If dust is a concern, choose dust-extracted shavings

Wood pellets

Pellets are activated by moisture to expand into an absorbent bed.


  • Absorbent – can soak up to three times their own weight in liquid, making them a viable option for a very wet horse
  • Hygienic – they’re heating during the compaction process, killing bacteria and creating a clean, dust-free bed
  • Efficient – easy-to-spot wet patches remain compact due to the absorbency of the bed, ensuring easy removal


  • Compact – the pellet bed isn’t as thick and fluffy as straw or shavings, so if you want high banks and a deep bed but the benefits of pellets, consider layering bedding types
  • Brand inconsistency – brands manufacture their pellets in different ways, so ask around for recommendations
  • Expensive – on a per-bale basis they can be pricier than other bedding types, although this difference can be mitigated by buying in bulk


To find out more about the different bedding options, including Hemp, Paper and Cardboard, initial cost and amount used per week, get the October issue of Horse&Rider, on sale 24 August 2017.

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