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Bedding For Horse Stalls

Choosing Bedding for Your Horse's Stall


The most common type of beddings used are straw and shavings. Depending on what's available in your area there may be other options you can consider.


Clean straw is preferred for mares and very young foals. Some horses will eat straw bedding-a problem if you are trying to keep your horse on a diet. Oat straw is more absorbent than wheat straw-but it is also more tasty. Any straw you use should be dust and mold free. Saturated straw is heavy to clean out and it is difficult to separate the manure from the clean bedding. Two bales should bed an average sized box stall adequately. You might want to add extra during cold weather or in anticipation of a foaling.


Shavings are very popular and can be delivered by truck or purchased by the bag at feed stores. A special manure fork is needed to pick manure out of the shavings without removing too much of the bedding. Check for wood splinters as you spread the bedding. Softwood shavings are preferable and black walnut shavings can cause severe problems. If you are buying shavings from a nearby woodworker or lumber mill be sure to ask what type of shavings you are buying. I like about 4 inches (10cm) of shavings in a stall. If you are using stall mats, you can use less. 

Sawdust can be used. Again be sure you know what type of wood the sawdust is from. This isn't the best choice for horses with respiratory problems such as COPD, as it does tend to be dusty until it settles.

Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are compacted and dehydrated wood shavings. My sister worked at a stable where these were used. She liked that cleaning stalls was easier and there was less wasted bedding. The cost was initially more expensive than wood shavings, but because of there was less waste she felt the cost balanced out. The pellets look hard and uncomfortable, but a sprinkle with the water hose expands them into fluffy bedding.


Shredded paper can be obtained in some areas. If you horse eats its bedding this might be a good choice. It isn't dusty, but you might have a problem with skin allergies to the inks. I've never cleaned out a stall with paper bedding but I am sure that saturated paper would get very heavy!


Peat moss can be bought at co-ops and garden centers. Peat moss is sometimes used as a base underneath other types of bedding. Having worked it into my garden soil, I know it can be quite dusty. Use caution with horses with respiratory problems.


Hemp is becoming more popular. Hemp bedding may be available in some areas.

Stall Mats

Stall mats, although an added expense can add to the comfort of the flooring in a stall and save on the amount of bedding materials used. There are several types to choose from in a variety of price ranges.


You might be tempted to use old hay for bedding. Horses will eat even spoiled hay that may give off mold dust that can result in lung damage. Hay starts to ferment quickly when wetted resulting in odor. It is difficult to clean. Hay is also more expensive than straw or other beddings. I learned this when I boarded my horse for a winter at a stable where inexperienced managers threw my hay in as bedding under my horse. Hay for bedding is not a good idea.

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