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Types of Bedding for Horses

Parashar Joshi
Appropriate bedding is very important for horses as it has a direct impact on their comfort and health.
Naturally, people tend to perceive horses as being strong, sturdy, rock-solid, and almost invincible. However, many are ignorant of the fact that they too need to be very carefully looked after, or else they can develop serious health issues. One of the important factors in maintaining the health and well-being of a horse is its bedding.
In most cases, horses are kept in stables, barns, or trailers. The type of bedding being used assumes paramount priority as it directly affects the amount of rest and sleep that the horse will get. There are different types of bedding available, each having its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

Straw Bedding

This is the most common and oldest known form. It is cheap, easy to obtain, natural, warm, and less clumsy to use as compared to certain other types.
However, it tends to leave the stable in a dusty mess and once wet, it is very cumbersome to store. Also, horses tend to be affected by the dusty straw and this can lead to respiratory problems and allergies in certain cases.

Paper Bedding

In this case, paper from print magazines, newspapers, and other sources is shredded into strips and used as a bedding. This type is much cleaner than straw, and therefore, can be a good option for allergy-prone horses.
However, it is comparatively costlier, as large quantities of shredded paper are required to create a thick-layered bed on which the horses can lie down. Also, when wet, the shredded paper can be quite messy to handle.

Wood Shavings Bedding

Wood shavings are a type of bedding that have become quite popular in recent times. They can be obtained from saw mills or designated stores.
However, care must be taken to ensure that the shavings do not contain any sharp pieces of wood, nails, or other potentially-dangerous foreign objects.
Wood shavings are easily available and generally maintenance-free. However, in due course, they tend to leave a lot of residual dust which, if inhaled, can be harmful for the horses. In some cases, sawdust is used as a substitute for wood shavings, but it also creates a dusty environment which can consequently irritate the lungs.

Hemp Bedding

In this case, the inner stalks of hemp plants are bunched together, watered, softened, and then laid down to create a soft, absorbent bedding. This is a relatively expensive type as the hemp stalks require a certain amount of processing before they can be used.
However, this particular type is extremely absorbent, clean, and durable. Also, removal and disposal of soiled hemp is easier as compared to other paper or straw. However, it is indigestible, and if eaten, can cause a bit of inflammation in the horse's stomach.

Wood Pellet Bedding

This is a slightly modified version of the wood shavings variety. In this case, the wood shavings are pressure-compressed into dry pellets.
Since they are quite dry in the first place, they tend to expand when wet, and in the process, settle down evenly on the stable floor. This type of bedding, though clean and easy to maintain, has a high setup cost.

Rubber Matting

Of all the different bedding types available, this is by far the best option. It involves the usage of a thick rubber mat, and is sometimes also layered with sawdust, wooden shavings, etc.
It provides very good cushioning to the horses, is reasonably absorbent, and quite easy to clean and maintain. Though it incurs a high setup cost, it is extremely durable and is a total value-for-money option.
With the amount of workload that horses are subjected to, getting the right type of bedding is very crucial in ensuring that they remain injury-free and healthy.