When the weather is getting colder and we feel the last sun on our skin we know that the winter is coming. For our horses this means the end of the time on the pasture and the beginning of the time in the stable.
Many horses only leave the stable for some hours per day and stay inside their box for the rest of the time. The right horse bedding is very important because it prevents coughs and allergies against dust. But which material is the best for horse bedding? Straw, shavings or hemp?
There are many different materials for the horse bedding. Here we present some materials with their respective advantages and disadvantages. This may give a help to find the individual bedding for your horse.
Straw undoubtedly is the most common material for horse bedding in the stable. Normally every stable offers straw and due to the high required quantity it becomes cheaper in price. However the quality of straw can be very variable. After a bad harvest the straw can offer a lot of dust and mold spores. This can lead to coughs and several different types of allergies. Especially straw which is stored in round balls often offers more germs. A further problem is the gluttony of some horses so that they suffer from an overload of their stomach. This can easily end in a colic. A great advantage is the simple disposal of the straw because you can just through it on the manure heap. Then the farmer can use it without any worries for the fertilization of his field.
Shavings – the great alternative?
In general you can categorize shavings into two different types: fine and coarse shavings.
You can buy fine shavings in shrink-wrapped balls. They are quite handy and very easy to store because the film prevents any contact with water or humidity. Generally shavings do not rot as fast as straw (straw rots after only six months and shavings after two years). On the one hand this makes the storage of shavings very easy but on the other hand the disposal becomes very problematical: due to the different lengths of the rotting process, used shavings and straw have to be stored separately before you can use it as a fertilizer on the field.
The big advantage is the suitability for horses with allergies because shavings offer much less germs and bacteria. Therefore horse owners with horses that suffer from allergies should make use of shavings. In most cases this means additional costs because normally shavings have to be paid separately to the normal stable rent. In comparison to straw, however, shavings have a lower absorbency.
Linen straw – rarely used for horse bedding
You can buy linen straw at specialized retailers in handy packages. It offers a high absorbency and mostly does not have many germs. It is really easy to litter down in the box. However single wet parts transfer the wet to the rest of the straw so that the entire bedding appears wet. Horse owners can have some further problems with the muck out: here the droppings have to get separated from the straw and this can take a lot of time.
Straw pellets are a useful alternative
The best and most effective absorbency is offered by straw pellets. They are very easy to litter down in the box (they just have to get a bit watered before). Generally the muck out does not make any problems. Moreover straw pellets only offer few germs. The only disadvantage is the price: straw pellets require a special production process and are therefore quite expensive.
All types of bedding require a base below the respective material. Then you just muck out wet parts and the droppings. Optional you can then litter down some new straw.
Horse owners need to find their individual solution. In some cases you just need to try out several options before you find the perfect horse bedding. The right material always also is dependent on the behavior of the horse. If your horse is not very “tidy” and spreads his droppings in the whole box straw may be the right solution with the best cost effectiveness.
Undoubtedly fresh air is an important variable for the health of the horse and the horse bedding. Fresh air helps to avoid respiratory diseases and is good for horses with allergies. Even if the temperatures outside are very low you can still leave the fresh air inside the stable or even let your horse outside on a paddock.
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—All statements without guarantee—