Winter is fast approaching and as the weather turns many horses will spend more time indoors. With the change in weather and routine comes the decision on how to best bed down your horse while he is stabled. But with such a wide choice of bedding materials available, it can be difficult to know which option to go for. We take a look at the most popular bedding options for horses…
The most traditional of bedding materials, straw is readily available and relatively cheap. For those who like a deep, soft bed straw is often the obvious choice. However, straw can vary greatly in quality, with poorer quality bales being high in dust and mould spores that are damaging to the horses repertory system. In addition, many horses find straw, and particularly oat straw, highly palatable resulting in them eating their beds. This habit is usually discouraged as it can ultimately lead to digestive issues and is often linked to colic in horses.
To help remedy these issues, there are a number of treated straw products available. As they are processed more rigorously, this type of straw bedding tends to be of a much higher and consistent quality. As they are chopped, making the straw pieces smaller, there tends to be less wastage. So while the cost per bale is higher, each bale will typically last longer than a normal bale of straw. These chopped straw beddings are sometimes also mixed with essential oils or herbal products to provide added benefits such as making the product less palatable or for the addition of antibacterial properties.
Popular Treated Straw Products:
• Nedz Bed Original and Dengie Medi-Bed are chopped wheat straw bedding that contain a natural disinfectant to help combat bacteria, fungus and virus to help maintain a healthier environment for the horse. These additions also give the bedding a bitter taste to discourage the horse from eating their bedding.
• Raviera is a basic chopped straw bedding, Raviera is a virtually dust-free chopped straw horse bedding made from oil seed rape straw.
• Nedz Bed Pro is also made from oil seed rape straw, Nedz Bed Pro contains a bitter tasting natural herbal addition that acts as a natural disinfectant and reduces ammonia levels.
• Equinola is another dust extracted, chopped oil seed rape straw bedding but which includes a bitter herbal mix to make it less palatable to horses. It also contains lemon scented tea tree oil that acts both as a deodouriser and insect repellent.
• Cavianthus is a unique straw bedding made from Miscanthus (Elephant Grass). It is used in the same way as other bedding, but as it is more absorbent than any other straw based product or shavings, it lasts longer making it very economical.
Another alternative to straw is hemp bedding. Whereas straw uses the whole stalk of the plant, hemp bedding is made from the soft inner core of the hemp plant, a by-product of the production of items such as traditional hemp ropes and textiles which use the tough outer stem. As well as having low dust levels, hemp bedding, such as Hemcore, has very high absorbency (up to 400ml per 100g of bedding compared to 250ml with straw which helps reduce ammonia levels in the stable and so is of benefit to the respiratory health of the horse, as well as making a more pleasant environment for both horse and carer. The disadvantage to this absorbency, however, as anyone who has mucked out a truly soaked stable can vouch for, is the bedding can become very heavy. At full absorbency, hemp bedding can increase in weight by 400%.
Another popular bedding for horses is wood shavings and this option has been popular for many years, particularly for horses who suffer from respiratory disease or that tend to eat straw bedding. Shavings also provide excellent support for the horses hooves, as the shavings can compact inside them and when laid to a sufficient level also provide good cushioning which can help prevent stable injuries such as capped hocks or elbows. Whilst shavings produced specifically for the equestrian market tend to be of a consistently high quality, care should be taken when sourcing shavings as low-quality shavings or sawdust, often a by-product of sawmills are not suitable for horse bedding as they tend to have high dust levels and can be contaminated with sharp wood splinters and other potentially dangerous inclusions.
Popular Wood Shavings Products:
• Bedmax is made specifically for equestrian use from virgin pine wood. These shavings are known for their large flake size, which gram for gram gives a deeper more cushioned bed than typical wood shavings. However, for those who prefer the more traditional, smaller sized shaving, Bedmax also product Littlemax, which still uses virgin timber, but is cut finer and lighter than original Bedmax for a lighter and softer look and feel. Both Bedmax and Littlemax shavings are also double screened for dust, so have one of the lowest dust levels on the horse bedding market.
• Snowflake Supreme is another popular brand of wood shavings. This bedding is made from sustainable sourced kiln dried softwood timber that offers natural odour control. Again this is dust extracted to minimise dust levels and has good absorbency rates.
Shredded Wood Fibre
A variation of wood shavings is wood chip bedding made from shredded wood fibre. This offers many of the same advantages of wood shavings, but due to being a slightly smaller, denser form than shavings, they tend not to cling to manes and tails, saving grooming time and reducing waste. Shredded wood fibre products also tend to be slightly cheaper than premium wood shavings, making them a more economical choice.
Popular Wood Chip Bedding Products:
• Easibed is made from 100% recycled clean white wood, making this bedding a very environmentally friendly choice. It is clean, dust free and economical to use.
• Snowflake Soft Chip is made from premium, sustainably sourced softwood. It produces a naturally warm, soft and comfortable bed with a fresh pine odour.
For a compromise between the two bedding types, ComfyBed Plus offers a wood chip/shavings mix, giving the lightness of premium wood shavings at a lower price due to the inclusion of shredded wood fibre.
Another alternative horse bedding is wood pellets or pulp. These highly process wood bedding products are very low in dust and of a consistent quality. The processing can also help to kill moulds, spores and bacteria to make it more hygienic for the horse. They are typically supplied in bags rather than bales and are therefore smaller and lighter, so can be easier to handle.
Popular Wood Pellet and Pulp Products:
• Blue Ribbon is a softwood pellet bedding made from natural virgin wood. It is very absorbent and easy to muck out, so less bedding is removed on a daily basis reducing mucking out time and a drastically reduced muck heap size.
• Megazorb is a wood pulp product, which is is very absorbent, about four times as absorbent as wood shavings, so is excellent at absorbing stable odours and reducing ammonia levels. Typically only half a bag per week is needed to maintain a bed of Megazorb and fine nature of the product means it breaks down very quickly into compost, resulting in smaller muck heaps.
Whatever bedding option you choose, at Millbry Hill we have a product to suit your needs, with a great selection available in store and online, from single bales to pallet options for those who prefer to stock up.