Bedding for Horses

Proper bedding for horses is extremely important. Their health and performance depends on them having the proper amount of rest. Studies have shown that sleep can be divided into 2 stages, Slow Wave Seep (SWS) and Paradoxial Sleep (PS)

Horses normally fall asleep while standing up and they enter SWS during which the muscles gradually relax.

If the horse is feeling comfortable in its environment it will lie down and drift further into SWS with further relaxation of the muscles.

The horse may then lie down flat to enter PS where the muscles are totally relaxed, that is, there is virtually no muscle tone.

An important point about sleep cycles is that the horse must lie down flat to complete a sleeping cycle that includes PS. If a horse cannot, or chooses not to lie down then it can rest in SWS but cannot achieve the total relaxation of PS.

Paradoxial sleep is sometimes termed the sleep of the body because of the general muscular relaxation.
SWS is known as the sleep of the mind.

And so with that in mind I started researching the different types of bedding for horses. Here are the various types of horse bedding I have found.

Straw bedding especially wheat straw was used in virtually every stable some fifty years ago. Horses were mainly kept for hunting, competitions or belonged to riding schools. Some horses had "hay coughs",now called Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and since the majority of horses were looked after by professional grooms, COPD meant nothing to the average horse owner.

Today's the situation is so different. The growing trend to keep equines as pets and not only as work animals has spurred a growing trend to find new types of bedding.

Straw as Horse Bedding


? If clean and dust free, it makes an excellent bed.


? amount of waste material generated
? costly to dispose
? Heavy to cart to the muck heap
? Dangers of spores and dust
? May create respiratory problems for horse and humans
? horses often eat straw bedding.

Findings from other studies have shown that when given the choice of straw or wood shavings as a bedding type, horses spend more time on straw.

Horses appear to spend more time performing bedding-directed behaviours on straw and this seems to reduce boredom in stabled horses

The use of beddings other than straw may increase the risk of abnormal behaviours such as weaving.

Both straw and wood shavings are economical and easy to obtain.

Straw is generally warmer bedding than shavings because it traps air.

Sawdust as Horse Bedding

? Readily available almost everywhere
? Relatively inexpensive


? May irritate a horses lungs
? Can cause the "heaves" (a respiratory problem)
? Heavier to load and muck than straw, shavings or wood chips.
? Horses with respiratory problems should not use this type of bedding.

Peat moss has countless tiny air-filled cells that provide a comfortable cushion under the horses foot, making it a bedding recommended by veterinarians for convalescing horse's with severe foot problems.
It naturally neutralizes, not covers up, but organically neutralizes, ammonia fumes. Veterinarians have long recommended peat as a beneficial alternative stall bedding for horses suffering from COPD, commonly known as "heaves".

Peat moss has long been recognized as one of the most effective natural filtration materials found in nature. The natural beneficial microbes, and the material's outstanding absorbency trap and contain harmful urine and ammonia fumes.

? Counters the build up of stall ammonia.
? No further need of special stall deodorizers.
? Generates less waste volume than shavings or straw, or pellets
? Requires less storage space.
? Small amount of daily waste generated
? Rapid break down time compared to wood products or straw
? Keeps a white horse from getting urine stains


? The brown earthy colour makes the stalls look dark ? More expensive initially than sawdust or shavings

Hemp as Horse Bedding

Hemp has been cultivated in North America since the 17th century. For a number of years it was against the law to grow hemp, it is once again legal to grow hemp commercially in Canada .

The outside of the hemp stalks are harvested for use in the textile, composite and paper industries. The core of the stalk is used for animal bedding, garden mulch and building materials.

Queen Elizabeth of England,uses the European company "Hempcore", producers of hemp bedding, as her equine product supplier.

HempChips, an Ontario based company, researched the wide spread use of hemp bedding in Europe and did stall trials and test marketing of the product in Ontario prior to launching HempChips at the Royal Winter Fair in 1998.


? HempChips are dust extracted and cleaned of any impurities
? Ensure a clean stable environment
? Reduction in conditions that lead to respiratory problems in horses
? All natural ? there few chemicals used to grow the hemp stalk and no chemicals used during processing.
? Highly absorbent ? therefore you can use less
? Horses will not eat hemp stalks

? High initial Cost of putting down the bedding
? Difficulty in locating local sellers.

Newsprint bedding is shredded newspaper/cardboard. It is ecologically conservative and very absorbent.


? Soft and comfortable
? No Dust
? Horses usually will not eat it
? Horses are easier to clean after lying in newsprint as opposed to shavings
? Easy to store and transport in the small bales
? Good for places that are allowed to burn muck

? Light weight can make the muck heap prone to blow around the yard in windy weather.
? Makes the stable look unkempt with the newsprint blowing all over the place

Branded Wood Pellet Products.
Wood pellets are compressed shavings (usually pine). They are treated to remove toxic substances and dust, and they expand when wet.


? Some pellets clump so it?s easy to clean.
? Very Absorbant therefore you need to put down less
? Branded wood pellets are free of dust and toxic substances
? Greatly lowering the chance of respiratory problems
? Easy to sift through with pitch fork
? Mucking out is faster easier and less wasteful
? Reduction in the amount of waste thrown out
? Requires about 1/3rd the space of a traditional flake shaving bale.
? Comfortable, shock absorbing, and aesthetically pleasing.
? Stalls are drier and cleaner
? More Cost Effective in the long run
? Easier to use


? Upfront cost is higher
? More difficult to find than sawdust or wood shavings

The Benefits of Rubber Matting are numerous. Just like us, horses and ponies feel the strain from standing on hard surfaces. If they slip, injury is also likely to be greater on concrete than on a softer surface.


? Rubber matting provides a very comfortable standing surface
? Extra traction helps to reduce the risk of injury in the stable.
? Provides a much warmer, safer and more comfortable floor
? Reduces the quantity of bedding required.
? Different brands and differences in cost and quality.
? Good buffer between the horse and the floor.
? Extra cushioning alleviates pressure and stress of hock and knees.
? Less bedding need

Disadvantages of Rubber matting

? The cost of some stall matting is quite high

A good friend of mine uses the ComfortStall? System for her 2 box stalls. It is true that she goes a little overboard (to say the least) when it comes to caring for her horses. They not only have the Comfortstall? system for the floor of their box stalls but peat moss as bedding. To me this is the best type of sleep arrangement for any horse. By the way, the matting for the 2 stalls cost a total of 1500 $ cdn including installation.

Like any other bedding, the amount of material you will need depends on the type of horse being housed, how many hours the horse spends in the stall, weather conditions, and the size of the stall.

Also be aware that stabling is not natural for equines, so measures must be taken to ensure a healthy, comfortable and happy environment is created.

Having lived all of my life in a big city, moving to a horse ranch in the country was a dream come true. Far from the hustle and bustle to the peaceful life with horses.

I love the new life I have here in St. Lazare, Quebec. Besides taking care of 9 horses, 2 crazy dogs, a pig...and lets not forget the cats.

My husband and I also have a graphic design studio. But I wanted something new, something different - something that would weave together: design - horses - and anecdotes about my new life.

Oh yeah...I also wanted to find a new income source. Something that I could do from home. No commuting to the city

So I started this website

I am continuously updating with information for the novice horse rider and the new horse ranch owner. Lots of horsekeeping tips, and information on managing your horse boarding stable.

Visit us at


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