5 Things To Consider When Choosing Stall Bedding

horse in shavings horseandhoundUK

When it’s time to bed your horse down for the night, there are a wide variety of options to use for bedding  your horse’s stall.  Here are some things to  consider when deciding on what your horse will stand and sleep..

  1. What are you going to use it for?

The most common use of bedding for stalls is to absorb urine and make cleaning manure easier in your horse’s stalls.  In this case, shavings or wood pellets or even newspaper are your best bet.   Most will absorb the urine and some will even help with odor control.  However, be careful when you select your shavings – black walnut shavings can be dangerous to your horse.

horse stall with matsHowever, if you plan to use bedding to help protect your horse’s legs and give him a soft spot to stand, you will probably want to use shavings.  But also consider putting stall mats (like those offered by Classic Equine Equipment at www.classic-equine.com) down first.  This can help reduce the amount of shavings you use and give your horse another layer of cushioning.

  1. What’s available in your area and in your budget?

Not all products are available everywhere.  For example, I saw several advertisements in national magazines for a pelleted product called “Woody Pet.”  It sounded perfect, but it was not available in my area. If you live near a woodworker or lumber mill, you might be able to get a deal on shavings or sawdust – must make sure you ask what type they are as some can be hazardous to horses.  

  1. Where are you going to store it?

Bedding made from shavings or sawdust requires a large, covered area to keep them from flying around and/or getting wet.  If you have a large horse operation, buying bulk shavings may be economical.  But if you have a smaller farm with 4 or so horses, you may find that wood pellets that come in bags are the easiest to store and use.

  1. How long will it last?

You want a bedding that does the job of cushioning your horse and absorbing urine, but does not become so saturated that it is hard to remove or causes irritation to your horse. It’s better to clean more often than to wait until bedding becomes thoroughly saturated. Damp or wet bedding softens the horse’s hooves and provides a bacterial breeding ground. Bedding that does not absorb well also allows more ammonia to be released and can irritate your horse’s respiratory system. Dusty or moldy bedding can also be a respiratory irritant. 

It’s important to develop a good mucking routine when cleaning the stalls.  By teaching workers to only pick up manure and soiled bedding, you can make all products last longer.  In addition, consider where you put your shavings.  If you spread them all over the stall, even under the water and feed buckets, you are probably wasting your bedding.  Some horses have favorite spots where they urinate – bed more heavily there and skip areas where your horse doesn’t go.

  1. What are you going to do with it after it’s been used?manure and bedding compost pile

Once the bedding has been soiled, you will, of course, have to get rid of it.  Composting is one way, but certain beddings don’t break down as quickly as others.  Straw and wood pellets break down quite quickly in the compost pile.  Wood shavings and sawdust do not.

Photo credits: Horse & Hound, Classic Equine Equipment; Red Worm Composting

Introducing the Horses of Ireland

shamrock in horse shoe


Ireland is a land of incredible beauty and incredible horses.  The following three breeds were developed to work with  people of Ireland under a variety of tough conditions. Their hardiness and easy temperament are legendary.

CONNEMARA PONYConnemara pony

Legend says that when the Spanish Armada sank off the Connemara coast in the 16th Century, the horses, a mix of Barbs and Andalusians, swam to shore and bred with the native ponies running wild in the mountains.  The resulting Arab blood is still recognizable in present day Connemaras. Steep mountain trails and treacherous bogs, fierce winds sweeping in from the Atlantic in the winter, and relatively small areas of grazing developed a breed that was tough and surefooted.  The Connemara became known for their agility and hardiness. The Irish soon came to depend on this stocky little horse as a means of transportation, both ridden and driving, and for its ability to pull a plow, cart turf from the bogs or seaweed from the shore, and carry heavy baskets of produce to market.  On Sunday, the pony carted the family off to church. Because of this strong partnership, the Connemara developed an easy-going and reliable temperament.

The Connemara is the largest of the pony breeds.  They range in height from 13–15hh. The most common colors are grey and dun, but also acceptable are black, bay, brown, chestnut, palomino and even roan! 

More information:  American Connemara Pony Society

Liam Irish Sport HorseIRISH DRAUGHT

The Irish Draught is sometimes referred to as an RID for Registered Irish Draught. According to the legends, it was the god Lugh who brought the horse to Ireland.  He was and Irish god viewed as a   hero and High King of Ireland’s distant past.  Lugh’s special festival, Lughnasa, was celebrated at harvest time in early August. As a means of reinforcing tribal bonds, Lughnasa was a time for meeting, for settling arguments – and for horseracing. The Irish farmer needed a horse that could do more than just plow the field.  Like the Connemara, the Irish Draught can work all week, successfully go fox-hunting on Saturdays, and drive the family in their cart to Church on Sunday.  During the Great European Wars, they were used as army artillery horses. 

The Irish Draught is an active,  powerful horse with substance and quality. Colors include any solid color, including grey.  Height is typically 15.3hh to 16.3hh and has an exceptionally strong and sound constitution.They are intelligent with a gentle nature  and common sense.

More information:  Irish Draught Horse Society of North America

gypsy vanner horseGYPSY VANNER

From about 1885, people travelling  in the British Isles (then including all of Ireland) began to use a distinct type of horse to pull their vardos, the caravans in which they had just begun to live and travel.  The Gypsy  Vanner  was bred by the Roma (also called Romani or Romany), a traditionally nomadic ethnic group. The Roma are widely known as “Gypsies”. They used colored horses, included a significant number of colored Shire horses, which had become unfashionable in mainstream society and were typically culled. Among these were a significant number of colored Shire horses. The term “vanner” dates to at least 1888 and referred to a type of horse rather than to a distinct breed.   A “vanner” is “a light horse suitable for drawing a small van.

The first glance, impression of the breed is its stature as a small draft horse with feathering, muscular development and size. The height is usually between 13.2hh to 15.2hh.  One of the unique characteristics of the breed is the excessive feathering on the rear of the fore and hind legs, starting from the knee and hock and extending down and over the hooves. The leg feathering provides natural protection to the legs from the weather and working conditions. The Gypsy Vanner is not a breed based on color, although the easily recognizable coat colors set the breed apart from others. The acceptable descriptive terms for the coat colors of the Gypsy Vanner horse are:

  • Piebald – Black and white Tobiano
  • Skewbald – Combinations of brown, red and white, including tri-colored Tobiano
  • Blagdon – Solid color with white splashed up from underneath

The breed temperament should be gentle, cooperative and willing, yet powerful. The breed should be relaxed, mannerly, and respectful of its environment. Their willingness should be expressed in their ability of being both ridden and driven.

More information:  Gypsy Vanner Horse Society

Sláinte mhaith!  (Good health!)

Credits:  Wikipedia