Investigate which bedding choice is safe, healthful, and cost-effective for your operation.
Stalls have traditionally been bedded with materials that provide cushion and absorbency. Good bedding creates a layer of insulation between the horse and a cold floor, pads the hard surface, prevents bruised knees, elbows, hocks, and hips, and keeps the horse cleaner. Even when cushiony and easy-to-clean stall mats are used, most horse owners add a bedding material on top of the mat to create a cleaner and more comfortable environment for the horse.
Bedding can be created from a variety of materials. Factors to be considered when selecting bedding are availability, cost, freedom from dust and foreign material, and palatability–bedding should be something the horse won’t eat. Choose material compatible with your stall flooring, and something that can be readily disposed of.
In a region where grain is grown, straw might be the cheapest and most available type of bedding. If it must be hauled very far, however, trucking costs make it quite expensive. Bob Coleman, PhD, extension horse specialist at the University of Kentucky, says it might also be challenging to use straw for barn stalls if it’s only available in large bales, which can be difficult to maneuver without the proper equipment. Many farmers no longer make small bales, since the big ones are easier to haul, stack, and store with farm equipment.
According to Brett Scott, PhD, extension horse specialist at Texas A&M University, wheat, barley, rye, or oat straw is acceptable for bedding, but make sure that whatever you use has been harvested without any seed heads left in it, or horses will eat it. Wheat straw is often the bedding of choice because it is less palatable than oat, rye, or barley straw, and it is less abrasive than barley. Oat