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Choosing the Best Horse Bedding: Factors to Consider and Pros and Cons of Different Options

Choosing the right bedding for your horse is an important factor in maintaining their health and comfort while minimizing the workload of the horse owner. But with so many options available on the market, how do you know which one to choose?

In this article, we’ll explore the factors to consider when choosing horse bedding and the pros and cons of straw bedding.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Horse Bedding


The first factor to consider is availability. Horse bedding should be easily available to horse owners, preferably at their local feed store, to avoid the inconvenience of traveling long distances to purchase it.

Having a readily available supply of bedding helps to promote good hygiene practices in the stable.


Dust is a major concern when it comes to horse bedding. Dusty bedding can cause respiratory problems not only for the horse but also for the horse owner.

It’s essential to choose a dust-free bedding option, especially for horses with respiratory issues, allergies, and asthma.

Amount of Time in Stall

Horses spend most of their time in a stall, so the bedding needs to remain clean, dry, and free from odor. The amount of time a horse spends in a stall, their paddock habits, and their drinking and urinating habits can affect how much bedding they need and how frequently it needs to be changed.


Urine and moisture can produce ammonia odors, which are harmful to your horse’s health and unpleasant for the horse owner. Absorbent bedding helps to keep the stall dry, clean, and free from odor.

It’s essential to choose bedding that can rapidly absorb urine and moisture to prevent ammonia build-up.


Comfortable bedding is important for the horse’s health and well-being. Horses require cushioning to prevent pressure sores and to create a comfortable surface to stand, lie down, and rest.

For horses that spend most of their time in a stall, the surface should be suitable for their needs, like a concrete base covered with rubber matting to provide comfort and slip resistance.


When selecting horse bedding, it’s important to think about the storage space available on your property. Some bedding options may come in bulk, and you should have sufficient space to store it securely.

Weather elements like sun, wind, and rain can also affect bedding quality, so you may need to keep it in an area that is safe from these elements. Some insurance companies even incentivize equine farms that store bedding away from the stable area.


Horse owners must properly dispose of used bedding to prevent environmental pollution. If you have a garden or farm, then composting is a viable option for recycling the used bedding into natural fertilizer.

If these options are not available to you, then you’ll need to arrange for the safe and efficient removal of the used bedding.

Straw Bedding

Straw bedding is a popular option for horse owners because it’s warm, comfortable, and easily compostable. It’s often used for deep bedding in the winter when horses require additional warmth.

However, there are some disadvantages to using straw bedding. Straw is not highly absorbent, which can lead to ammonia build-up and odors.

It’s also dustier than other bedding options and may cause respiratory issues for both the horse and the owner. Lastly, straw is edible, and some horses may end up consuming it, leading to potential digestive issues.

In conclusion, there are many different factors to consider when selecting horse bedding, and straw bedding is just one option to keep in mind. Ultimately, it’s important to choose a bedding that meets the needs of both the horse and the horse owner.

By taking these factors into consideration, you’ll be able to select the best bedding for your horse’s health, hygiene, and comfort. When it comes to selecting a bedding material for horses, wood shavings and wood pellets are two commonly used options.

Both have advantages and disadvantages that horse owners should consider based on their individual needs and preferences.

Wood Shavings Bedding

One of the main advantages of wood shavings is their soft texture, which provides cushioning and comfort for horses. The shavings are also highly absorbent, helping to keep the stall clean and dry.

They are also less dusty than other bedding options, making them a popular choice for horses with respiratory issues. However, the quality of wood shavings can vary significantly depending on the source and type of wood used.

Low-quality shavings may contain pieces of wood that are too large or sharp, posing a potential hazard to the horse’s hooves or respiratory system. Additionally, wood shavings can cause allergic reactions in horses, particularly if they are made from black walnut or cedar wood.

Another disadvantage of wood shavings bedding is the buildup of ammonia. Horses produce urine, which can create ammonia when mixed with the bedding.

This can lead to unpleasant odors and respiratory issues for both horses and owners. Lastly, the disposal of wood shavings can be difficult.

While some manufacturers package the shavings in bags, others sell them in bulk, making storage and disposal challenging for horse owners.

Wood Pellets Bedding

Wood pellets are a more recently developed option for horse bedding. They are made from compressed sawdust and are sterilized to remove harmful bacteria and fungi.

The pellets are also highly absorbent, expanding to create a dry and comfortable surface for the horse. One of the most significant advantages of wood pellets is their minimal odor.

Because they absorb moisture so effectively, there is little to no ammonia buildup, preventing unpleasant odors in the stall. Additionally, wood pellet bedding typically has a lower moisture content than other bedding options, making it easier to clean and maintain.

Wood pellets are also easier to dispose of than wood shavings. They can be composted and used as fertilizer, making them an environmentally friendly option for horse owners.

Additionally, cleaning out the stall with wood pellet bedding is simpler, as the pellets break down into fine particles that are easy to remove. However, wood pellets are typically more expensive than other bedding materials.

Additionally, they may not be as readily available as other options, depending on the horse owner’s location.

Choosing Between Wood Shavings and Wood Pellets Bedding

When deciding between wood shavings and wood pellets for horse bedding, it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Wood shavings are typically softer and less expensive, but they can be dustier, smellier, and more difficult to dispose of than wood pellets. Wood pellets are highly absorbent, low-odor, and easy to dispose of but may be more expensive and less readily available.

Ultimately, the right choice depends on the individual horse owner’s needs and preferences, as well as the specific requirements of the horse.

By considering all the factors, horse owners can make an informed decision regarding the best bedding material for their horse.

In addition to wood shavings and pellets, horse owners may also consider paper shavings or rubber stable mats for bedding. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Paper Shavings Bedding

Paper shavings are a relatively new option for horse bedding and are made from recycled paper products. One of the biggest advantages of paper shavings is that they are entirely dust-free, making them suitable for horses with respiratory issues or allergies.

They are also highly absorbent, keeping the stall dry and reducing unpleasant odors. Another advantage of paper shavings is that they come in compact bales or bags, making storage and transport easy.

Unlike wood shavings, they are not prone to variations in quality, and therefore there is more consistency with using paper shavings. However, paper shavings can become heavy and slippery when soiled, which can make them difficult for horses to stand and move around in their stall safely.

They may also not be suitable as fertilizer since the recycled paper product may not decompose or contribute to soil health. Additionally, disposing of paper shavings can be challenging because they cannot be burned or composted.

This means they will need to be disposed of in the trash, taking up space in landfills.

Rubber Stable Mats Bedding

Rubber stable mats are another option for horse bedding, with many benefits and a few disadvantages. One of the main advantages of rubber mats is their sturdiness and comfort.

The mats provide an excellent cushioning effect for horses, supporting their joints and preventing injuries. Rubber mats are also very efficient to muck out.

They can quickly be swept or hosed off, and the plastic backing coated with rubber makes cleaning and drying much easier. Most of the time a full manure dump or removal of the rubber mats is unnecessary.

Unlike other bedding options, such as wood shavings or straw, rubber mats do not require constant additions of new bedding. However, many horse owners choose to supplement with a light layer of bedding, such as wood pellets or straw, to absorb any urine and increase the horse’s comfort.

One disadvantage of rubber mats is that they are not aesthetically pleasing and may be less comfortable for horses than beddings. Additionally, rubber mats do not prevent casting, which can be a significant safety hazard for horses.

Choosing the Best Horse Bedding

When choosing the optimal bedding material, horse owners should consider all the pros and cons of each option. While paper shavings offer a dust-free option for horses with respiratory issues, they may be heavy and slippery when soiled and may be difficult to dispose of properly.

Rubber mats offer excellent cushioning and require minimal maintenance, but they can be unattractive and lack prevention when casting. Additionally, wood shavings and pellets remain popular options with relevant pros and cons that remain important to consider.

To make the right choice for their horse, horse owners should think about the animal’s needs, the horse’s bedding preferences, and the facility’s budget while considering the pros and cons of each option. Overall, choosing the best horse bedding involves balancing the cost-effectiveness, convenience, safety, and comfort of the animal while reducing any potential environmental impacts.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Horse Bedding

When it comes to choosing the best bedding for a horse, there are many factors to consider. Horse bedding should not only be safe and comfortable but also absorbent and dust-free.

The bedding should also be easy to clean and dispose of, and meet the individual needs of the horse.


Safety should always be a top priority when choosing horse bedding, particularly concerning potential respiratory hazards or high ammonia build-up.

Some materials, such as straw, can become moldy or cause respiratory issues, while others can become highly contaminated with bacteria and fungi when not correctly handled.


Another essential factor to consider is absorbency.

Horse bedding must absorb moisture, including urine and water while keeping the stall dry and free from unpleasant odors that may lead to ammonia build-up. Materials like wood shavings and pellets are highly absorbent, making them popular choices for many horse owners.


Dust-free bedding is also crucial, especially for horses with respiratory issues or allergies. Dust can cause significant respiratory problems among horses, leading to noticeable discomfort, asthma, and other health problems.

Options like paper shavings and rubber mats are known to be dust-free and improve air quality, beneficial to both the horse and owner.


A clean and hygienic environment is equally important.

Horse bedding should not only absorb moisture, it should be regularly cleaned out and replaced with fresh bedding. This prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi in the stall and promotes good hygiene practices, which can significantly benefit a horse’s overall health and well-being.


Another essential factor that horse owners must consider before buying horse bedding is the ease of disposal. Used bedding should be disposed of in an environmentally safe and responsible manner, as it poses potential hazards for the environment.

Individual Horse Needs

It is also essential to consider individual horse needs, taking into account any respiratory allergies and preferences for bedding materials and hygiene habits, among other factors.

One of the best aspects of horse bedding is its versatility and availability, with different materials suited to different horse-keeping environments.

Therefore, before settling on a particular type of horse bedding, it is vital to evaluate the individual requirements of the horse, from health, behavior, paddock habits, waste removal, and budget to name a few. By examining these criteria, horse owners can arrive at bedding options tailored for their horse’s individual needs.

Finally, horse owners should consider investing in professional guidance, reputable sources of bedding, and expert insight from horse welfare experts. The right people can provide valuable and reliable information on bedding and help create a safe and comfortable environment for the horse.

Overall, choosing the right horse bedding requires careful consideration of safety, absorbency, cleanliness, disposal, and individual horse needs. By taking each factor into account, horse owners can make informed decisions that lead to a comfortable, hygienic, and safe environment for their horse.

Choosing the right horse bedding is vital for maintaining the horse’s health, comfort, and hygiene. It requires considering factors like safety, dust-removal, absorbency, cleanliness, and disposal flexibility, taking into account the individual needs of the horse.

Ultimately, selecting the right bedding comes down to balancing the horse’s preferences with practical considerations such as cost, availability, and practicality of storage and removal. As such, it’s essential to research and get expert advice on the best type of bedding from those with years of experience and knowledge in animal welfare.


Q: What factors should I consider when choosing horse bedding?

A: Safety, dust-free, absorbency, cleanliness, disposal flexibility and individual horse needs.

Q: Why is absorbency so important when it comes to horse bedding?

A: Horses produce urine, which can produce ammonia when mixed with the bedding.

This creates unpleasant odors and respiratory issues for both horses and owners.

Q: How can I dispose of used horse bedding in an environmentally-friendly way?

A: Composting is a popular option for recycling the used bedding into natural fertilizer. If not possible, horse owners will need to arrange for the safe and efficient removal of the used bedding.

Q: What should I do if my horse has respiratory issues or allergies?

A: Select dust-free bedding options like paper shavings or rubber mats to reduce the risk of respiratory problems.

Q: Are wood shavings safe for horses?

A: Quality can vary to a significant degree.

Care must be taken to avoid the usage of wood from species such as black walnut and cedar, which pose risks of allergic reactions.

Q: How often should I replace horse bedding?

A: Horse bedding should be changed out regularly, with the frequency of changes based on the horse’s paddock habits, watering, and urinating times and conditions.

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