The Best Bedding Choices for Horses


There are many types of bedding to use – rice hulls, shavings, straw, pellets….. but what are the best bedding choices for horses? Finding the best choice in absorbent shavings should be guided by your horse’s health needs and dust levels, and of course what is available in your area.


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  • What is readily available in your area, and how much will you use? For example, shavings are often trucked from across the land, adding to costs. Peat moss is hard to find; if you like it, you will pay extra for shipping.




  • How tidy is your horse? Some horses love to tornado their stalls, others like orderly and predictable areas with the utmost cleanliness. What is most effortless to clean for your type of horse?


  • You could try rice hulls for the horse that urinates a lot and spins their poop everywhere. Shavings are great for the predictable pooper, and the deep litter shavings system can work well. The deep litter bedding system uses inches upon inches of shavings you rake down from the walls for your horse to pack down.


small kiln dried shavings

Large flake wood shavings – not much dust.




  • How can you dispose of your horse’s used “sheets?” If you compost your horse’s manure, you may want to check with a local nursery about the best bedding for compost in your area. Some shavings can take nitrogen from the soil, making your compost less ideal for growing plants.


  • Many farms will give compost away, and some rely on trash services to pick up manure dumpsters. Some companies specialize in manure pickup and composting, while other municipal trash services may also be an option.


Sensitivity to dust


  • Does your horse have respiratory problems? Low-dust products like straw and rice hulls make ideal bedding choices for hoses with heaves, older horses, and horses/people with allergies. Pellets are fantastic here, too, as they are virtually dust-free if they have some moisture in them. They can dry out. And shockingly, not all sawdust is dusty.




  • Is ammonia an issue in your barn? Over time, some horses’ stalls develop a dangerous ammonia smell. Combat this with zeolites and experiment with shavings types to eliminate ammonia. You may need to combine beddings, using an absorbent layer on the bottom and covering with fluffy equine bedding.


Absorbency and moisture management


  • Choose stall bedding based on the big picture – and that includes drainage, ventilation, and storage options. Different types of horse bedding perform differently according to the substrate and drainage. If a dirt floor dampens the shavings, account for that extra moisture with more frequent cleanings or changing the material.


zeolites for ammonia odors

Zeolites eat ammonia.


A few bedding choices to explore:


A few horse bedding choices to explore:




  • Some horsey folks get their sawdust directly from the sawmill. While cheap, handy, and convenient for some, I find some sawdust to be, well, dusty. This depends on how fine the sawdust is.


  • Some trees are toxic and dangerous for horses. Ensure your sawdust doesn’t contain any black walnut – this can cause laminitis within hours of contact. Maple shavings are not ideal either, as there may be residue from maple leaves that can create problems for horses.


  • It’s best if your sawmill doesn’t ever process black walnut trees.


  • Be aware that because of the fine nature of some sawdust, your horse may ingest and inhale a lot of it. Finding ways to keep your horse’s hay separate from fine sawdust is necessary.


stall door that slides open

Sawdust can be “chunkier” – it’s not always super fine and dusty.


Wood flake shavings for horses


  • Pick pine, oak, cedar, or cypress shavings if that works for you and your budget; these are all readily available. Pine is readily available, and oak and cypress are regional. Cypress shavings sometimes cause skin and leg irritations. Cedar is great, but oily and some horses have lung irritations from it.


  • You can pick the size of wood flakes that works best for you – from the ultrafine (and dusty-ish) mini flakes to the giant flake varieties. Everything in between.


Rice Hulls


  • Hulls are the outside shells of rice (logically). This relatively new type of stall lining may not be available everywhere. It’s nice because the urine will almost clump at the bottom of the stall for removal every few days. Manure is very easy to pick out, so you won’t waste much bedding.


Straw is made for horses without heaves


  • I feel that you either love or hate straw – there’s no in-between. Straw can be eaten, and this is not a good thing for some horses! It’s also semi-absorbent – so you may need to use a ton to soak up everything that you need to soak up.


  • One last thing – wheat stray is harvested and is therefore susceptible to mold and dust – not so great for horses with respiratory issues or inflammatory airway disease.


  • It’s best over a dirt floor to help with urine absorption, and in some areas of the country, it can be inexpensive and readily available.


  • You may find that your horse doesn’t like the stalks and poke-factor of straw bedding, so you may need other options. Or your horse wants to eat it, but there is little nutrition.



horse in stall with rice hull bedding and broom across door

Rice hulls.


Peat moss for horses


  • This is an indoor bedding option in some parts of the country. You can find it at gardening centers – as it’s actually partially decomposed moss from the surface of a bog.


  • It’s expensive, dark, and can stain some horses. But it’s great for horses with respiratory issues and is super to compost, so you will never have a problem finding a home for it when the horses are done with it.


Paper products for horse stalls


    • I have used paper products for cats and other small animals, but now there are horse versions, too! Paper bedding is super absorbent and can be great for horses with sensitivities.
    • DIY horse owners may be tempted to use newspapers or similar paper, but you should worry about the ink and how much you have to collect for a horse.
    • It’s hard to find in some areas, but that may change soon. Paper can also mold, so be on the lookout.



wood pellet bedding that is damp and expanded

These are wood pellets after a little water has been added. With a bit more water, they will fluff up more.


Wood or pine pellets


  • These are the tiny pellets of wood product, usually pine, that expand when they come into contact with moisture.


  • Generally speaking, they are best used by spreading out the pellets and then wetting them with a small amount of water so they begin to expand.


  • Weather and urine will expand them further, but they can mostly dry out and last quite a while.


  • If your horse has runny manure, these pellets can soak up wet feces and cushion their stall.


Cardboard – but how absorbent is it



  • Cardboard bedding is a super option for horses with heaves. It can be pricey, depending on where you live, but you can’t beat it for lung health.


  • You may need to order it in bulk, so have some storage space ready.


  • It’s highly absorbent, and picking manure is easy, but the urine spots take some practice.




  • Hemp bedding lasts forever, is almost 100% dust-free, and is highly absorbent.


  • The absorbent part of hemp bedding comes from the inside of the plant stalk. The major cons of hemp bedding for horses are paying for shipping and then having a space to store it all.


cardboard bedding for horses

This is cardboard, chopped up for shavings. 


Outdoor bedding choices for horses


  • Cedar shavings, wood pellets, pea gravel, and mulch make good bedding choices for horses that have outdoor runs or paddocks. All of these can withstand rain and weather while offering good drainage and consistency in the quality.


  • Be wary of cedar horse shavings for light, gray, or painted horses, as the reddish cedar color can stain your horse.


  • If you choose pea gravel or mulch, know that picking manure is tricky, and you want to find the smallest sizes for comfort.


The importance of proper bedding


  • Aside from respiratory health, horse bedding should support your horse’s hoof health, skin and coat condition, and sleeping patterns.


  • Bedding choices for horses should not interfere with hoof health. Thrush and white line disease are bacterial, and bacteria love living in your horse’s shavings! You won’t find an anti-bacterial option for your horse, but find one that is easy to clean for your horse’s manure and urine habits and level of destruction.


  • Horses will not sleep if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable, and adequate rest is vital for a healthy horse. Your horse must enjoy hanging out in its area!


matted horse stall with half covered in shavings

Some horses have half of their inside area with shavings to keep them out of hay and feeds.  This stall is attached and open to an outdoor paddock, and the horse rarely comes inside. 



How often should horse bedding be changed and cleaned?


Clean as often as you can. Ideally this is several times a day to prevent ammonia, excessive bacteria, and mold which contribute to respiratory problems, among other things. Strip your horse’s stall or paddock regularly and start with fresh shavings. The frequency depends on how much time your horse spends in their stall.


What bedding is good for horses with allergies?


For those with sensitivities, try hemp, peat moss, or cardboard bedding to reduce dust, mold, and other allergens. Proper ventilation is also vital; increasing turnout will always help a horse with allergies.


How do bedding choices for horses impact health and comfort?


Picking the best shavings helps your horse stay healthy and comfortable. The cushion supports hooves and joints, making rest safe and relaxing. The right bedding also absorbs moisture and reduces the risk of respiratory issues.



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3.0 CUFT Pine Bedding
$28.44 ($28.44 / Count)
07/07/2024 06:23 pm GMT
06/27/2024 07:28 am GMT
06/27/2024 06:58 am GMT
Little Giant PDFE Dura Fork, Red
$52.99 $45.29

Now picking stalls can be more ergonomic.

07/08/2024 06:16 pm GMT

Thank you!