Avoid these dangerous types of shavings for horses


Some types of stall bedding and shavings are riskier than others, for different reasons. At the very top of the list is black walnut, in any form. Depending on the situation, there are other types of dangerous shavings for horses.


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The dangers of black walnut shavings


  • Black walnut shavings or sawdust can give your horse laminitis within a few hours of his hooves touching the black walnut.  It’s best to err on the side of caution and just say that your horse should not touch ANY part of the black walnut tree.  


  • You might also see horses develop fevers and colic-like signs. Even bedding or shavings that contain under 20% black walnut can induce laminitis in your horse.


  • Your horse doesn’t have to inhale or eat the black walnut shavings, just standing in black walnut will give him laminitis. In these cases, the typical signs of laminitis are clear, the resistance to movement, the altered stance, the colic-like symptoms.


  • When black walnut is involved, you will sometimes find that your horse’s legs are swollen, which is not always the case in other types of laminitis.


  • It’s suspected that the black walnut shavings or sawdust create a reaction where the shavings come into contact with the coronary band and skin of the lower legs.


sawdust shavings

This sawdust is surprisingly low dust.


*** There is no way to safely separate black walnut dust from other dust before it goes to your farm. ***


  • Many of us use sawdust from local mills as bedding, which is often an economical way to do things. Please be sure that your sawmill does not process black walnut at all.


Other questionable horse shavings options



  • Very dusty bedding can also be a problem. Dust interferes with your horse’s respiratory system and can exacerbate respiratory issues like heaves. It’s also hard to keep a tidy barn with a layer of dust over everything.


  • Sometimes straw is good bedding, some time’s it is not. Straw can be moldy, and it can also be dusty. I also find it difficult to clean, but there is a definite system for removing the top layers to reach the wet layers below.


straw bedding in a horse stall


  • I’m a huge fan of pelleted bedding. It’s mesmerizing to watch it grow when it gets wet, but some horses choose to snack on these pellets if you don’t get them damp to expand before use. Other horses might find the dust irritating if you get them too wet and they poof out into sawdust. It’s a fine line.


  • Cedar types of bedding, which may be great for outdoor spaces, are wonderful at absorbing smells and urine. However, cedar horse bedding is a bit oily, and some horses might get stained. I’m looking at you, gray horses of the world. The oil might be irritating to skin as well, causing an allergy. In case you have pocket pets at home, avoid using cedar for them, the aroma and oils are just too strong for hamsters, guinea pigs, and other small creatures at home.

Opt for the kiln-dried shavings


  • Kiln-dried shavings mean that the process of drying has left them a bit smaller, and super dried out. This allows for maximum absorption of urine, which is great for cleaning stalls and reducing ammonia. Using zeolites under your horse’s bedding eats up ammonia smells, which is good for everyone.


  • Pine shavings or pine pellets seem to be the best and safest type of bedding to use for your horse. When in doubt, or you don’t know or trust the source, find another option to avoid the possibility of dangerous black walnut shavings.


This article explores some of your other bedding options.


What beddings do you avoid?


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