Should you put bedding in the horse trailer?


Two schools of thought on this one – yes and no. Each has its merits, but I will always choose bedding in the horse trailer over a bare floor at the end of the day. Let’s “analyze” this in each case.


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When I say NO to shavings in the trailer:


  • One of the main reasons for this is to reduce the amount of dust in the trailer. Simple. Many horses are sensitive to dust, and when you have some fine shavings or sawdust in the trailer, dust may be stirred up more than you would like. Legit.


  • Skipping the shavings may also make the trailer easier to clean – depending on the trailer floor. Metal floors can be eaten away by manure and urine, as can wood floors. Mats in the trailer will limit what urine and manure make it to the floor, but not all of it. The second photo below shows the carnage after pulling mats – and these mats had shavings on top soaking up manure and urine long before slipping through the cracks.


stripped horse trailer with clean floor

This trailer’s metal floor usually has mats on top – which will trap any urine that leaks through and likely damage the metal.


dirty mats in a horse trailer

This trailer’s floor (usually under mats) is metal with a super tough protective liner. But you still need to clean it!


  • You might also want to skip shavings in the horse trailer if you are evacuating from a fire area. Granted, you may not have time to get everything perfect. It’s possible that an ember could land in your trailer and set things ablaze. I’ve unfortunately evacuated from more than one fire. You might physically be miles from the actual flames, but the embers carry far and wide and can turn bright daylight into the dead of night.


YES to shavings in the trailer:


  • Traction and cushion. Simple.  A horse that slips in the trailer because of manure and urine will be beyond lucky if there are no major injuries. I have not found any research on the slipperiness of bare floors versus mats, but doesn’t it seem logical that bare floors are slicker?


  • Shavings or bedding also create some cushion. Riding down even the smoothest road can be jarring for your horse, so some cushion is helpful.


rusty and old horse trailer ramp

Damage to the trailer – see the rusty metal between the mat and the ramp? Manure landing spot.


A happy medium?


  • Does this boil down to dust versus the degree of slick? Maybe – but you can find low dust shavings to use in your trailer – look for the biggest flakes you can find. Many brands of shavings list the size of the shavings right on the bag. These may be reduced in absorbing capability, but they are great for cushioning and will reduce any manure and urine that hits the floor.


  • You can also use fine shavings on a bottom layer, and cover with the larger flakes to up the absorbency and cover the dust. Spritzing the shavings with a hose before travel can help too.  Pelleted bedding that expands when wet will roll around unless you moisten it in the bag before popping it in your trailer.  


  • For an extra layer of dust reduction, soak any hay in the manger or hay net to remove surface dust before you hit the road.


  • Alternatively, you can combat any slickness by ensuring your horse is standing on textured mats in the trailer. Cushion and a bit more traction.


horse in a two horse trailer straight load on the correct side

Perhaps just enough shavings to do the job?



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