The type and amount of bedding you use for horses affects more than just how long it takes you to clean his stall. Bedding adds cushion to the floor of your horse’s living space, absorbs moisture, and helps control odours that could harm your horse’s respiratory health.

Bedding depth also influences resting behaviours. [1] Good bedding materials provide enough cushion for horses to lie down and are easy for care staff to keep clean.

Different materials have unique advantages and disadvantages. Selecting the best bedding for your horse will depend on budget, housing situation, health needs, and the available materials in your location.

This article will discuss the benefits of bedding and review common types of bedding materials used for horses.

Why Do Horses Need Bedding?

Investing in your horse’s stall bedding is just as important as maintaining the footing in your riding arena or pastures. Horses that live in stalls often spend more time standing on bedding than any other footing material.

Bedding sheltered areas can also benefit horses that live outside. One study found that access to large areas of soft surfaces increased lying behaviour in group living horses. [2]

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Benefits of Bedding

The primary purpose of bedding is to absorb moisture and odours from manure and urine. Horses living in confined areas must stand, lay, and eat near their waste. [3]

Regular stall cleaning and appropriate bedding limit the adverse effects of excess moisture and odour from waste on your horse’s hooves and respiratory health.

Bedding also provides a cushion between the horse and hard stall floors. A soft surface reduces fatigue on the limb and encourages resting behaviours. [2][4]

Hoof Health

Standing in moisture or manure can increase the risk of thrush.  Regularly cleaning your horse’s stall and replacing soiled bedding with clean bedding inhibits the growth of bacteria responsible for thrush and other hoof issues. [5]

Excess moisture also directly impacts hoof strength. Water can alter the structure of keratin – the main protein in the hoof wall. Water will impact the hoof’s structural integrity, stiffness, and shock-absorbing capabilities. [6]

The hoof is naturally porous and will absorb moisture from the environment. Dry, clean bedding can help dry out the foot in humid climates to prevent excess water from compromising the hoof wall. [6]

Respiratory Health

Horses excrete urea in their urine and feces. Once outside the body, urea can rapidly convert to ammonia – the chemical responsible for the intense, burning odour in dirty stalls. [3]

Ammonia irritates the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, which can contribute to inflammatory airway disease or recurrent airway obstruction. Proper bedding helps absorb ammonia and reduces airway irritation. [7]

Certain bedding materials increase particulate matter in the air. Horses housed inside buildings without proper ventilation can develop respiratory health problems due to air contamination.