There’s a huge variety of horse bedding on the market — from traditional favourites to the latest materials. If you’re struggling to decide which is the best horse bedding that suits you, your pocket and your horse, our expert guide to the pros and cons of each type of bedding could help you to decide.

Types of horse bedding

Straw
Advantages:

  • Cheap
  • Breaks down to produce good garden manure
  • Aesthetically pleasing

Disadvantages:

  • Bulky and messy to store
  • Soon makes a large muck heap
  • Can be difficult to dispose of, particularly if you are running a large yard. Cost of disposal can offset initial inexpensive price
  • Some horses are allergic to it
  • Some horses like to eat it

Chopped straw
Advantages:

  • Dust has been extracted
  • Treated to be non-palatable
  • Wrapped bales are clean and easy to handle and store
  • Not as bulky as straw, so produces a smaller muck heap

Disadvantages:

  • More expensive than straw, although cost is reduced with bulk deliveries
  • Sold through selected stockists

Paper
This tends to be a mixture of newspaper, magazine and other unwanted printed matter. It is often considered to be a cheaper option, but a large number of bales may be needed to create a thick bed. It is also worth considering cardboard, which has similar advantages to paper but is heavier and less likely to blow around the yard.

Advantages:

  • Dust-free and non-palatable — a good choice for allergy-suffering horses
  • Produces a warm bed
  • Wrapped bales are clean and easy to handle and store

Disadvantages:

  • Can be costly
  • To start a bed it can take five bales, and then one or two bales a week for a horse that is stabled at night
  • Easily blown around, producing an untidy-looking yard
  • Disposal can be a problem
  • Care has to be taken to ensure bed does not become soggy

Wood shavings
Purpose-produced shavings are a popular type of bedding, but the quality can vary enormously — particularly with regards to dust content. It is important that you only buy shavings that have been specifically produced as animal bedding.

Advantages:

  • Non-palatable
  • Widely available
  • Wrapped bales are clean and easy to handle and store

Disadvantages:

  • Can be difficult to dispose of – shavings take much longer to rot down
  • Needs constant removal of droppings and care has to be taken to ensure the bed does not become wet, causing a build up of ammonia
  • Cheaper brands can contain high dust levels
  • Price can fluctuate

Wood pellets
These are made from heat-treated and compact sawdust. To use them, water has to be added to fluff them up and increase their absorbency.

Advantages:

  • Eco-friendly
  • High absorbency
  • Dust-free
  • Composes quicker than shavings or straw

Disadvantages:

  • Can be slippery whilst still in pellet form
  • Need to add water when the bedding is put down, which adds time

Hemp/flax
Bedding material made from the chopped stems of hemp or flax offers an alternative to shavings and paper.

Advantages:

  • More absorbent than shavings
  • Dust-free and non-palatable
  • Light and easy to muck out
  • Rapidly breaks down to make good compost
  • Wrapped bales are clean and easy to handle and store

Disadvantages

  • Bales are relatively expensive and the initial cost of bedding down are off-putting
  • Manufacturers claim that long-term use make it competitively economical

Rubber matting
Wall-to-wall rubber carpet or tiles developed as a complete horse bed.

Advantages:

  • Provides a comparatively soft non-slip base, guarding against capped hocks, etc
  • Easy to muck out and can be hosed down
  • In theory, no extra bedding costs, although some prefer to use a light layer of shavings over the matting

Disadvantages:

  • Considerable initial capital outlay to install
  • Not aesthetic
  • Can appear cold and is slow to dry in the winter