Horses Bedding Preferences

I'm not a big fan of stabling the horses but its something I can't really avoid doing - especially in winter. Time and convenience wise it is just easier to keep them stabled on the yard. I usually end of having at least 2 of them stabled from November to March. It's hassle and more work but I've no way around it.

Because they have to come in overnight, I really try to make their stabling experience as nice as I possibly can. They get to go out every day but while they are inside I want them to be happy. Besides supplying ample ad-lib hay my choice of bedding is very important. I need something warm, absorbent, easily stored but also economical. Ideally, it would be non-dusty and quick to muck out. My boys tend to be quite dirty whereas Liath is extremely clean in the stable and tends to poo and wee in one spot in the back (a clean grey horse...a real God send!). I want something that will encourage them to lie down and be well rested.

For years I used the shavings and rubber mat combination and it worked pretty well. However, earlier this year I had to swap over to straw before Liath had her foal (straw is better and safer for foaling!). I actually really liked it! Something that I was very surprised about... I had anticipated smelly stables and yellow stained horses!

I've a webcam (Motorola Scout85 Product Review) set up in her stable and I've never seen her lie down as much...she clearly loves it!

Sleepy foal and Ozzys big butt

Turns out she's not alone!

In a recent German study, warmblood horses were bedded on shavings, loose straw and straw pellets. The horses were kept in their stable for 15 hours a day and their behaviour such as eating hay, lying down and nosing through bedding were recorded.

Just like Liath, the results shows that all the horses spent more time lying down when they were on the loose straw. They spent more time investigating and rooting through the straw than the other types of bedding.

These actions help to break up boredom and keep the horse entertained while engaging in a natural behaviour. This is thought to reduce the chance of harmful stereotypic vices such as box walking, crib-biting, and windsucking which are thought to develop when horses are stabled for long periods of time.

However, straw bedding does have several drawbacks. One of the biggest concerns is the presence of mould and fungal particles. When a horse lays down on straw bedding they tend to inhale more airborne particles as their nose is closer than when they are standing. Therefore, straw bedding may not be suitable for horses with breathing problems or dust intolerances.

Further studies found that horses favoured loose straw and shavings equally.

I'm planning on continuing using straw throughout the winter. It is a little bit more labour intensive than shavings (their poos tend to get hidden under the straw) but seeing Liath respond so positively to the change in bedding has really made me want to stick with it. Their comfort and happiness are paramount. After all is it them that are using it and not me!

Liaths stable by day; with a thick straw bed and rubber matting


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