Stall bedding is the material used on the floor of your horse’s stall. Wood shavings and straw are most commonly used. There are other options available such as peat moss and other natural and composite materials.
Bedding a stall preferably begins with rubber mats, placed over a packed dirt, wood or cement flooring. Next comes a layer of wood shavings. Because of the potential for a new born foal suffocating in deep shavings, it is best to use straw during delivery times. For all other times, wood shavings are preferable as many horses will eat the palatable straw. If you are going to use straw, be sure to familiarize yourself with the local grains used to make the straw bales and carefully inspect for mold.
As for wood shavings, there are a variety of hardwoods available for stall bedding. If you live in an area that does not have lumber yards or mills, you can purchase bagged bedding from your local pet and animal supply store. Most bagged bedding is made from pine and is kiln dried.
If you live near a lumber yard, it is much more cost effective to purchase your stall bedding directly from them. They will have saw dust and shavings both. Shavings are preferred over saw dust as the latter is too fine and can be inhaled or consumed while your horse is eating his hay.
Most mills are aware of which woods are required for stall bedding use. Cedar is best and serves a double purpose in that it will also keep the insect population down. Oak, pine and maple are also excellent choices. Black walnut should never be used as it is highly toxic to horses.
The breed of horse and his workload will determine the quantity of stall bedding required. For large breeds, such as Warmbloods, Drafts and Thoroughbreds, six (6) inches is ideal. The test is to take your foot and make two swipes through the bedding to reach your mat. For average size breeds, two to four (2-4) inches is acceptable and for smaller breeds and ponies, one to two (1-2) inches will suffice. For show and convalescing horses, you will want to use the maximum amount of bedding to protect their hocks while lying down and getting up.
Banking your stall is the ideal way to finish preparing it for your horse. This means making a deep, angled, edge along the sides. This bank should be an additional six to eight (6-8) inches deep. This will prevent your horse from casting, or getting stuck against the wall while rolling.
Another value in the wood shavings is that it absorbs the moisture and ammonia smell and makes the stall more comfortable for your horse. You will see your horse's appreciation of his stall bedding by spending more time lying down.