7 Types of Horse Bedding: What Experts Recommend!

Exploring the types of horse bedding can be daunting – Not anymore!

As an equestrian expert and enthusiast, I know how vital it is to find the perfect bedding to ensure our equine companions are cozy and content – but how do you even begin?

Thanks to my extensive research, including consulting with veterinary experts and reviewing numerous studies, I’ve developed a list of 7 types of bedding that experts rave about!

Keep reading, my fellow horse enthusiasts, to delve into the wonders of horse bedding and how they can make life a little easier!

Key Takeaways

  • When selecting horse bedding, consider cost, comfort, absorbency, dust level, and environmental impact.
  • Straw bedding is inexpensive and biodegradable, but it may not be very absorbent and can be dusty. Wood shavings are highly absorbent but can be dusty, and some types can be toxic to horses.
  • Peat moss is highly absorbent and biodegradable, but it can be difficult to source and more expensive than other options.
  • Hemp bedding is sustainable and low-dust, but it may require additional cushioning and can be challenging to find.

Don’t skip! Check out my 7 types of horse bedding now!

7 Types of Horse Beddings (The Ultimate Breakdown)

When selecting horse bedding, consider comfort, absorbency, dust level, and environmental impact.

To do this, let me guide you through the 7 common types of horse bedding, including their pros, cons, and tips for effective use – let’s start with straw…

1. Straw

Straw bedding is a traditional choice for horse bedding, notable for its affordability, insulation properties, and biodegradable nature.

What’s great is that its soft texture also makes it a comfortable choice for horses.

Pros of Straw Bedding:

  • Inexpensive
  • Biodegradable
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Promotes sleeping times

Cons of Straw Bedding:

  • Not very absorbent
  • Can be dusty
  • Potential for mold growth
  • May interrupt lying bouts

How to Use Straw Bedding Effectively

To effectively use straw as bedding, spread it evenly on the stable floor, ensuring a depth of at least six inches.

Daily maintenance is essential – promptly replace soiled or wet straws to prevent mold growth and maintain a clean environment.

Werhahn et al. noted that foraging increased when straw bedding was used, indicating that this kind of bedding might interrupt lying bouts – so monitor your horses [1].

Kjellberg et al. discussed one advantage of straw bedding being

that the horse-keeper can see if the horse has been lying down without video recording, and another is that straw has a positive environmental impact, if it is to be included in an ecological cycle” [1].

As you can see in the above study, offering straw outside the lying hall could be a solution to satisfy the horses’ eating requirements. 

Tune in to hear from experts as they discuss the pros and cons of straw bedding for your horse in this insightful episode of “Ask the Vet.”

2. Wood Shavings

Wood shavings present a more absorbent alternative to straw. They offer consistent cushioning and are readily available.

However, the type of wood matters – certain kinds, like black walnut, can be toxic to horses. So, careful selection is a must.

Disposal of used wood shavings can be tricky and aren’t as eco-friendly as straw.

Pros of Wood Shavings:

  • Highly absorbent
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to clean

Cons of Wood Shavings:

  • Can be dusty
  • Some types of wood shavings (e.g., black walnut) can be toxic to horses
  • Not as environmentally friendly as other options

Expert’s Comparison Between Wood and Straw

An equine health expert, Dr. Lydia Gray explains the pros and cons of straw bedding: “Some people think that straw is very– it can be very clean and dust-free.” [2]

However,” she advises, “if you already have a horse that has a respiratory illness, straw maybe is not a good choice...”

This is where Wood bedding comes in.

As researchers Johanssen et al. noted, surprising research shows, “The results indicate that the wood chip treatment resulted in somewhat cleaner animals. [3]

This study compared different types of bedding for their hygienic quality, parasitic load, cleanliness, and lying behavior for 43 days and subsequently switched to other forms for better veracity.

The research poses a downside to wood: this bedding type lacks the “cushioning that straw provides,” which might impact the comfort of the animals.

How to Use Wood Shavings for Optimal Comfort

Spread wood shavings to a depth of at least four inches, ensuring they are evenly distributed.

Avoid using wood shavings from toxic tree species, and choose low-dust options if your horse has respiratory issues.

3. Wood Pellets

Wood pellets, a newer entrant in the bedding market, are made from compressed sawdust, offering superior absorbency and significantly reduced dust levels.

These pellets are easy to store and maintain but aren’t the best for cushioning.

Pros of Wood Pellet Bedding:

  • Highly absorbent
  • Low dust
  • Easy to clean

Cons of Wood Pellet Bedding:

  • It may be more expensive than other options.
  • Harder surface, which may require additional cushioning
  • It can be slippery when wet.

Tips for Using Wood Pellet Bedding

To use wood pellet bedding, spread a layer of pellets and then add water to expand them into a soft, fluffy bedding material.

Top with cushioning material like straw or shavings if necessary.

Clean wet areas daily to prevent slipping.

Dive in as we uncover brilliant hacks for the best, coziest horse bedding in this video”

4. Paper Bed

Paper bedding, made from recycled paper products, is an eco-friendly option for horse owners looking to reduce their environmental impact.

Pros of Paper Bedding:

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Low dust
  • Soft and comfortable

Cons of Paper Bedding:

  • Less absorbent than wood shavings or pellets
  • Can be more expensive
  • May require more frequent changes

How to Use Paper Bedding in Your Stable

Spread a layer of paper bedding at least four inches deep, ensuring even coverage.

Replace soiled areas daily and add fresh bedding as needed.

While paper bedding is a great choice for horses, for smaller pets like guinea pigs, ensuring a dry habitat is essential.

If you own guinea pigs, consider using waterproof cage liners to provide an extra layer of protection beneath the bedding. This will help keep your little furball’s habitat fresh and dry!

5. Peat Moss

Comprised of partially decomposed sphagnum moss, peat moss is by far the most absorbent bedding available, absorbing up to ten times its own weight in moisture.”

writes equine experts equimed.com, a notable resource for equine resources [6].

Peat moss, a product made from decomposed sphagnum moss, is a fantastic eco-friendly choice.

It’s easy to compost, making it a hit among environmentally conscious horse owners.

According to Vet Technician and equine expert Laura Boynton,

Peat moss has a devoted equine following due to its high absorbency and softness. It is reported to add many benefits to compost piles, gardens, and pastures. [5]”

Nonetheless, it’s more expensive than other bedding materials, and the harvesting process is controversial due to the release of CO2.

Pros of Peat Moss Bedding:

  • Highly absorbent
  • Good insulation
  • Biodegradable

Cons of Peat Moss Bedding:

  • Can be difficult to source
  • More expensive than other options
  • Can be dusty

How to Get the Most Out of Peat Moss Bedding

Apply a layer of peat moss at least six inches deep in your horse’s stall. Remove wet and soiled areas daily, and add fresh peat moss as needed.

Be mindful of dust levels and choose a low-dust option if your horse has respiratory issues.

6. Hemp Bedding

Hemp bedding, created from the stalks of industrial hemp plants, is a sustainable and eco-friendly option.

Its highly absorbent and low dust levels make it an excellent choice for horses with respiratory issues.

However, sourcing can be challenging, and it might require additional cushioning.

Pros of Hemp Bedding:

  • Sustainable and eco-friendly
  • Low dust
  • Highly absorbent

Cons of Hemp Bedding:

  • More expensive than other options
  • Can be difficult to source
  • May require additional cushioning

What Experts say

According to hemp researchers Adesina et al., the promising benefits of hemp bedding are that

Hemp cultivation holds significant environmental benefits, including phytoremediation of contaminated soils, bio-sequestration of atmospheric CO2, and biomass for bioenergy production.” [4]

How to Use Hemp Bedding in Your Stable

Spread a layer of hemp bedding at least four inches deep, ensuring even coverage. Remove wet and soiled areas daily and add fresh bedding as needed.

Add a cushioning material like straw or shavings for added comfort if necessary.

Explore the benefits and practical uses of hemp bedding for horses in this video:

7. Rubber Matting

Rubber matting is a durable, easy-to-clean option that provides a stable, non-slip surface.

It’s often combined with other bedding materials, providing a base layer topped with a more comfortable material.

Pros of Rubber Matting:

  • Easy to clean
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Provides a stable, non-slip surface

Cons of Rubber Matting:

  • Not a stand-alone bedding option
  • Can be expensive
  • May require additional cushioning

How to Incorporate Rubber Matting into Your Horse’s Stall

Install rubber mats as a base layer in your horse’s stall, ensuring they fit snugly and cover the entire floor area.

Top with cushioning material like straw, shavings, or pellets for added comfort and absorbency.

Get excited as we delve into the world of rubber matting for stables, exploring its many benefits in this fun and enlightening video!

Here’s a quick summary table of each bedding’s pros and cons.

Type of BeddingProsCons
StrawInexpensive, Biodegradable
Soft and comfortable
Not very absorbent
Can be dusty
Potential for mold growth
Wood Shavings
Highly absorbent
Comfortable, Easy to clean
It can be dusty.
Some types can be toxic
Not as eco-friendly as other options
Wood PelletsHighly absorbent
Low dust
Easy to clean
May be more expensive
Harder surface
Can be slippery when wet
Paper BeddingEnvironmentally friendly
Low dust
Soft and comfortable
Less absorbent
Can be more expensive
May require more frequent changes
Peat MossHighly absorbent
Good insulation
Can be difficult to source
More expensive
Can be dusty
Hemp BeddingSustainable and eco-friendly
Low dust
Highly absorbent
More expensive
Can be difficult to source
May require additional cushioning
Rubber MattingEasy to clean
Durable and long-lasting
Provides a stable, non-slip surface
Not a stand-alone bedding option
Can be expensive
May require additional cushioning

For more horse bedding options, check out this video:

For a comprehensive understanding, I also highly recommend reading “How to Level a Horse Arena” to gain essential knowledge on maintaining optimal conditions for your equestrian facility.

CHECK OUT the next section: Why Do Horses Need Bedding? 3 Remarkable benefits

Why Do Horses Need Bedding? 3 Remarkable Benefits

First off, clean bedding in a horse’s stall excels at absorbing moisture and neutralizing odors from manure and urine.

No one can argue against this: A well-chosen type of stall bedding shields the horse’s hooves and respiratory system from the impacts of these by-products and acts as a buffer between the horse and the hard stall floors.

For more “do’s,” I’ll summarize the 3 main benefits…

Benefit #1: Enhancing Hoof Health

The condition of a horse’s hooves is deeply intertwined with the bedding used.

When hoofs are exposed to excessive moisture or manure, the risk of hoof-related issues such as thrush can increase.

Regularly maintaining the stall’s cleanliness and swapping out soiled bedding with fresh bedding helps control bacterial growth, which can otherwise lead to thrush and similar hoof problems [5].

Also, surplus moisture can negatively alter the keratin structure – the primary protein in the hoof wall.

Employing dry, clean bedding options like straw pellets or pelleted bedding is a suitable strategy to upkeep hoof health, particularly in areas with high humidity.

Benefit #2: Upholding Respiratory Health

Bedding types such as bedding pellets are pivotal in promoting horses’ respiratory health.

Horses naturally excrete urea through urine and feces, which, once exposed to air, can quickly transform into ammonia [3].

This potent, pungent chemical can irritate the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, potentially leading to issues such as inflammatory airway disease or recurrent airway obstruction.

The ideal choice for stall bedding helps absorb ammonia, reducing its irritating effects.

However, certain forms of bedding might increase the amount of particulate matter in the air, posing a risk to horses if the area lacks proper ventilation.

Consequently, it’s advised to opt for low-dust bedding materials, such as cardboard horse bedding or flax bedding, to enhance barn air quality and minimize respiratory concerns.

Benefit #3: Fostering Healthy Sleep Patterns

Contrary to what is commonly believed, horses need to lie down to achieve sufficient REM sleep. Without this, they can face sleep deprivation.

The choice of stall bedding is vital in the duration horses spend lying down.

Studies have indicated that the availability of soft surfaces significantly affects a horse’s propensity to lie down.

Also, straw bedding, among the various popular types of bedding, is reported to have the most significant favorable influence on horse sleep behaviors.

But selecting the right bedding is just the beginning.

Providing deep or deeper bedding layers of any material can further persuade horses to lie down more [1].

To wrap up, carefully selecting and storing bedding, be it traditional straw bedding or modern alternatives like bedding pellets, significantly contributes to a horse’s overall health and welfare.

As a horse parent, your priority should be to create a comfortable and clean environment, making horse bedding options an integral component of responsible equine care.

Next, let’s discuss the factors…

6 Factors to Consider When Choosing Horse Bedding

1. Cost

The cost of bedding materials can vary significantly. While straw is generally the most affordable option, it may not be the best choice for all situations.

Consider your budget when selecting the right type of bedding for your horse.

2. Comfort

Your horse’s comfort should be a top priority when choosing bedding.

Materials like straw and wood shavings offer a soft and cushioned surface, while rubber matting may require additional padding for optimal comfort.

3. Absorbency

The absorbency of bedding materials is crucial in maintaining a clean and healthy stall environment.

Wood pellets and peat moss offer excellent absorbency, while straw and paper bedding may require more frequent changes.

4. Dust and Allergens

Consider a low-dust bedding option like wood pellets or hemp if your horse has respiratory issues.

Regular stall cleaning and proper ventilation can also help minimize dust and allergens.

5. Environmental Impact

Eco-friendly bedding options like paper, hemp, and peat moss can help reduce your stable’s environmental impact.

Consider the sustainability and biodegradability of your chosen bedding material.

6. Ease of Cleaning

Some bedding materials are easier to clean than others.

Wood shavings, pellets, and rubber matting can be relatively easy to maintain, while straw and peat moss may require more effort.

Horse Bedding FAQs

1. Is there a one-size-fits-all solution for horse bedding?

There is no universal answer regarding the types of horse bedding, as each horse and stable has different needs.

2. How often should I change my horse’s bedding?

The frequency of changing your horse’s bedding depends on factors such as the bedding used, the horse’s habits, and the stall’s size.
Generally, you should remove wet and soiled bedding daily and replace it with fresh bedding.

3. Can I mix different types of horse bedding?

Absolutely! Many horse owners find that combining different bedding materials creates a more comfortable and cost-effective solution.
For example, use rubber matting as a base and cover it with wood shavings or straw.

4. Are there any types of horse bedding to avoid?

It’s crucial to avoid using bedding materials that can harm your horse’s respiratory system, such as sawdust or black walnut shavings.
Always research the materials you’re considering using to ensure they’re safe for your horse.

5. How can I reduce dust and allergens in my horse’s stall?

Selecting a low-dust bedding material like wood pellets or hemp can help reduce dust and allergens.
Additionally, proper stall ventilation and regular cleaning can further improve air quality.

6. What should I do with used horse bedding?

Used horse bedding can often be composted, used for gardening, or even donated to local farms. Be sure to check local regulations for disposing of used bedding materials.


Selecting the types of horse bedding can be a rough patch – but now you’ve got all the basics!

With various options available, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of each type to find the perfect fit.

Remember, comfort, absorbency, and sustainability all play a role in making the best choice for your horse and stable.

As an equestrian, I know the importance of getting this decision right, and I encourage you to experiment to find the most suitable combination for your unique situation.

So, as you saddle up for your next ride, take a moment to reflect on your horse’s stall environment. Are you providing the best possible bedding for your equine companion?

What changes could you make to enhance their comfort and well-being? After all, isn’t that what being a responsible horse owner is all about?

brown horse on a barn


1. Pros and Cons of Straw Bedding [Internet]. SmartPak Equine. [cited 2023 May 22]. Available from: https://www.smartpakequine.com/learn-health/video/pros-and-cons-of-straw-bedding

2. Kjellberg L, Yngvesson J, Sassner H, Morgan K. Horses’ Use of Lying Halls and Time Budget in Relation to Available Lying Area. Animals. 2021;11:3214.

3. Adesina I, Bhowmik A, Sharma H, Shahbazi A. A Review on the Current State of Knowledge of Growing Conditions, Agronomic Soil Health Practices and Utilities of Hemp in the United States. Agriculture. 2020;10:129.

4. Johanssen JRE, Sørheim KM, Strøm T, Brunberg EI. Bedding hygiene, cleanliness and lying behaviour for heifers housed on wood chip or straw deep bedding. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A — Animal Science. 2018;68:103–11.

5. Boynton L. Choosing the right bedding for your horse [Internet]. Equine Wellness Magazine. 2022. Available from: https://equinewellnessmagazine.com/bedding-horse/

6. editors equimed. The Pros and Cons of Peat Moss Bedding for Your Horse | Equimed – Horse Health Matters [Internet]. EquiMed. 20AD. Available from: https://equimed.com/news/general/the-pros-and-cons-of-peat-moss-bedding-for-your-horse

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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