Horse bedding: there’s never enough of it, is there? Whether you use shavings or straw, horse bedding always seems to disappear at an alarming rate. It’s frustrating throwing down expensive bedding so your horses can literally destroy it, but there are ways to stretch your bedding and save some money along the way. Using fewer resources, better, to save money? Sign us up, please! Here are some strategies to save horse bedding.
Try a sifter: For the horse who treats his stall like the set of “Twister,” there’s no manure pile too large to be turned into a million tiny fragments. Even when you try to be conservative with how much bedding you remove while seeking out the worst of the manure, the leftover bits turn your horse’s stall a dirty brown and attracts flies. If you feel like you’re stripping your horse’s stall every couple of days, a metal sifter can help without too much extra effort. Lean the sifter against the wall at an angle and toss dirty bedding into it. Scrape your manure fork up and down a few times to shake the bedding through the sifter, and you’ll be left with most of those tiny broken pieces of manure, which you can then toss directly from the sifter into your muck tub or wheelbarrow.
Use gravity: Even if you don’t need a sifter, you can still let gravity help you find hidden messes and remove some of the extra debris in the stall. Use a “clearing the floor” approach, in which you toss all of the bedding against the stall walls. You’ll form some piles of clean bedding with the manure rolling out towards the bottom, where you can scoop it up and throw it away. Just be careful to find the wet spots before you throw the wet bedding against the wall — it’s not quite as easy to clean up that way! At the end, you should have a bare floor with your clean bedding against the wall, leaving nothing wet or hidden. For extra efficiency, just throw the manure and soiled bedding towards the front of the stall, then scoop it up with a shovel after the stall is finished.
This is also a great opportunity to air out stalls while the horses are outside, and to put down a deodorizer or drying agent on wet spots. This way, you won’t be putting clean bedding on top of a wet, smelly base.
Buy the right bedding: There are lots of “hacks” for buying cheaper bedding, especially if you use wood shavings, but is it the right tool for the job? Non-absorbent, poorly dried, or badly-cut shavings could end up costing you more in the long run. While it can be tempting to get cheap shavings from factories or carpenters, consider the quality of the shavings for the job at hand. The best shavings which will last you the longest will be kiln-dried and free of potential allergens, such as cedar. Splintery shavings leftover from production of low-quality wooden projects, such as pallets, just don’t last as long as purpose-made shavings for horse bedding.
Of course, you might be ready to move on from shavings or straw and into wood pellets or any number of newer bedding styles. Do your homework on these as well, making sure you use them as the manufacturer suggests for the most efficient experience. You might even find your region has some interesting local alternatives to traditional bedding, such as rice hulls or wheat by-products.
Bonus: Turn out. The simplest way to save on horse bedding? Turn your horse out! While everyone has their own reasons for stabling their horses, it’s always a good idea to revisit your turn-out plans periodically and determine if there’s a way your horse can spend more time outside. Whether it’s improvements to fencing, pasture rotation, or drainage, any added turn-out time doesn’t just benefit your bedding budget, it benefits your horse both mentally and physically.