Common Horse Bedding Options

Sift through these bedding choices that will absorb moisture and give your horses a soft place to sleep.

A Place to Rest

Bedding serves two functions: It creates a soft place for horses to lie down and rest. Additionally, it absorbs urine and helps control odor. Bedding options vary by region and can have an impact on your horse’s health.

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Straw Bedding

Straw, the byproduct of grain production, is economical horse bedding. While it’s not as absorbent as other options, straw is often recommended for foaling stalls because it won’t stick to wet newborns.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Stall Mats

Stall mats make for easy cleanup, create cushion, and cut down on the amount of bedding a stall requires.

Photo: Arnd Bronkhorst/

Wood Shavings

Shavings are often specifically produced and packaged as animal bedding. The particles are typically larger than sawdust, making them a less irritating or dusty bedding option.

Photo: Pam MacKenzie


Sawdust is a lumber mill byproduct, which makes it widely available and relatively inexpensive. It's often made up of fine particles that produce dust, which can cause eye issues and exacerbate respiratory conditions.

Photo: Pam MacKenzie

Black Walnut Warning

Black walnut wood chips are highly toxic to horses, and simply standing on them can cause a horse to founder. To protect your horses, make sure any wood shavings or sawdust bedding sources do not include black walnut.


Pelleted Bedding

Pelleted horse bedding is made of compressed wood or wheat product that expands when exposed to moisture. Usually sold in 50-pound bags, pellets are easy to store.

Photo: Pam MacKenzie


Free-choice hay can double as a bedding material. Although, rising hay prices make it an expensive option: Experts estimate horses waste an estimated 20% of hay when free fed.


Peat Moss

Peat moss makes stall mucking easy and is a good addition to composting systems for manure management.

Photo: Paul Goodman

Shredded Paper

Reused shredded paper from reputable sources offers an economical, low-dust, and highly absorbent bedding option. However, beware the transfer of ink from the paper to light colored horses.

Photo: Arnd Bronkhorst/

No Bedding

Horses kept in turnout with soft places to bed down might not need bedding, especially if loafing sheds are used only for eating and shelter from the weather rather than recumbent rest.


Bedding Additives

Additives used with bedding can reduce harmful odors and ammonia, which are associated with respiratory disease in stabled horses.