There are many different types of bedding on the market, for instance straw, Aubiose (hemp), wood shavings, AquaMax or MegaSorb (both made of wood pulp). Which one do you use and why?
There are several reasons why straw as bedding in the stable is a favourite one:
- Straw means extra structure in the feed
- Chewing is healthy
- Straw prevents boredom in the stable
- Old bedding breaks down quickly and can be use on the fields
- Structure in the feed
- The digestive system of your horse is designed to digest structure-rich feed. Structure means fibres and these fibres keep the guts working. Straw contains very little energy and a lot of structure. Your horse has to chew it properly and it prevents boredom.
Chewing is healthy
When the horse chews, it produces saliva which is good for the stomach and the digestion. The ideal ‘chewing gum’.
Boredom in the stable
Research shows that a horse in a stable with straw bedding keeps busy for 13 hours a day. The same horse in a stable with shavings has nothing to do anymore after 3 hours. Then the boredom starts.
Old straw bedding is better for the soil
The old straw bedding changes into compost a lot quicker than old bedding of wood shavings. It is also better for the soil structure of your fields. That is why it easier to get rid of straw muckheap than a shavings muckheap.
If straw is not suitable for your horse
There are horse you can’t put on straw. They eat their bed completely, are allergic to dust or are susceptible to colic caused by blocking the guts. If your horse eats a lot of his bed you could check if you use barley or wheat straw. Straw from wheat is less palatable. You could also try to spray the bedding with soapy water.
If your horse is not standing on straw, you need to take this into account in your roughage feed management.
A few tips:
- Feed more roughage; look for structure-rich hay or haylage with low energy content. Hay from a late cut and poor fields has large stems and is low in energy. You can feed a lot of that to your horse without increasing his weight.
- Feed roughage often: 3 or even 4 times a day a portion of roughage is ideal. Give the last portion of the day as late as possible to keep your horse busy during the night.
- Every now and then give a section of straw to your horse. Your horse will appreciate that and he can chew on the straw for a long time.
- Very Important: At each mealtime, give the roughage first and only half an hour later the hard feed. This way, your horse starts with chewing and the production of saliva and the guts are being filled. By offering roughage first, the hard feed is digested a lot better. You also reduce the initial hunger, so your horse will eat it’s hard feed slower.