Double Bedding System

Although there are many types of horse bedding (e.g. straw, wood pellets, sawdust), none of them are perfect. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages (See Horse Bedding for a comparison.). Having experimented with all the main types of bedding and found none of them ideal, we've developed the 'double bedding' system.

The idea of the double bedding system is to combine two types of bedding, first putting down a layer of one type of bedding (e.g. wood pellets), then covering it with another type of bedding (e.g. straw). The purpose of this is that one advantages of one layer offset the disadvantages of the other.

This can best be illustrated by an example. Straw provides excellent 'cushioning' (making it very comfortable for horses to lie on), but has poor urine absorption (leading to wet patches; also leading to high ammonia levels in unventilated stalls). On the other hand, wood pellets have good urine absorption, but can be uncomfortable to lay on. By using two layers, one gets all the advantages (comfortable and good urine absorption) without the disadvantages.

This approach may initially appear more expensive or more work than the traditional method of using only one type of bedding. In fact, the double bedding system tends to be both cheaper and less work. One can understand this by considering the above example in more detail:

  •  Instead of putting down a thick layer of one material (e.g. straw), one puts down a thin layer of wood pellets, with a thin layer of straw on top. So the total amount of bedding isn't actually more.
  • If using just straw for the bedding, the poor urine absorption means that the urine tends to soil are large amount of straw. With a typical horse, one ends up removing most or all of the straw each day. With the dual bedding system, the urine passes through the straw and is quickly absorbed by the wood pellets. As a small amount of wood pellets can absorb a large amount of urine, this means that the urine is confined to a small area and a small amount of bedding.  Consequently rather than removing a large amount of bedding, one easily and quickly removes a small amount of bedding. This results in substantial savings in terms of the amount of soiled bedding to be removed, the amount of soiled bedding to be stored, the amount of clean bedding to be put in, and the labour for each of these activities.
  • Likewise, using just wood pellets for the bedding can be more expensive and more work than the dual bedding system described above. For example, the manufacturers of wood pellet bedding recognise that they are uncomfortable if used on their own and consequently recommend that they are lightly sprayed with water, causing the pellets to expand and soften. Unfortunately, this means that they lose some of their absorption capacity and also it is extra work. By using less pellets but putting a thin layer of straw on top, one retains the full capacity of the pellets and consequently reduces pellet consumption (saving money and time).

There are a number of different combinations that one can use in the double bedding system. Which one is most suitable for you will depend in part on which types of bedding are locally available and their relative prices. There are two main guidelines to this system:

  • Complimentary Materials. One should use two different types of bedding, where the advantages on the one type offset the advantages of the other. In the above example, the straw provides the comfort which wood pellets lack, while the wood pellets provide the high urine absorption which the straw lacks. Using two types of bedding which have similar qualities will not achieve the same benefits.
  • Order. The material which provides high absorption should be on the bottom, while the material which provides comfort should be on the top. For example, a layer of straw over wood pellets works well, but a layer of wood pellets over straw doesn't.



The double bedding system has been around for some time. In fact, a number of bedding manufacturers suggest using it. Unfortunately, this has not been very successful, because the manufacturers typically propose their products and their products are generally related. For example, one manufacturer suggests using a combination of wood chips and wood pellets. As these products are not 'complimentary' (see above discussion), this approach provides little benefit.

The approach we've developed is different in that it is based on complementary bedding materials, so that the advantages of one layer offsets the disadvantages of the other. In our experience, this approach is for more effective and generally less expensive.