Horse Bedding: Sand

Recommendation: An inexpensive, but low quality bedding. See Horse Bedding for a comparison to other options.

Summary:

Attribute Rating
Urine Absorption Poor
Ammonia & Odour Control Poor
Coat Feces No
Waste Low (small amount of soiled bedding)
Labour Low (relatively Lowlabour required)
Cost Low
Physical Health Poor
Mental Comfort Poor

 

Explanation

Sand can be used for horse bedding over either a solid floor (e.g. concrete) or over a permeable floor (e.g. gravel or beaten earth). In both cases, the benefits are cost (sand is relatively cheap), low waste (a small amount of bedding to be removed) and low labour (feces and soiled sand easily and quickly removed).

Unfortunately, the disadvantages are substantial:

  • The urine is not absorbed into the sand but rather stays as a liquid suspended between sand particles. Bacteria are able to break down this urine, releasing ammonia and unpleasant odours.
  • The bedding is uncomfortable for horses to lie on (although better than a bare hard surface), provides almost no mental stimulation, and the high levels of ammonia are unhealthy unless the stall is well ventilated. Consequently, it is neither physically or mentally comfortable.
  • Since the urine remains suspended in the sand rather than absorbed, and feces remain lying on top of the sand, if a horse lays down its coat is easily soiled in urine and feces.

Over the short term, sand on a permeable floor (e.g. beaten earth or gravel) works better as the urine can drain off. However, over the longer term, the urine tends to build up under the bedding (e.g. in the earth) and ammonia becomes an issue. To avoid this, one needs high quality drainage (e.g. deep gravel, over non-clay soil).

One should never feed horses or put edible items in a stall with sand bedding. This is because some food tends to fall on the floor and when the horse eats it, they ingest sand at the same time. Such ingested sand can lead to colic, a condition which is sufficiently common that it has a special term 'sand colic'. Horses which have low levels of fiber in their diet (e.g. fed musli or grain rather they grass and hay) are more prone to sand colic and other digestive issues if they ingest sand.

One should also use a type of sand (e.g. river sand) which is low in dust, to avoid respiratory issues.