Horse Bedding: Straw

Recommendation: Suitable for most boxes and horses. See Horse Bedding for a comparison to other options.

Summary:

Attribute Rating
Urine Absorption Average
Ammonia & Odour Control Average
Coat Feces No
Waste High (large amount of soiled bedding)
Labour High (relatively high labour required)
Cost Medium
Physical Health Good
Mental Comfort Good

 

Explanation:

Straw is the traditional bedding for horses, partly because it provides quality bedding and partly because historically it was a cheap by-product of grain production. It's advantages include:

  • It is very comfortable for horses, both physically and mentally.
  • In many areas, it is cheaper than many of the alternatives.
  • It is also a safe type of bedding, except for the usual general bedding issues.

The main issue with straw is that it's urine absorption is not as good as some of the new bedding products (such as wood pellets). Straw does not absorb urine as well (in terms of speed and volume), so the urine tends to spread out and soil a larger area of bedding. This means that the stalls tend to be less clean, require more work to remove a larger quantity of bedding and require more bedding material to backfill. 

The poor urine absorbtion also means that bacteria have more opportunity to break down the urine, releasing ammonia and unpleasant smells. This is a particular issue if the stall is inadequately ventilated.

Straw can be made from the stems of barley, oat, rye or wheat. The four types of straw are much the same, with two exceptions:

  • Oat straw is about a quarter more absorbent than the other 3 types.
  • Rye straw typically has some rye seed husks still attached. If a horse eats the straw (and most horses will), the seed husks can cause choking.