Horse Bedding: Wood Shavings

Recommendation: A quality bedding material, provided you obtain shavings that are not dusty and are not made from poisonous woods. See Horse Bedding for a comparison to other options.

Summary:

Attribute Rating
Urine Absorption Good
Ammonia & Odour Control Good
Coat Feces Yes
Waste Low (small amount of soiled bedding)
Labour Low (relatively small amount of labour required)
Cost Medium
Physical Health Average
Mental Comfort Average

 Details:

Wood shavings absorb urine better than straw, but not as well as some of the more modern bedding types (e.g. wood pellets). Overall, their performance in this area is good, but not excellent. As ammonia and odour control are strongly linked to urine absorption, their rating in these areas is 'good' as well.

Wood shavings tend to coat feces, resulting not only in a somewhat cleaner stable, but also greatly reducing smearing on a horse's coat when it lies down.

A small amount of wood shavings can absorb well the daily urine and feces from a horse, so it is normally neccessary to muck out only affected areas rather than the entire stall. This means that the amount of soiled bedding produced is low and the amount of work required for mucking out (and back-filling) is also correspondingly low.

Wood shavings can either be purchased from specialist bedding providers (in which case they will typically be bagged) or from a sawmill (in which case they are usually loose). Shavings purchased for a sawmill are generally much cheaper, but have two potential issues:

  • Dust. Wood shavings from sawmills are usually very dusty, which can cause respiratory illnesses (see general issues). With wood shavings from specialist bedding providers, almost all the dust has been removed.
  • Fungus and Bacteria. Wood products may contain fungus or bacteria which is harmful to horses. If obtaining shavings from a sawmill, ensure that they are freshly produced and have been under shelter (to prevent wetness and subsequent rot). Avoid shavings which have been made from dead wood.
  • Poisonous Wood. There are a number of woods (e.g. black walnut) which are poisonous to horses. In addition, some of the wood being cut may have been chemically treated, making it unsuitable for bedding. Make sure that the sawmill knows that you are using the shavings for horse bedding and that they contain nothing but untreated white softwoods.

Although wood shavings from bedding specialists are relatively expensive (by weight or volume), this cost is largely offset by the fact that a much small quantity is required than for cheaper alternatives (e.g. straw), giving them a typical overall cost of 'average' when compared to other bedding types.

A good layer of wood shavings provides a safe and comfortable bed for horses. It also forms an irregular surface which provides some mental stimulation for horses.