Bedding for Better Breathing


     Beddings of all types have the potential to be dusty" And dust can trigger chronic breathing problems, such as equine asthma (also called heaves). So, what is the best bedding fora horse with a respiratory condition? None at all, because those horses are best kept out of stalls entirely. The number one recommendation from veterinarians is to keep horses prone to heaves outdoors continually, in the fresh air and well away from all dusts and particulates associated with an indoor barn environment. And the recommendation works. Numerous studies have confirmed that living in a pasture is far better for heavey horses than indoor with any type of bedding, forage or intense management. The notable exception is horses with pasture heaves, who are triggered by molds, but these are a minority of cases in very specific, humid Southern locales.

     Of course, if a horse with breathing troubles must be kept indoors for any period say, to recover from a serious injury-you’ll want a bedding that is as dust

free as possible. If you can see any lingering dust in a Sunbeam after you bed the

still, the material is too dusty for a horse with respiratory troubles, you might have to purchase very expensive, high-quality shavings or straw for just that specific horse or import bedding that is otherwise hard to find in your area. Your veterinarian can help you Iocate a suitable bedding. The effort and expense will be worth it to protect your horse’s respiratory health while the rest of him heals.

     Wood-based beddings tend to perform well. Wood products have a fairwater

holding capacity, maybe a little better than straw, but this depends on how finely

it is processed. Sawdust will absorb more than shavings because it has more surface area than shavings. While more absorbent, sawdust is dustier

than shavings, which can lead to or exacerbate respiratory problems. And certain woods can also be downright harmful to horses.  You must be careful with some wood products because horses may react negatively to them. Some of the cedars have a lot of oil and these can cause allergic reactions or be too drying- pulling moisture from hoof horn when horses are standing in these shavings. You need to try some of these in small amounts first to see if they will work or not for a certain horse. 

     One wood that is dangerous for every horse is black walnut, which can trigger laminitis in a horse who stands on it for even a short period of time.      ``You need to be aware of the source [of wood products] and be careful that there’s no black walnut in the material. Some people want to know how much black walnut would be safe, and the answer is zero. While sawdust and shavings

are the most popular wood bedding products, pellets are also an option says Jenifer Nadeau, PhD, an equine extension specialist at the University of Connecticut, who states that for a while in her area, some horse owners were using wood pellets and liked them because they are very absorbent, “but now

they are much more expensive since they have become popular for heating homes in pellet stoves.’’

     Horse owners like pellets because you can get away with less material. After they get moist and start to expand, you end up with more volume. A shovelful of pellets might tum into two and a half shovelfuls of expanded pellets. Some people put down a few pellets and sprinkle them with a little water, so they’ll expand. They don’t get the pellets very wet, so they will still absorb moisture from urine and manure in the stall. There may be differences

in various pellets, in terms of hardwood or softwoods. “Some of the pellets used in heating stoves may be hardwood whereas most of the bedding pellets tend to be a softwood, but for bedding you can use either. It is important, however, to know the source, and the kind of wood, to make sure you never end up with any black walnut wood.

     How much wood product beddings cost depends on many factors, including

wider economic activity in your area. When there is a lot of construction/building

going on, there are more wood products available and prices are lower because

they are produced in higher quantities. When construction is down, they become

higher priced and harder to find.