Small Farm Makeover

Bedding Selection Criteria

Bedding Selection Criteria
Alayne Blickle

Nine Points for Choosing the Best Bed for Your Horse

By Alayne Blickle


Photo credit Alayne Blickle

The primary reason for using bedding should be to absorb urine and moisture. Unless a horse is confined strictly to a stall, using less bedding will save chore time and money. Plus, it means less material for you to deal with in the compost pile.

When selecting bedding material, here are nine things to consider.

Safe for Horses

There should be no contamination with foreign objects like metal or glass and no toxic properties. Some trees like black walnut and black locust are poisonous to horses. Never use wood chips from these trees. If you have concerns check with your veterinarian.


The primary purpose for bedding is to absorb urine and moisture. The more absorbent a bedding is, the lower the levels of ammonia will be in your barn. A very absorbent bedding will allow you to reduce the amount of bedding you use, thus saving money.

Easy to Compost

Consider how well the material composts. If you plan to use the final product on your property, or even if you plan to give it or haul it away, what’s in your stall waste may either deter or encourage folks, and may or may not be good for the garden.


Is the bedding supplier a readily available source?

Easy to Store

How do you store it—bagged, loose, baled? Do you need a dedicated space? How much space is needed and where? Inside or outside? Do you need to have a space built to specific dimensions to accommodate a delivery vehicle? Many beddings are now available bagged. With the simple addition of a tarp or other similar material, they can be stored outside—a space-savings bonus.

Low Dust

It is never healthy for horses or humans to be breathing dust or other small particles, but if you have a family member or a horse with respiratory issues this will be a major concern.

Chore Efficient

Is it easy to handle the material to put into stalls as well as pick manure from it? Even if you pay someone else to clean your stalls this can affect you by costing you more if it takes them longer to clean.


Consider whether the product you are choosing has environmental impacts. Peat (sphagnum moss) is a type of plant cultivated from bogs in Canada. The jury’s still out on whether it’s considered a renewable resource since it can take hundreds of years (or more!) for these plants to grow.


Evaluate whether the product is cost-effective.

Join Alayne Blickle at these upcoming Horses for Clean Water events:

Boise, ID

Idaho Botanical Gardens

Wednesday, April 11, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

Horse Pasture Management – Growing Great Horse Pastures & Controlling Weeds


Molalla, OR

All Day Workshop: Pasture Management, Horse Healthy & Track Paddocks

Plus! Firewise for Horse Owners – or 503-210-6002


Join Alayne Blickle in these virtual, live programs which are fun and informative.

Monday evenings, 6 – 7 PM, Pacific Time. Register at Horses for Clean or

May 7, Least Toxic Pest Control

May 14, Firewise for Horse Owners


Published April 2018 Issue

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Small Farm Makeover
Alayne Blickle

Alayne Blickle, a life-long equestrian and educator, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, nationally acclaimed environmental education program that “wrote the book” on caring for horses and land. Known for her enthusiastic, fun and down-to-earth approach, she is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horses and livestock owners for over 20 years. Alayne teaches and travels throughout North America and abroad, and also runs Sweet Pepper Ranch, an eco-sensitive guest ranch and horse motel in Southwestern Idaho where she and her husband raise top-notch reining horses and beautiful grass hay. For more information contact Alayne at or 206-909-0225.

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