Last updated: July 24, 2023
I backed up our trailer to the barn door and began unloading pine shavings for the horse stalls. While working that morning with my son, we talked about ways to improve our shavings management while maintaining high-quality bedding for the horses. Our top option is bedding pellets.
Pelletized bedding for horses is a highly absorbent product that is compressed into pellets and treated with high heat that sterilizes the bedding from insects and microorganisms. They are produced from wood biomass such as sawdust, wood chips, and forest residues.
Are you looking to change your horse’s bedding to something healthier that will save you time and money in the long run? If so, this article is for you; I will go over the ins and outs of pellet bedding for horses.
What is Pelletized Bedding?
Pelletized bedding is a relatively new concept that can be produced from different materials, which include wood, straw, and peat, to name a few. Pelletized bedding for horses is often made of pine or straw that is dehydrated, compressed, heated, treated, and sterilized.
It is also screened for dust and contaminants to improve air quality in stalls and barns. This form of bedding is made of small cylindrical-shaped pellets that are broken at the ends. They range from 5mm to 40mm in length with a maximum diameter of 25mm.
What are the Benefits of Bedding Pellets for Horse Stalls?
Pelletized bedding provides many benefits that positively affect the horse and you. Here are some benefits of utilizing pelletized bedding:
- Reduced dust
- Storage Saver
- Biodegradable and compostable
- Decrease in waste removal
- Odor control
- Lasts longer
Pelletized bedding will help keep stalls drier, creating a healthier environment for the horse. It absorbs moisture better than other types of bedding; pellet bedding can absorb up to three times its weight.
This is important because horse stalls need to be kept dry in order to prevent the spread of disease, keep horses’ hooves healthy, and reduce the amount of dust.
Pelletized bedding is less dusty than most other types of bedding. This is important because dust can irritate a horse’s respiratory system and cause health problems. Pellets are less likely to kick up dust, making them a better option for horses with respiratory issues.
Watch this YouTube video if you’ve never used wood pellets for horse stalls.
The manufacturing process puts the material through a kiln-drying and high-temperature treatment that will kill bugs generally found in sawdust and straw bedding. This process makes this bedding much more hygienic, especially for lactating mares and foals.
Because these are wood by-products compressed into small cylindrical pellets, they can save you storage space. For example, one bag of 40lb pellets equals two and a half bales of wood shavings, so you need much less space to store your bedding. Plus, the bags are waterproof, so you can store them outside and decrease the need for indoor storage space.
Biodegradable And Compostable
Because sawdust and straw take a long time to decompose, your compost heap grows, demanding more and more space. Bedding pellets return to their fiber state and can easily break down from their current form.
Decrease In Waste Removal
Removing waste is much easier. For example, instead of removing half the bedding with your shovel of poo, you can scoop up the poo and discard it while the bedding remains in the stall. Then, the bedding can be adequately mixed through again for the fibers to absorb excess urine.
Wet patches can easily be seen, and you can remove excess moist areas without turning the whole bedding upside down.
Bedding pellets are excellent for odor control as it has a natural agent that helps neutralize and remove the ammonia smells from the urine.
Bedding pellets also last longer than other types of bedding. Thanks to the high absorbency of the pellets and reduced wastage when mucking out stables, you’ll find that your bedding goes further. Most manufacturers recommend topping up with one bag every seven to ten days.
We all know how expensive horses can be, so finding something that is cost-effective makes it that much more appealing. In the long run, using bedding pellets will save you money on the amount of bedding you use, the removal and disposal of the waste heaps, and the storage space you need.
Then there is the time you save mucking up the stables. Cleaning stalls with pelletized shavings and mixing the bedding to fluff it up is quick and easy. Which makes it great when you have a lot of stalls to clean and are pressed for time.
Common Mistakes People Make Using Pelletized Bedding.
Pelletized bedding is generally simple and easy to use, so if you find that it doesn’t do the trick, you are probably using it wrong. One common mistake people make when using pelletized bedding is not wetting the pellets when they apply them in the stables.
You should cut the bag and pour half a bucket of water in or mist the bedding with a hose pipe in the stable. The pellets must be sprayed or watered to fluff out and create highly absorbent bedding.
Throwing pellets in the stable and expecting them to have the same effect is a waste of money. Using too much water is another common mistake, creating a soggy mess. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions on how much water you should use per bag and how to apply it.
One common mistake is due to habit and how mucking out used to be done. Because of how the bedding pellets work, wet spots are drawn down to the bottom, leaving the top layers dry. There is no need to remove wet areas every day.
Just use a pitchfork and fluff the bedding to allow the rest to absorb the wet spots. Another common mistake is that some people use a cheaper pellet intended for stove burning.
They may look the same at a lower price, but these pellets have not gone through the same process as pelletized horse bedding to remove contaminants and dust.
What are Other Good Stall Bedding Options?
Although bedding pellets have become more popular, some places are still restricted with stock and delivery. Here are some other good stall bedding options that you can use.
Wood shavings are the most common bedding. It’s still very absorbent and provides a soft cushion bedding for horses to lay on. Like any other product, there are pros and cons.
For example, good-quality shavings are soft and absorbent in contrast to the hard, low-quality shavings that can be bought. In addition, some wood shavings are dusty, which is a problem for sensitive horses with respiratory issues, but it depends on the quality and where you purchase it.
You can purchase shavings in bags that are easy to store or buy in bulk. We have two good sources for buying bulk wood shavings: a cabinet manufacturing company and a sawmill.
If you go this route, you need a dry place to store your bedding in a covered trailer. We park our shavings trailer near the barn and cover it with a tarp.
This method isn’t as easy as using bales of shavings; it requires loading a wheelbarrow, pushing it to each stall, and returning for another load vs. carrying bales to the stalls and opening them.
There is always a good bit of waste between hauling it back from the mill and unloading it from the trailer. If you only have a few horses, I recommend buying bedding in bales.
Paper products are another excellent alternative for horse bedding. It’s made from recycled paper that is shredded into thin strips. They usually come in compressed bags that are great for storage and provide excellent absorbency with little dust.
Unfortunately, you’ll need a lot of paper to make a soft bed as it compacts easily. And since it is recycled, there might be ink on the shredded paper, which could rub off on lighter-colored horses.
Peat moss may be one you have never considered. Still, it can make excellent horse bedding, with some drawbacks like any other product.
It’s dust free and highly absorbent, with the ability to absorb ten times its moisture. It provides soft cushiony bedding that is especially beneficial to older horses or horses with joint and bone problems. At the same time, it prevents odors and gives your barn a fresh forest smell.
However, the downside is that we are accustomed to seeing the warm light colors of golden sawdust. Peat moss is dark and can also impart some earthy colors to your horse’s coat, which is not the best for those show horses.
Bedding pellets may be a foreign concept, and the fact that it needs to be sprayed with water may go against everything we previously knew. But it is an excellent alternative for horses suffering from respiratory tract diseases. So it’s worth trying it out, giving it the benefit of the doubt, and making your own conclusions about what is best for your horse.
How many bags of pellet bedding do I need for a horse stall?
You will need 6-8 bags of pellet bedding for a standard 12×12 horse stall. The amount you need may vary depending on the type of pellet bedding and the absorbency of the pellets. For example, some brands of pellets are more compact than others, so you may need less bedding for the same-sized stall.
What is the most cost-effective bedding for horses?
Wood shavings aren’t the cheapest, but it’s the most cost-effective when bought in bulk. Straw is the winner if you’re looking for the cheapest horse stall bedding. However, it’s not as sanitary as other bedding options and is difficult to work with.
Meet Miles Henry
An avid equestrian and seasoned racehorse owner, Miles Henry brings his extensive experience to the equine world, proudly associating with the AQHA, The Jockey Club, and various other equine organizations. Beyond the racetrack, Miles is an accomplished author, having published various books about horses, and is a recognized authority in the field, with his work cited in multiple publications.
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