Wood Shavings? Another Reason Not to Stable Your Horse
Wood Shavings for our horse bedding, is this the best choice?
For those of you that know me, or have read any of my articles, you will know that I try and create an environment for all my animals that can mimic their natural environment as closely as possible.
With horses this means if possible, 24 hour turn out with appropriate shelter. Some of us either believe that this may be too harsh for horses or we simply cannot do it for other reasons.
What does your Horse Want?
In the almost three decades of working with horses, I’ve given them the choice of either in or out many times, and they ALWAYS choose to be out and free!
I’ve done many experiments in this area to see what the preference is, and everything in the horse’s instincts says stay out in an open area. If you see horses anxiously pacing to come in, this is because they get fed indoors. This is a hunger response, not a desire to stay indoors.
Please remember, horses need to graze and roam for almost 20 hours out of the day. This is very difficult to give the horses, through indoor boarding.
Horses naturally require hundreds of kilometers of walking and movement daily. They are prey animals and actually only sleep approximately 3 hours per day, rarely at night as most predators could be hunting them at that time.
If you were to put a camera into a stall and watch your horse you’d find that there is a lot of pacing and boredom. This is particularly cruel if we don’t feed our horses grass hay free choice. Horses need to eat roughage for 14-17 hours a day so most of the time they also go hungry.
If your horse puts on weight with very little food, then you don’t have an easy keeper, you have a horse with metabolic issues and it’s time to look into your horse’s health.
What if I Must Board Indoors?
If you must board your horse indoors, I cannot stress enough that you must have excellent quality bedding.
The most popular media to use are wood shavings, straw and then there are a few alternatives such as recycled newspaper type products and peat moss. Out of all of these, the most popular is still wood shavings. If you are going to choose wood shavings choose large pieces not the ones that are ground to a fine dust. And even if the shavings are large, you will still have plenty of dust to contend with.
Does it Really Effect my Horse?
I just want to remind you that the horse’s face and nose will be fully planted in the shavings. I want you to try placing a handful of wood shavings in the palm of your hand and putting your nose directly into it, you’ll soon find out that every breath you take, you inhale copious amounts of dust. This is what your horse has to breathe for several hours daily, mix in some urine and manure and we really should not wonder why so many of our horses have serious respiratory issues. This is especially true for horses with allergies, COPD (heaves) and other related lung problems. Horses with COPD need to be outside, period.
What can we do?
I know sometimes we have little choice on where and how our horses are kept, but the more we know the more we can do, even if it is extra work on our own part.
Remember, no one will take care of your horse with so much attention and affection as you would.
Most boarding facilities have many horses to take care of so time and often money is a factor, even if you are paying good money to have your horse taken care of. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be actively helping in the care of that horse (whether the boarding facility appreciates this gesture or not).
Take the time to visit your horse daily if possible. Even if your boarding facility is 1 hour away (as was in my case for many years), we often make too many excuses that there is no time. If you aren’t looking after your horses’ best interest, who is?
Now back to the wood shavings… if you must use them always, always, always wet them down. Yes shavings will be a bit damp, but that is far better than loose dust. Yes the shavings do dry out, so they have to be re-moistened. If it sounds like more work, it is… just another reason to keep our equine friends where god intended them to be, outside.