There are a lot of reasons to choose chemical free, sustainable materials for you horses’ stall bedding. Stalled horses often suffer from respiratory ailments just like their humans. So if you or your horse has allergies or COPD, then you want to choose bedding that is as non-smelly and dust free as possible.
Okay, most of us in the old USA use some sort of wood shaving. Since wood chips are obviously biodegradable, how can you become even more eco-friendly? Well, first, not all wood shavings are equal and it is VERY important to consider their Source. Secondly, even wood shavings have been improved upon by the manufacture of pellets. And finally there are alternatives to wood, but you might have to do some digging since most are more easily found in Europe or even Canada; but gradually, here in the States there are companies offering eco-alternative choices.
To be truly eco-friendly, it would be helpful if the company bears Certification such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (controversial as it may be) or its more widely accepted cousin, the Forest Stewardship Council, or from a local State Forest Management agency. Only then can you know the wood is either actually being harvested in a responsible manner, is pre or post consumer recycled content, is from a certified forest, or fiber sourced from non-controversial sources.
Because bedding is usually purchased locally, it is not possible for me to try and list every place selling sustainable shavings. Check in your local area for shavings being milled in conjunction with a credited forest managing agency.
Here are some stand out companies offering truly Eco-friendly Wood Shavings:
High Country Wood – located in Colorado, pine trees on this Ranch land were affected by the invading Pine beetle. Left with thousands of standing dead trees that had to be logged, they started their own recycling plant producing horse bedding. Eco-friendly, they process with Citronella to make their superior shavings.
Sundown Products – in the U.K. The wood in these shavings comes from well-managed forests independently certified in accordance with the rules of the Forestry Stewardship Council. When we use FSC certified wood we support better forest management worldwide. Also manufacturers of RapeSeed Straw bedding.
If you live in the Northwest USA, you probably know about the Juniper tree projects. Considered a ‘pest’, invading juniper is blamed for drinking up water and drying springs needed for animal and natural habitats. State and local governments programs are targeting the removal of these trees. Resourceful individuals are now making juniper wood products, including horse shavings. This makes juniper shavings eco-friendly since it is made from a wood marked for disposal.
If you live in the New Jersey area, Gateway Pine has partnered with the Audubon Society to ensure their wood comes from responsibly managed local forests.
Easibed – U.K. Recycled white pine; approved by Organic Farmers and Growers Association.
Alternative to the softwoods there are more sustainable products such as Kenaf, Recycled cardboard or paper, Peat Moss, Straws and straw pellets made from renewable grains like Hemp, Rapeseed (or Canola) and Flax.
Rice Hulls – I debated with myself if this one should be on the list or not because I would not choose to use it. But, it is an option so it deserves mentioning. PermaStall offers this widely grown and completely renewable resource. Please do your research on this before choosing this option.
Cardboard great for human or horse with allergies or COPD; cost-effective; highly absorbent; comfortable; clean; safe and virtually Fragrance Free: currently I only found Ovation to offer this product so it must not have gone over so well from when first published this blog.
Biodegradable paper bedding manufactured from recycled paper cores and tubes, not newspapers – Envirobed
Pelleted wheat straw The only company I found is Oxbow, which as far as I can tell only makes this for small pets) absorbs 4 to 5 times its own weight.
Hemp Straw: – having been used in France and Europe for some time now, hemp is becoming more available in the U.S. and Canada. It is a renewable resource, grown without pesticides and chemical free. Emerson Hemp and Hemp Chips
Kenaf (similar to jute) works differently than wood shavings or straw. Urine passes through the top layers and is absorbed by the bottom layer. This leaves a dry top layer. Buy from Nafcore.
Stall Cleaning / Odor Control
Since we have been talking about stall bedding, let’s talk about keeping that bedding clean and controlling odors. Of course there is no substitute for regular maintenance. Stalls need to be cleaned at a minimum, daily. Twice a day cleaning is even better. But if you don’t have an army of helpers to clean for you, or even if you do, chances are you are only cleaning once/day. In spite of regular cleaning, after time it is inevitable for urine to permeate rubber mats or whatever ground your horses are standing upon.
Urine is not just causing an annoying odor, it can be hazardous to both your health and to your horses who are constantly breathing it in. This is because breathing the ammonia in urine is toxic, causing airway inflammation and mucus. In turn a constricted airway causes shortness of breath, fatigue and low energy. Low oxygen levels necessitate the heart to work harder, increasing heart rate. You see how quickly things can go from bad to worse!
Although traditional horsepeople have long used Lime to absorb the ammonia, this method does have its drawbacks, since lime is a skin irritant and not in itself a healthy product to inhale.
Here are some Fragrance/Chemical Free Odor absorbing options:
Sweet PDZ – Zeolite clay. Dry product. Zeolite is useful in many areas of life to absorb nasty odors. Zeolite is volcanic ash. Makes your stall waste an excellent soil treatment for gardens and lawns.
Stable Fresh – Liquid. Bioenzymes consume urine and odors which helps eliminate flies. This product has been approved by the California EPA for use on food crops. The enzymes feed on the urine and manure leaving a byproduct of water.
Stall Fresh – Dry product. A clay based product with seaweed and essential oils make this safe and eco-friendly.
Odor-No-More – Dry product. Micro-nutrient salts along with fine kiln-dried fibers and acrylic acid polymers which translates as super absorbent ingredients. Biodegradable and safe to compost.
Using any of the above will also help reduce the amount of bedding needed, which will in turn, help you reduce your overall cost. Recognizing the importance of clean, ammonia free stalls are an important part of healthy horsekeeping. A horse’s respiratory system is delicate. We can greatly improve their living conditions with a little extra attention and help to prevent unwanted illness such as heaves, stable cough, and strangles.