The Great Bedding Debate: Straw Versus Shavings

Our number one priority when purchasing bedding for our horses’ stalls is keeping them safe, dry, and comfortable. Like most things in the equine industry, the type of bedding, as well as the amount of bedding that we use, can become quite a hot topic as many people have varied opinions based on things like price, availability, safety, and practicality. Continue reading for more information on the debate of straw versus shavings, as well as a detailed account of the arguments on both sides of the debate.


Like most things in the equestrian industry, the price point for bedding is usually a large deciding factor for most horse owners. Bedding is something that must be regularly purchased; a purchase that is as much as a necessity as hay and grain. Generally speaking, straw is a cheap alternative to shavings. In some regions, mushroom farmers will actually pay for used straw bedding. This makes using straw bedding more practical, as in this case it almost pays for itself.

In some regions, sawmills will allow you to come and pick up as much shavings or sawdust as you need for an extremely low cost. In cases such as this, it may make more financial sense to use shavings. Unlike straw, there is no agricultural use for used shavings, so once the bedding has been used, it simply must be discarded.

If you wish to find out which bedding option would work better financially for you, call around to local sawmills for discounted pricing, and check your region’s general pricing options for straw. Keep in mind that if you live in a region where mushroom farming is popular, that would help you make back a considerable amount of the money you spend on straw bedding.


There are different practical aspects to using straw bedding and shavings bedding. Straw bedding provides more warmth and comfort for the horse, especially in the winter months, but it falls short as far as an easy clean up is concerned. For horses that tend to urinate more and make a large mess in their stalls on a regular, the process of cleaning a stall bedded with straw can be quite a nightmare. For situations like this, shavings tend to work better, as they are more absorbent and are much easier to quickly sift through and clean. In many cases, the practicality of the type of bedding used really boils down to the specific needs of the horse, and the preferences of the owner.

Advantages Of Using Straw

  • Low cost
  • Warm
  • Comfortable
  • Less dust
  • Less chance of horse laying directly on top of its waste
  • Option of selling used bedding for mushroom farming in certain regions

Disadvantages Of Using Straw

  • Difficult to find waste
  • Urine pooling underneath
  • Bulky
  • Causes manure pile to become large and messy quickly
  • May present need for liner or barrier underneath layer of straw

Advantages Of Using Shavings

  • Easy to clean
  • Soaks up urine quickly and efficiently
  • Manure pile stays smaller and neater
  • Possible discounted price when picked up from sawmill.

Different Horses, Different Needs

All equestrians know all too well that every horse is different, and so they require different things than the next in order to stay happy and healthy. Much like all horses require their own specific feeding and supplement regimen, it makes sense that all horses require a little bit of customization in the bedding in their stall.

Some horses are extremely neat, choosing only to make small amounts of waste in certain spots of their stalls. Other horses can be especially messy, randomly making waste all throughout their stall, sometimes even spreading it out across the floor. For horses that tend to be more neat and orderly, straw may be an excellent option. For horses that are more on the messy side, shavings are usually best. Shavings are much more absorbent, and therefore are easier to clean up as the waste will group itself together once it is absorbed.

Something that must also be considered when choosing the type of bedding that you will use for your horse is the physical needs of your horse. Straw tends to be much more “fluffy” and cushioned; it is often the only type of bedding used for expecting broodmares, as well as for mares and newborn foals.

If your horse has had issues with lameness or founder in the past, it may be wise to choose to bed your horse with straw. The extra layer of cushioned bedding could be the difference between maintaining your horse’s health and having to help them manage another health issue. For individuals who need to put down a thick and extra-cushioned layer of bedding for their horse, using shavings can become quite expensive. Using straw for stalls that require a deep, cushioned bedding is generally a much more cost-effective solution. For horses that do not require a deep bedding, shavings may do just the trick.

If you board your horse at a boarding facility, check with the barn manager or owner in order to see what their preferences are on the type of bedding that is used in their barn. In some cases, barns will allow owners to arrange for their horse to have a specific type of bedding used in place of whatever is used throughout the rest of the barn.

If you are considering the debate of straw versus shavings, take all aspects of the needs of both you and your horse into consideration. If you can, visit different barns where different types of bedding are used in order to see how they hold up in person. Remember that word of mouth is a powerful tool, but when it comes to something like bedding, it is always best to form your own opinion based on the needs of both you and your horse. Keep in mind that while one type of bedding may work just fine to meet the needs of other horses, it may not be the best option for your horse.

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