Stall mats and bedding - Horses [Skip to Content]

Illinois Livestock Trail

Horses > Facilities & Housing

I am in the process of fixing up a barn to keep my older horse in. So far all I have done in the stall is level out the dirt floor. What should come next? Should I use mats right over the dirt floor or build up with other materials? What type of bedding would be good to consider? Thank you


If the dirt floor is loose dirt you may want to consider having it mechanically compacted so that it creates a firm level surface that is more resistance to pawing by horses. Adding some limestone on top of the dirt layer would be beneficial to help with the drainage of urine. It sounds like you are planning on using mats though, which would decrease the need for the limestone since the urine most likely would not even reach the surface under the mats. However, because the urine will pool on top of the mats it is important to have a highly absorbent bedding. The standard bedding is wood shavings which have good absorbtive properties, in addition to being easy to acquire and cost effective.

There are many new types of bedding products on the market such as shredded news paper and some synthetic types of shavings that are supposedly much more absorbant than wood shavings. Many of these non-traditional bedding types are more expensive and are difficult to compost if you plan on composting your manure.

If you plan on using wood shavings, it is imperative that you use only high quality wood shavings with a relatively large partical size to avoid creating a dusty stall for your horse. Sawdust is undesirable because it is such a dusty product often resulting in irritating a horses respiratory tract which can lead to upper respiratory irritation or infection. Additionally, it is important to remember that your shaves must be free of black walnut tree material as black walnut shaving are extremely toxic to horses.

Though straw is also a bedding option it is not very absorbent and urine will have a tendency to just to drain right through the layer of straw and pool on the mats. This creates slippery, unsafe footing for horses.

« Back to Horses