No matter how well a barn is run, it is our nature to want to run it better. We are always looking for other options that might make the barn just a little nicer place for our horses to live.
Here's an option you might not have considered. Peat moss bedding, though not often used in the U.S., is a popular choice in other countries, and for good reason. Comprised of partially decomposed sphagnum moss, peat moss is by far the most absorbent bedding available, absorbing up to ten times its own weight in moisture. In addition it is unsurpassed in its ability to absorb odors, resulting in sweet smelling barns.
Sounds good so far, right? And it gets even better. Soft, cushiony, peat moss makes a fine bed for horses, providing great support for bones and joints. These qualities make it particularly suitable for senior horses.
Its absorbability, and odor prevention, make it a great choice for horses with respiratory challenges such as heaves or inflammatory airway disease. The primary source of airborne dust in barns is feed and bedding, and peat moss helps cut way down on that dust.
Peat moss is easy to muck and can be used with all types of stall floors. In addition it comes in easily stored and transported bags
A very environmentally friendly bedding, it can be readily composted and then move on to a new career nourishing peoples gardens.
Before you rush out and buy peat moss however, what about the other side of the equation? What are the cons?
If you are running a show barn, you and your boarders are probably quite accustomed to a golden bed of shavings in the stalls. Peat moss presents an entirely different picture. It's dark, and lighter colored horses can pick up some of the dark coloring on their coats. The stalls no longer have that attractive golden color, but now are dark as well.
For retirement farms, and barns that house a population of trail and pleasure horses, this may not present a problem, but show horse people might object.
Peat moss can freeze in the winter and can create a dust film on water and in the barn. This dust is not the fine dust that can ruin a horse's lungs, but it still isn't pretty.
Stalls need to be bedded deeply, to at least 6" and preferable 12". This requires a large initial quantity (about 12 bags for a 12" x 12" stall).
Peat moss needs to be kept moist, which can easily be accomplished with a watering can, but in cold climates might create a problem.
It may be expensive and sometimes hard to find. But if you're thinking of making a switch, now is the time to do it. With gardening season ending, you might just snap up some bargains at your local farm, garden or home supply store.
So give it a try. It could be just what you've been searching for to make that barn just a little bit more comfortable for your horses.
By Ann Jamieson - Eastern Hay