Bedding. Everyone uses it when stabling their horse in one way or another. Whether it’s an enormous straw bed with high banks for foaling down or a sprinkle of shavings on rubber mats for standing in over a short while. Every horse owner has a preference based on their own experience.
With so much available on the equestrian market and with technology and equipment ever advancing , it is a wonder that the product we work with every day and expect our horses to spend the night on, hasn’t caught up with other advances.
Straw, the original bed, used for hundreds of years and still relatively low cost. One can create a bed large enough they’d be happy to sleep in themselves, it looks comfy and can help dry off the mud in the winter months. However, it can contain dust spores causing some horses to cough and others bloat themselves by scoffing half of it through the night.
Shavings, more costly than straw but can be less dusty and more convenient, for example if you need to transport some for a night away. Furthermore, day to day, they can be less time consuming than mucking out a straw bed if they are “deep littered.”
A common issue with both of the above is absorbency. Companies have started to develop bedding made of chopped straw, wood chip or hemp, claiming far superior absorption. Reviews about these have been mixed and while hemp can be provided dust extracted, many brands are very expensive.
The concept of using a pellet (compressed saw dust and wood chip) is not a new one. However, poor quality pellet, bad customer service and lack of education on their optimum usage has made them a bit of a taboo subject.
International event rider Tom Crisp has been using Swift Bedding for over a year. He made the switch to Swift as he was looking for an affordable product which was quick and easy to muck out and transport.
I caught up with him at his yard in Mayfield, East Sussex, where he explained the process of creating the bed and showed it to me in its pellet form and once it had absorbed some water.
The white pellet is made using 100% uncontaminated saw dust and wood chips in a mill and are heat treated, making them bacteria free and ideal for equine hospitals or studs where there is more movement of horses and infection control is paramount. The pellets are supplied in 15kg bags but are 1/4 of the size of a standard bale of shavings, making them easier to transport and store.
Approximately half a bucket of water needs to be added to “activate” the pellet, which can expand to 4 times its original size. After 15-20 minutes, what’s left is a combination of dry, fluffy pellets and some whole ones remaining.
“The bags of pellet are similar in size and weight to a bag of feed, making them easier for the team on the yard to carry/barrow around,” explains Tom. They are also easy to store, they should be kept dry but under tarpaulin outside is sufficient, and they don’t take up as much room as shavings.
Tom demonstrated his mucking out skills and said: “The bed is so absorbent, the wet forms a tiny little patch you can scoop out daily, thus adding less to the muck heap.” The stable staff now finish the yard more quickly, allowing more time for horse’s to be exercised.
To test out Swift Bedding, Tom advised me that 8 to 10 bags need to be prepared with water to make up a new bed based on a 12 x 12 stable. However, when trying this product, being skeptical and a little bit tight, I decided to use up as much of my existing shavings bed before starting to add the pellet gradually, rather than starting from scratch. I was told to sprinkle some “unactivated” pellet in the area of the stable known to be the wettest and put the watered pellet into the middle of the bed. This way, until I had built up enough pellet based bedding in my thrifty way, the shavings could be used to maintain the banks. I needn’t have been worried about cost though, because when bought by the pallet, each bag of pellet works out at less than £3.50 including delivery, cheaper than other brands and significantly cheaper than bags of shavings or hemp.
I noticed straight away how the faecal matter stayed in one place – with my shavings bed it often looked like my horse had been learning River Dance the way his waste was scattered everywhere. The main thing though was the absorbency. Working full time and commuting, I like to spend as little time as possible mucking out. I put this to the test and left the deep litter for 9 days before I removed all the wet – in only one wheelbarrow! Furthermore, I am needing to replenish the bed with much less pellet compared to how many bales of shavings I was having to add previously. Now my bed is established, the activated pellet is dense enough to create thick, fluffy banks which can be sifted through easily with a narrow pronged fork.
The real critique in my household though would be my mother, whose horse has spent 17 years on a straw bed, thank you very much. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting to her she ought to change now. However, I did suggest that she scatter some unactivated pellet over the rubber mats, before laying a new straw bed down, as I know her horse can be quite wet. Not being easily impressed normally, she couldn’t wait to tell me how thrilled she was that the bed was so much drier and the smell of urine significantly reduced. The urine was absorbed by the pellet underneath and the straw above remained dry, again reducing the amount needed to replenish the bed.
The other major plus about Swift Bedding is the customer service. The pellets can be delivered nationwide within a few days and the drivers are very efficient at calling the customer for delivery instructions and the manufacturer is available at the end of the phone or email for any queries regarding set up or bed maintenance.
Other products are being developed by Swift Bedding to support the pellet – a citronella, tea tree and eucalyptus spray is available – keeping the beds smelling fresh, free from flies and maintaining moisture in the bed during the drier days over the summer.
Whether you are looking for a complete replacement to shavings, or something to support your less absorbent bed, these pellets really fit the bill. They are cost effective, require little storage space and are low maintenance. This makes them suitable for professional yards, livery yards and small private stables alike.
For more information on the Swift Bedding pellet and how to order, follow the link below: