Every horse, stable and property varies tremendously. The choice of bedding is often dependant on your area, your horses' needs and your own personal preference. For those still indecisive, we have put together a list of considerations to help you make the right decision.
Cost- With the downturn of the construction industry, shavings have become much more expensive to source. In some areas, you can order by the truckload, which is not only a more cost-effective option, but it also reduces the amount of plastic used with individual bales.
Availability- Check that shavings/straw are readily available in your area. You don't want to be caught in a shortage!
Storage- If you order shavings/sawdust by the truckload, you will need a tarp to cover the pile and prevent it from getting wet. For straw, you will need a shed to store it in.
Mucking Out Time- The long-debated argument, which bedding is quicker to muck out? We have talked to many grooms and all agree, there is no consensus and it is a completely personal preference. We recommend mucking out both beddings before making your decision!
The Environment- If you have a spreader, straw is available to be re-used and spread over your unused turnout. Where straw easily breaks down, shavings take years and is often much more acidic.
Removal- If you have a muck heap in a trailer, shavings may be a better option for you. Straw takes up a lot of room in a trailer/pile, and thus requires removal often.
Dust- It's imperative that your horses have clean bedding readily available with no dust. Dust can cause long-term respiratory issues and illnesses.
Allergies- Some shavings are treated, and thus horses can have allergies to their bedding. Allergies can appear in the form of hives, and it is important to consult your vet for alternate bedding options should such reaction occur.
Toxicity- It is important when using shavings to do your research on the type of wood being used. Black walnut is toxic to horses and cedar causes irritation, so be sure to check what mix you have ordered.
Absorbency- Shavings are much more absorbent than straw. Depending on your stable base, and how often your horse urinates, you should take into consideration how absorbant you need your bedding. It is important to maintain a straw bed free from manure, as ammonia can greatly affect the horse's lungs.
Food or bedding?- Some horses (or ponies) may eat their straw when they run out of hay. Ensure you have a ready supply of alternative forage for them, and experiment with different types of straw.
Is there anything you would add to this analysis? Let us know in the comments below!