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Bedding Choices for Easy-Keeper HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · January 4, 2017

Straw ranks high as a bedding choice among horsemen all over the globe, but for certain horses it is not the right selection for one simple reason: they eat it! Unabashedly, as if it were hay. And if those horses are easy keepers, they are adding unnecessary calories to their diet.

“Though it is generally used as bedding, straw has been used as a feedstuff for years, typically as chaff, finely chopped forage,” explained Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor at Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Feeding chaff seems to be more commonplace in Europe than in other countries, according to Whitehouse.

For want of a better explanation, horsemen use it as “fill,” a low-calorie fiber source designed to keep the gastrointestinal tract functioning properly. “Chaff is frequently added to grain meals to slow consumption of horses that eat their feed too quickly, called bolters,” Whitehouse said.

Because of its low nutrient content, straw should not be thought of as a source of nutrients like good-quality pasture or properly preserved hay. If you are trying to reduce calorie intake in easy keepers, choose a clean mid-quality hay.  

For those horses with a penchant for eating straw, a less palatable bedding choice should be used such as shavings and sawdust with no hint of black walnut remnants, peat moss, or shredded newspaper.  

Are you having a hard time concocting a balanced diet for your easy keeper? No worries! Contact a KER nutrition advisor today.