Research update: Bedding and horse behavior

Farm Forum

Bedding material used in stables is an important factor affecting the welfare of horses. One of the factors used for investigating the level of welfare of animals is behavior observations. The aim of the study, conducted in Poland, was to assess and analysis and impact of straw, peat moss with shavings and crushed wood pellets beddings used in the stables on the behavior of horses.

The observed behavioral events and behavioral states showing the comfort of horses included occupation with bedding, resting in sternal and lateral position, and laying down into sternal and lateral positions. Undesirable behavioral events were also recorded and included the behavior of demonstrating a lack of occupation including lignophagia (chewing or eattng wood), walking around the boxstall and biting the bars. Aggressive behaviors including threatening neighboring horses, biting the neighbor, and kicking the boxstall were also recorded.

Bedding the boxstalls with straw led to longer durations and higher frequencies of occupation with bedding and, in turn, shorter fractions of standing compared to the other beddings. The longest total time spent on laying down (recumbency) was observed when stalls were bedded with straw. Except for “neighbor threatening,” the undesired behaviors appeared the least frequently exhibited during usage of straw. In addition, the smallest percentage of horses manifested undesired behaviors when the straw bedding was used.

The research team concluded that straw bedding was ideal for fulfilling behavioral needs of horses housed in boxstalls. For more information on this research, visit