Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Good Bag of Shavings

All shavings are not created equal. I am very fussy about what kind of bedding I put in my horses’ stalls. It needs to be soft and fluffy, but not too fine. There are some inferior bags of shavings that melt away in the stall moments after I throw them down. If I talk to other people with horses, they always have very definite opinions about which shavings are best.

So, my personal favorites are U.S. pine, made by a company called Hancock Lumber. They are just the right consistency, contain a little more per bag than most others, and last about 3 days. I can split a bag between the two stalls, so I get away with between two and three bags a week.

The problem is that my local feed store often runs out. At first, the boys in the back acted like I was crazy to insist on this particular brand. I will make them schlep all the way back to the tractor trailer where they store the shavings to get them if they run out in the main barn. Last week, when I told the young man that I prefer the Hancock shavings, he replied, “What’s with them? Everyone always wants that kind.” I felt better. Unfortunately, they had run out.

If the weather is bad, the horses really appreciate a fresh layer of shavings in their stalls. At bedtime, they lie down and roll around in them. Siete greets me with little pieces of “confetti” in her mane and her forelock in the morning. I always joke that she’s had a party in her stall last night.

I wish I had the space to have big loads of shavings delivered to me, but I don’t. I like to put a few bags of wood pellet horse bedding down first and then top it with shavings. In California, I was able to get pellets from a company called “ABM” (Advanced Bedding Management) that were terrific. I could also buy cedar shavings, which smell great. On the East Coast, I can’t find either so I use the pine ones.

Who cares? My horses do. I do. The King of Compost, my good husband, does because it matters how the shavings break down. I’ll bet that anyone who reads this who owns a horse knows exactly what I’m talking about and also has an opinion about it.

For those of you who don’t have a horse, please think of this: Awareness and care about each and every little thing that you do on a regular basis brings greater harmony and an appreciation of the art of living a meaningful life. Now, excuse me while I go fluff some shavings.


Grey Horse Matters said...

We've tried them all too, from pellets, to shredded newspaper, to straw (thought it would be less dusty for a horse we have with respiratory trouble),to every kind of shaving imaginable, including the loose kind that comes in a pile. At this point I don't really remember the name of the ones we are using now, but they are very absorbent and less dusty than the others we have tried in the past. The same goes for the hay, it's hard to find good stuff and when you do find the exact kind you are looking for sometimes they won't even eat it, but like the lesser grade hay. Shavings and Hay are what I would list as my worst aggravation of having my own place. Everything else is great.

billie said...

Your stall looks lovely!

I suspect that the bagged shavings are probably much more consistent than buying in bulk. We had many loads of lovely pine shavings from one source and then suddenly they started having sharp spikes and huge splinters in them, so I tried a different supplier.

He brought sawdust, which is actually not dusty, and he mixed in some cedar for a nice smell and bug repellent quality, but it was delivered very damp and it still hasn't dried out!

I have to put one wheelbarrow load in at a time, in the a.m., and let it dry during the day while the horses are out and about.

I've considered straw bedding and also peat moss but am not brave enough to try either one w/o some first hand recs from horse people.

It's good to get a brand name for bagged shavings - thanks for sharing your favorite!

Carolynn said...

Hi Victoria,
I really enjoy the element of zen that you bring to your experiences with your horses and how it invites me to view my own life from a place of peace and reflection. I especially like your final comment today.

BTW, how do you pronounce Siete's name? Does it mean something in another language? How did you choose it for her?


Victoria Cummings said...

Thank you both for reassuring me that I'm not too obsessive about my horse's bedding. It's true that if the shavings and hay aren't right, the horses aren't happy or healthy - which makes everyone's life more difficult.

Victoria Cummings said...

Carolynn - Siete is pronounce C-ett-tay. It means 7 in Spanish, because of the white blaze in the shape of a 7 on her face. Thanks for your lovely comment!

Farm Girl said...

Your stalls look so nice. I love the soft fluffy shavings. We always used pine shavings from Canada when I was the manager of a local Arabian Horse Farm.
But here at home, we use sawdust from the local sawmill as it is much cheaper. It isn't as dry as shavings but it is clean. We always make sure that is has no black walnut in it as that is deadly to horses feet. I only have to add fresh every other day, so that isn't too bad. We compost all the used bedding, and it gets spread on the garden, on my flower gardens, and on the hay field. Good stuff.

Gypsy at Heart said...

If good shavings are to horses what a good pillow or mattress is to the non-horse person (in other words, someone like me) then I know exactly what you are talking about and agree that doing the little things well is what counts. Glad the girls have you to look out for them and their best interests. And like Carolynn says, I too enjoy greatly that element of Zen you bring to all your posts Victoria.

Bonnie said...

I have to be paticular about the bedding in our bird's cages too. I love cedar but they can't have that due to the oil in it could kill them.

Rising Rainbow said...

Bedding is one of those things that's going to get more and more difficult as time goes by. More mills keep shutting down and the options are dwindling.

Here we currently get shavings by the truckload but yet another of our suppliers has gone out of business because their mill source closed down.

I prefer fir shavings because they are more absorbant than cedar and break down much faster than cedar.

For foaling I like to use a base of pellets with straw on top. The pellets are great for absorbing the anmiotic fluid and keeping the stall much dryer for foaling. Deep straw provides warmth.

Heidi the Hick said...

Have you ever tried hemp pellets? They were twice the price compared to a bag of shavings, and our friends teased us that our horses would get high (hahahagroan) but it was so absorbent and last much longer than pine. We dumped a bag in there once a week.

We would have continued but our feed mill stopped stocking it... so it's back to pine shavings.

M. C. Valada said...

My favorite pine shavings are Dry Nest from Canada. They pack 12 cf into a 2.5 or 3 cf package and they are light and fluffy, pretty dustless and hold up to Ace's feet better than anything else. It is very absorbant, but, fortunately, I don't have to worry about that these days since he's in an in and out and will go out to urinate. It makes a great bed, but it is hard to come by. I've got to drive at least 10 miles (to Burbank or Simi Valley) to find a feed store that sells Dry Nest.

A friend of mine swore by rice hulls, but I didn't like cleaning that out of Ace's hair at all. Then there was a product that some of the folks at Pierce found at Equine Affaire on year where it was a wood product but would "clump" urine and could be easily composted. I thought it was too dusty to be used for bedding but that might not be a problem for everyone.