Stopping Horses From Eating Their Stall’s Bedding

Risky business or harmless habit?

Updated February 23, 2024 | By: Dr. Lydia Gray
horse eating wood shaving stall bedding

Is it dangerous for a horse in a stall to ingest some bedding while eating hay? If so, is there bedding that is less problematic than others?


Dear Sally,

Certainly if bedding is moldy (or dusty) it should not be available to a horse to either eat or be stalled on. I’m sure you also know that bedding made from the black walnut tree is toxic to horses, causing laminitis just from contact – no ingestion required.

Other than that, for horses fed on the floor, taking in a small amount of bedding with hay is inevitable and shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re worried, use a feeder, hay net, or put the hay on a part of the rubber mat that has been swept free of bedding. Just make sure, for safety, that you’re feeder doesn’t have any sharp edges and that the hay net is tied at a proper height and securely.

But if your question is more about a horse that was stalled on one type of bedding (say, wood shavings) and is now stalled on a different type of bedding (say, straw) and eating the new bedding because it’s interesting, tasty or relieves boredom, then that could be an issue. Ingesting more than small amounts of almost anything commonly used as bedding could lead to issues like colic, diarrhea, impaction or choke.

If your horse has decided his new bedding is delectable, you have a number of options to keep him out of digestive trouble:

  • Return to his original bedding
  • Introduce the new bedding more slowly, such as underneath his original bedding
  • Keep high-quality hay that he likes in the stall at all times so he’s not tempted by the bedding
  • Add a stall toy or other distraction to keep him occupied
  • Turn him out so he’s spending less time in his stall

Others have also recommended spraying the bedding with something that smells or tastes bad but if this doesn’t stop him from eating, then you may have another problem on your hands. Hopefully your horse is just gathering up a few pieces of bedding here and there while trying to find every last morsel of his hay and it’s not a big deal.

SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian regarding specific questions about your horse's health. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, and is purely educational.