What is the deep litter bedding system?
Ah - the joys of picking stalls…..call it job security, quiet time, a pain in the rear, all of the above. There is one method of bedding and cleaning a stall that may work for you. It’s called the deep litter bedding method, and it works best with shavings. I have done it with rice hulls and shavings, and both types of bedding are appropriate for the deep litter bedding system. For horses that like to become a toe dragging tornado in their stalls, this method may not work as their manure may get too mixed in and more difficult to remove.
In a nutshell, with the deep litter system, you remove only the manure and wet, and leave the dirty shavings to create a bed. Cover up the dirty shavings with new ones. This serves a few purposes - to create a packed bottom layer, to keep fresh shavings on top, to minimize chore time, and some say to “ferment” the bottom layer to create some heat.
So how do you get started? Easy. Pack your stall FULL of shavings. I mean FULL. I would start with at least 12-18 inches of shavings from wall to wall. Also, bank the walls. Several feet up. The banking of the walls can help to prevent your horse from getting cast, and also serves as your supply of fresh shavings to top off the bed.
To clean the stall, it’s very quick and easy. Simply remove the manure, and the wet spots. You will need to learn where your horse likes to urinate. To get the wet spot out, gently and carefully peel away the top layer of the bed, remove the wet, and put the top layer back. For this method, do not sift, toss, or move the bedding around. The goal is to have the bottom layer packed down and thick, with a fluffy new top layer. When you are done removing the waste, add a new layer of shavings from the banked sides to the middle. You will find that you use considerably less shavings than going to the bin and back, although you will do this weekly or so to refill the banks.
Some folks do not remove the wet spots, letting them compact and ferment under all of those daily layers. For me, I have learned that this can increase the ammonia in the stall (Icky and dangerous) and it can also create a nightmare at the mat seams or the dirt floor underneath where the urine seeps through.
The upside to this stall method is that you save time daily. The downside is that once a month or so (some folks can go a few months, it will vary from horse to horse), you need to dig out the whole stall and start over. It’s up to you to decide if this method works for you, and your horse. I personally love it, and never mind the digging out. It’s a good rainy day chore and will give you a nice workout.
If you use rice hulls for bedding, this method is actually the suggested method for installing rice hulls into a horse stall, with the need to clean the wet spots every few days or so. The rice hulls act like a clumping cat litter, and the ammonia is not really an issue for several days.
Do you use this method for your stalls??