Do I need to put bedding in the horse trailer?
Two schools of thought on this one - yes and no. Each has it’s own merits, but at the end of the day I will always choose bedding in the trailer over a bare floor. Let’s “analyze” this in each case.
Perhaps just enough shavings to do the job?
NO to shavings in the trailer:
One of the main reasons for this is to cut down on the amount of dust in the trailer. Simple. Many horses are sensitive to dust, and when you have some fine shavings or sawdust in the trailer, dust may be stirred up more than you would like. Legit.
Skipping the shavings may also make the trailer easier to clean - depending on the trailer floor. Metal floors can be eaten away by manure and urine, as can wood floors. Mats in the trailer will limit what urine and manure make it to the floor, but not all of it. The photo below shows the carnage after pulling mats - and these mats had shavings on top soaking up manure and urine long before slipping through the cracks.
This trailer's metal floor usually has mats on top - which will trap any urine and likely damage the metal.
This trailer's floor (also usually under mats) is metal with a super tough protective liner. But you still need to clean it!
YES to shavings in the trailer:
Traction and cushion. Simple. There’s no situation for me that would warrant putting horse in a trailer without shavings. A horse that slips in the trailer because of manure and urine will be beyond lucky if there’s no major injuries. I have not found any research on the slipperiness of bare floors versus mats, but doesn’t it seem logical that bare floors are slicker?
Shavings or bedding also create some cushion - and for bare floors this is a must. Riding down even the smoothest road can be jarring for your horse, some cushion is helpful.
Damage to the trailer - see the rusty metal between the mat and the ramp? Manure landing spot.
A happy medium?
Does this boil down to dust versus degree of slick? Maybe - but you can find shavings that are low dust to use in your trailer - look for the biggest flakes you can find. Many brands of shavings list the size of the shavings right on the bag. These may be reduced in absorbing capability, but great for cushion and will reduce any manure and urine that hits the floor.
You can also use a fine shaving below, and cover with the larger flakes to up the absorbency and cover the dust. Spritzing the shavings with a hose before travel can help too. For an extra layer of dust reduction, soak any hay that’s in the manger or hay net to remove surface dust before you hit the road.
Alternatively, you can combat any slickness by making sure your horse is standing on textured mats in the trailer. Cushion and a bit more traction.
What’s your preference? Safe travels!