by Dr. Clair Thunes PhD, Nutritionist for EnviroEquine & PET ~

It is Halloween. The time of year when things jump out and shout “boo” in an attempt to scare us. My neighborhood is decorated with tomb stones, fire breathing dragons and zombies and our barn is gearing up for a Halloween fancy dress party. But sometimes, it is the things that you can’t see and that don’t jump out that are more worrying. For example, have you ever considered what is lurking in your horse’s bedding? Dust, ammonia, bacteria, fungus. These are just a few of the nasties that may be lurking in your horse’s stall and all of them can have negative health consequences.

Ammonia results from the breakdown of urea, a nitrogen containing compound in feces and urine. Urea itself is not a problem and is odorless. However, once in the outside world bacteria convert it to ammonia a pungent smelling gas. The problem with ammonia is that it is caustic meaning that it burns the delicate airway and lung tissues. This can result in the production of mucus. Inhalation of dust can also lead to the production of mucus in the airways and combined with other inhaled allergens, is a major contributor to equine asthma. Allergies to common bedding materials such as pine shavings occur in horses, and in addition to equine asthma, can result in unsightly and irritating hives.

Most horse owners have experienced barns where the smell of ammonia is evident and dust is clearly visible, but few of us think about the bacteria, fungi and molds that commonly exist in bedding. While most bacteria will be fairly benign, bedding can harbor infectious bacteria such as E Coli. The bacteria and fungi responsible for thrush can also be found in many equine beds.  Straw bedding in particular is known for harboring molds and fungi that can have negative consequences on not just equine but human health as well.

With saw dust pellets and pine shavings being dusty, straw being a source of mold and fungi, other bedding options are clearly needed to protect our horse’s respiratory health, and the health of those working in barns. Hemp bedding is becoming a rapidly popular option in the United States after having been a top choice in Europe for many years. Made from hemp hurd, which is the soft inner component of the plant’s stems that remain after hemp fiber manufacture, hemp bedding is an excellent choice for all kinds of livestock. Hemp bedding is comfortable, absorptive and makes excellent compost.

However, these properties vary with growing and harvesting conditions as well as how the product is handled after harvest. Aubiose from EnviroEquine is by far the most superior hemp bedding on the U.S. market today having been a staple of European barns for decades. Aubiose goes through stringent quality control measures to ensure a consistent product that is bright in color and virtually dust free.

Research has shown that compared to straw and shavings bedding, quality hemp bedding such as Aubiose has consistently lower levels of Mesophilic, Xerophilic and Thermotolerant fungi as well as Mesophilic bacteria. Fungi are linked to a range of respiratory issues in horses as well as skin and hoof disorders. Therefore, Aubiose is an excellent choice for horses with respiratory sensitivities and that are prone to fungal skin conditions. Other research has found that hemp hurd contains a range of compounds known to inhibit the growth or micro-organisms such as E. coli, and A. niger. Hemp may therefore be an excellent choice of bedding for veterinary hospital situations.

No only does quality hemp bedding act to keep you and your horse safe from these unseen pathogens, the amount of manure waste resulting from a hemp bed is significantly lower than other common bedding materials. At 9.1 m3 per horse per year in bedding manure, hemp results in considerably less waste than wood chips at 12.4 m3 per year and straw at 19.5 m3 per year.

So, don’t be scared by what is hiding in your horse’s bed this Halloween. Say boo to bedding pathogens, dust and ammonia with Aubiose.