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9 Reasons to Choose Hemp for Your Horse’s Stall

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Hemp Horse Bedding infographic

Hemp horse bedding made from the hemp plant’s inner core is often the best bedding for horses, especially ones with respiratory or hoof health conditions. There are a number of reasons why hemp hurds for horse bedding is a great, healthy and Eco-friendly choice in the stable.

1. Highly Absorbent Horse Bedding

Hemp hurd is highly absorbent — 1½ times more absorbent than wood shavings, it can hold 400% of it’s own weight in liquid. The reasons for this high absorbing ability is in the material’s structure itself.

Surface Structure

While the outer bast of hemp has long continuous fibers, making it great for textiles and ropes, the hurd also has a fibrous structure that can trap and hold moisture like a sponge. It allows the hurd to absorb liquids rapidly.

This fibrous nature also provides a high surface area for absorbing liquid, the higher the surface area the more liquid that is able to be absorbed.

Cellulose Content

Cellulose is a fibrous substance from plants, similar in structure to complex carbohydrates, that can absorb and retain water. It provides bulk and water-holding capacity itself as the cellulose molecules are hydrophilic, meaning they attract water. Hemp is 60-70% cellulose compared to 40-45% for wood products.

Capillary Action

The cellulose molecules have an additional feature in that they have a capillary action, drawing moisture through tiny channels which distributes the moisture evenly, maximizing absorption.

bean products hemp hurd animal and horse bedding

2. Lower Maintenance

Hemp hurd horse bedding is considered lower maintenance because it doesn’t’ require as frequent bedding replacement as other materials for three reasons:

  • It’s high absorbency: as explained earlier, allows for less frequent changes
  • Reduced odor: reduces need for frequent changes which we will talk about later. Our nose knows.
  • Longevity: it’s longer lasting than many types of materials. It maintains its structure and absorbency for an extended period of time as it is more durable.
  • Clumping: fecal matter clumps in hemp, making it easier to remove.

More reasons why hemp hurd reduces maintenance

It is lower in dust, the dust is removed in the processing of the hurd. Less dust reduces the need for cleaning the surrounding area and equipment.

Because hemp hurd is biodegradable it can be composted or used as mulch after use. Used bedding can be integrated into other composting systems which reduces the resources and effort required for disposal.

3. Odor Control

Not only does the moisture absorption keep the bedding dry, reducing odors, but it also maintains a balanced pH level. This balanced pH environment discourages the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Aside from balancing pH, the natural antimicrobial properties of hemp also inhibit bacteria. Hemp is inherently anti-bacterial.

The loose structure in hemp bedding allows for aeration and ventilation. Proper air circulation helps dry out the bedding which also minimizes odors. Ammonia is the main culprit in causing urine odor, hemp’s absorbency decreases the concentration of ammonia resulting in less odor as the ammonia levels decrease.

4. No Dust

There are several ways processors can remove the dust from hemp hurd before it is packaged and sold.

  • Screening to separate it from the hurd
  • Air Separation or cyclones that carry away the lighter dust particles while the heavier hurds fall back down.
  • Vacuum Systems equipped with filters can suck up and capture the dust, removing it from the hurd
  • Washing hemp hurd can remove dust and other impurities, it is then dried to prevent mold.
  • Mechanical beaters can dislodge the dust from the hurd fibers prior to the other treatment method

5. Cushioning

Hemp bedding provides a soft cushioned surface for horses to lie down or stand on. It’s high absorbency allows for a cleaner surface for laying down. Bed sores are minimized due to its cushioning and loose structure, beneficial for older horses that lay down a lot.

Another feature of hemp bedding is its insulating properties. It provides thermal insulation keeping horses more comfortable in extreme temperatures. The top of the bedding stays drier for longer than other materials as the liquid moved down through to the bottom without pooling and spreading.

horse bedding in stall

6. Antibacterial

As discussed earlier, properties of hemp serve to naturally resist bacteria including its high cellulose content, pH balancing and low moisture retention activities. Lignin is another component in the hemp hurd. Lignin provides structural support for plant cell walls and is itself antimicrobial.

In addition to these structural components of hemp hurd, hemp plants also produce terpenes and flavonoids that can leach into the hurd contributing to its antibacterial nature.

7. Non-toxic

Hemp is highly resistant to pests and disease, especially the fiber and hurd stalk. It’s also easy to grow with little fertilization inputs needed. This reduces the toxins that can come in close contact to your horse creating a healthier environment.

8. Healthier for Horses

Most of the other features of hemp hurd are what makes it a healthier alternative for horse bedding.

  • It is warm and comfortable promoting natural behaviors and reducing stress
  • It is dust-free reducing allergens and respiratory issues
  • It is warm helping to maintain body temperature, especially in winter
  • Its low odor retention contributes to respiratory health
  • Its cushioning effect reduces joint pressure and benefits horses with hoof issues
  • Its structure prevents lodging in hoofs, which reduces or eliminates the risk of thrush and hoof rot
  • It is unpalatable to horses, most horses without issues won’t try to eat hemp bedding
  • Veterinarians are beginning to recommend hemp hurd bedding for horses with respiratory and health conditions

9. Eco Friendly

Hemp grown for fiber and hurd rarely need pesticides or toxic chemical fertilizers. Most pests that attack the hemp plant focus on the leaves, which are not a usable part of the fiber plant and therefore not targeted with pesticides.

Half the acreage is needed to produce a volume of 100 cubic feet of hemp hurd vs. 100 cubic feet of wood shavings or pellets and this is just for one harvest! Depending on the climate and conditions up to four harvests of hemp can be made in one year. This is in contrast to decades for another harvest of trees.

Another feature of hemp hurd is that it sequesters carbon. Not only does it have this feature while being cultivated, but also the finished hurd itself continues to do so. It also is biodegradable and composts quickly, often in a matter of weeks.


Hemp is a great alternative to other materials for your horse’s bedding needs. It is often more expensive initially due to transportation costs but because of its special features less of it is needed, making it equivalent to less expensive bedding. It will also become less expensive over time as the US hemp industry expands, making overseas transportation costs obsolete.

Do you have experience using hemp for your horse’s stall? Let me know in the comments below!

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