Next to good grooming, perhaps, so far as the horse's health and comfort are concerned, is the allowing him plenty H 2 of good clean litter. This is usually straw, and there is no doubt that for healthy horses it makes the best bed. Of all straw the best is that of wheat. A good bed implies a liberal allowance of straw, and there are many horses which will not lie down, or will rest badly when down, unless the bed is good. Unless horses rest well, and especially if they refuse to lie down, they cannot perform their work in a satisfactory manner; and therefore every inducement for them to take their natural rest should be provided, and a plentiful, clean, and well-arranged bed of sweet dry straw is certainly most conducive to that end. Wheat straw is stronger and tougher, and more easily spread, than other kinds, and is therefore best suited for bedding purposes. It should be unbroken, dry, clean, bright in colour, and not have broad flaggy leaves. Wheat straw being long, it happens that it frequently becomes soiled at one end only, and this often causes it to be thrown away as manure; to obviate this apparent extravagance, each bundle of straw may be cut in halves before being used. An allowance of from 8 lbs. to 12 lbs. of good wheat straw per day should furnish a fairly good bed. Other kinds of straw, as oat straw, do not answer so well, they being either too hard or too soft, and less durable, being easily converted into manure. Sometimes hay, too bad to be used as forage, is used as litter; but this is objectionable, as it cannot make a comfortable bed, and it is said that if its use be continued for any length of time the horses will become infected with lice.
Horses should stand upon a thin layer of litter, if the stable floor is dry, when they are not allowed to lie down; this litter should be that which has been used, but it must be dry. If horses work hard and require much rest, the resting bed should be laid down at the most convenient period. To prevent voracious horses eating the straw - which very often proves hurtful, as well as to save it - the fresh straw should not be placed within their reach. In order to accomplish this, it is recommended that the old litter be put at the top and in front of the stall, and the new put at the rear of the stall, and covered with some old; the horse cannot then get to it, and it soon becomes tainted, and therefore not cared for. Sometimes, with the same object in view, the old and the new bedding are mixed up together before being laid down. Grooms are in the habit of laying down the old litter first and putting new straw on the top of it, for the reason that it keeps the clothing cleaner, and gives the stall a better appearance. Economy in straw depends much upon the attention given to the bedding in the morning, when the stable is being cleaned out. If possible, all the litter should be taken outside the stable, thoroughly shaken up and sorted, the wet and rotten, as well as the dung, being removed from it; it should then be allowed to dry by exposure to the air and sun, being turned over once or twice to ensure its thorough purification. While the litter is thus being rendered dry and sweet, the stable floor should be swept perfectly clean, and allowed to dry before being covered again by the litter. It is a great mistake to allow foul bedding to be heaped under the manger, as is usually done, because the ammonia from it is inhaled by the horse, and affects his eyes, while it taints his food and everything in the stable. If there is no litter-shed outside the stable, then in wet weather, when it cannot be exposed to the sun and air, it should be put in a spare stall, or spread out in the passage behind the horse.
Sawdust is frequently employed for bedding, especially in town stables, and opinions differ as to its value. Reynolds asserts that it is not liked by cart horses; at the best it is comfortless and uninviting, and should only be introduced into undrained stables provided with paved floors. The objections to sawdust do not apply where it is used as a cushion to be interposed between stone floors and the straw, where, in fact, it bears the same relation to straw as a mattress to a feather bed; so arranged, Reynolds regards it as economical and a saving to straw, and as being also an absolute comfort and benefit to the horse.
For horses which eat their litter to such an extent as to prove injurious, sawdust is to be recommended as bedding, one horse requiring about a hundredweight per week. If drains are in the stable, it is liable to choke them.
Sea-sand can be used as bedding, and it answers very well.
Peat is sometimes used in districts where it can be easily obtained, and the light-coloured peat, found abundantly on the Continent, and in some parts of this country, and popularly known as moss litter, has come very much into use lately. Though various conflicting opinions have been given with regard to it, in stables where it has been extensively used, its adoption has been attended with advantage to the horses both in their limbs and feet, as well as their general health, while a great money saving has been effected. It is a powerful deodoriser and absorbent, makes a very soft elastic bed, and horses do not, as a rule, care to eat it. "When of good quality and properly prepared, there can be no doubt that it is a valuable litter; though the depreciation in price, caused by excessive competition, has brought a very inferior supply into the market . For horses with tender or contracted feet, or whose hoofs are bad or grow slowly, it is very advantageous. It is also valuable as a manure, and by its use in stables drains can be dispensed with.