I’ve worked in a lot of barns; mine and those of others, big barns and small barns and in-between barns. I’ve mucked out using sawdust, shavings, a combination of both, pellets, shredded newspaper (not kidding), straw and peat moss. While they all have their pros and cons, my top pick has become wood shavings. It offers all of the cleanliness (read: prettiness and good smelling-ness) factor of sawdust, but is less dusty and more readily available. It isn’t quite so easy as sawdust or peatmoss to work with, but can still generally be cleaned out fairly economically, and does create a nice soft cushion between horse and floor, assuming you use enough of it.
I like to bed deeply. I mean, really deeply. Like 12 inches of bedding between the horse and the floor. I know a lot of people will tell me that I’m wasting bedding, but I really don’t see it that way. Besides the initial bedding in of 6 to 8 bales (or wheel barrow loads) to fill up the stall, you’re still only replacing daily what you take out, no matter how much bedding you started with. So maybe it takes a little longer to muck out than if you only used a sprinkling of bedding, but with a plan to have maximum of four horses in my barn, it’s a price I’m more than willing to pay for a sparkling clean barn and nice comfy horses.
Because I have an old horse with old legs, I also plan to bank my bedding up the stall walls quite a bit. This does three things: it keeps out any drafts that might come in around the horses’ legs, it makes it harder for them to get cast (this is very important because I won’t be home all day to keep an eye on them), and it’s great for horses with sore hocks (for example, Sunny, who tends to like to back-pile bedding at the back of her stall and then stand on it to alleviate some of the stress from her joints. Maybe it’s only Sunny who does this, but that’s okay – this barn is for her, after all)!
I’m still researching the best ways to dispose of manure. I like the idea of having a cement “floor” for the manure to be dumped on, and down over the side of a little hill if possible. Aesthetics are very important to me, so I’d love to plant a little bit of a thicket between the barn and manure pile, and around the edges so it’s not so obvious that it’s… well… a big pile of poop. Who knows, maybe after all is said and done, we can even recoup some of our money?