Types of Mulch to Use Around a Horse Barn

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Great care must be taken to ensure your horse's safety around the barn.
Great care must be taken to ensure your horse's safety around the barn. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Creating an aesthetically pleasing barn landscape takes creativity and common sense. Horses can be inquisitive animals and will sample anything they think is food. The choices of landscaping mediums are vast, but many can cause illness or prove fatal for horses. Careful planning will alleviate your worries and make for a safe and beautiful barn.

Mulch Dangers

Bagged mulch can come from a variety of sources, including raw material recyclers. While the planet is benefiting from recycling, mulch that originates from unknown sources can be deadly. These raw materials can include patio furniture, fence post, play sets, decking and even houses. Generally, these products were treated with some sort of sealant or paint, which would transfer directly into the mulch. In 2004, the Mulch and Soil Council introduced a product certification program. Under this program, all landscaping products sporting the MSC Certification logo would be free from chromated copper arsenate or CCA, a known carcinogen.

Colored mulch is a great way to spruce up a dull area, but there has been some concern for its safety. According to the leader in mulch dyes, Colorbiotics; it is safe for all animals and is less toxic than salt or baking soda.

Look for the Mulch and Soil Council logo when shopping for non-CCA mulch.
Look for the Mulch and Soil Council logo when shopping for non-CCA mulch. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is a great option around stables since it's safe for pets and children. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission rated it the highest for shock absorption. It will last forever and keeps its color. Rubber mulch is excellent for use in paddocks, riding arenas and for general landscaping around the barn. Rubber mulch costs two to three times more than wood mulch, but you never have to replace it.

Hardwood Mulch

Hardwood mulch can come from a single or multiple species source. Horses have a severe toxicity to some hardwoods. Black walnut, butternut, red maple, wild forest black cherry, black locust, black, red and white oak and horse chestnut trees are highly toxic to horses and can cause severe laminitis within hours and death. When shopping for hardwood mulch, you must verify the types of hardwood it contains. If in doubt, do not purchase it.

The Safest Mulch for Horses

Pure pine mulch is the safest to use around horse barns. Pine is a commonly used species for horse bedding and presents no safety concerns for horses. Pure 100 percent cedar mulch is also a safe choice. Cedar gives off a fragrant aroma, has a natural red coloring and as an added bonus, naturally deters insects. Going organic is another option; bagged organic mulch contains no chemicals or by-products. Organic mulch is usually a mix of bark, wood chips, branches and leaves. The cost for organic products is usually 30 percent higher than non-organic mulch.

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