Cardboard bedding is best for Black Watch Stables’ breeding.

healthy young horse

Casanova BWS, one of Black Watch’s award-winning babies! Photo by Kathy Swear Schultz


Cardboard bedding came to Kate Dressel’s attention by way of a disgustingly clogged air conditioner filter.


Kate’s warmblood breeding farm, Black Watch Stables, is in Danielsville, Georgia, where summer temperatures can top 100° with humidity kicking the heat index up to 115°. These temperatures can be difficult for keeping any horse hydrated.


For nursing mares and young foals, they can be catastrophic. 


Black Watch’s mares are the foundation upon which their operation is built, and their foals are its future. So, Kate does everything she can to keep them healthy, happy and comfortable. Experience showed that investing in heat and air conditioning for the stable was less expensive than vet bills incurred due to extreme temperatures.


Wood Shavings? No Good!


Wood shavings were Kate’s initial bedding choice when the stable was constructed. “But the dust was incredible,” she recalls. Mamas and their foals came inside the enclosed, air-conditioned barn to beat the heat, but the dust negated those benefits.


Unhealthy, inhalable dust is a reality with most wood shavings. Seeing the dust particles build up and clog the air conditioner filter in only a few days shocked Kate. Veterinarians describe a horse’s lungs as their air filters. It was scary to imagine that dust accumulating in the “air filters” of her own horses – not to mention in her own respiratory system.


Unlike an air conditioner filter, new lungs can’t be had at Home Depot.


Better Horse Bedding


young horse on Airlite cardboard bedding

Beltini colt, Sazerac BWS, is immediately at ease on Black Watch Stables’ Airlite bedding.

Looking for a better bedding solution, Kate considered straw. “But the only straw we could get locally was terribly dirty stuff. I don’t want my babies breathing and laying in that.”


Even clean straw is not ideal. A 2018 study found that horses bedded on straw were more likely to have fungi in their respiratory system. Fungi correlate to conditions on the equine asthma spectrum. (The study was published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine and can be found here.)


Kate’s search led to Airlite Bedding by Green Horse Brands. Made of pre-consumer cardboard, it’s a virtually zero-dust option. It provides 4X the absorbency of wood shavings, and deactivates ammonia present in urine. Airlite is free of contaminants, toxins and mold, making it ideal for year-round disease prevention.


A clean environment is especially critical for newborn foals. Their umbilical cord is a “super highway into their body,” Kate explains. “If that gets bacteria in it, it can very quickly lead to serious infection. Especially for foaling, you want to have the cleanest environment possible.”


A Pregnant (and Unusual!) Pause


The Black Watch horses love the cardboard bedding, too. At presstime, the Oldenberg mare, Luna BWS (in foal by the Holsteiner stallion, Central Time), was days away from delivering.


“She’s as big as a house,” Kate shares. “When horses are heavily pregnant, they’re very round and it’s not comfortable for them to lie down for long, let alone lay flat. They’re so exhausted that they want to, but rarely do so for longer than a couple minutes.”


pregnant mare lying down on Airlite bedding

Luna BWS gets much-needed rest on Airlite bedding

Monitoring the foaling stall camera footage, Kate saw that Luna was lying down flat for an unusually long time – and several times through the night. Five or six inches of Airlite cardboard bedding creates a deep, cushioned surface. Luna is apparently so comfortable, she has been “laying out flat for 20 minutes at a stretch,” Kate shares. “I attribute that to this bedding,” she asserts. At Black Watch, Airlite is used on top of rubber mats on compacted footing.


Airlite gives Luna the rest and relaxation that’s critical to all horses — especially those in foal. “It’s very clean and springy,” elaborates Kate. She has lain down on it herself to confirm why Luna and her Black Watch barn mates like it so much.


Problem Prevention


Airlite is Kate’s year-round preference for all the Black Watch horses.


Oodles of outdoor time and free choice between the indoors and the outdoors are key to Kate’s healthy horse keeping. But winter temperatures can sink to single digits. When that happens, horses come inside and enjoy radiant heat through the barn’s cement floor areas.


Cardboard bedding’s insulating effect helps maintain the 45°-50° temperatures ideal for most horses in the cold season. And it assures that dust and ammonia odors aren’t an issue even when the barn is sealed up for warmth.


Stable air conditioning and heating are expensive, Kate confirms. But not as expensive as treating the issues that arise from unhealthy, uncomfortable environments. Colic, dehydration and respiratory problems are some of those issues. All are serious, costly to treat and – worst of all – hard on the horse.


Kate prefers to prevent problems in her horses, from their first breaths and throughout their lives. Airlite cardboard bedding helps her do exactly that.





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