29 September 1995

Horses sleep soundly when beds are hemp

THE small amount of stablework required to keep horsess bedded on hemp dry and comfortable is one of this materials major benefits, points out Suffolk farmer Gib Edge who, two-and-a-half years ago, added it to the range of equine bedding that he sells after meeting Martin Ewing of Aubiose UK at the National Stud Trade Fair.

As well as selling it, Martin, of Grain House Farm, Chaceley, Glos, who began importing the French grown and processed product four years ago, uses it to bed down his own event horses.

Stables bedded with hemp need a light daily dung pick. Once a week the top layer should be raked back and the damp patches removed. Any hollows can be filled with bedding from the banked surrounds and fresh bedding can be added as required.

"Beds at home stay down nine months until horses go out and then we dont throw it away. Discoloured stuff is put where horses would stale," says Martin, who points out that Aubiose is virtually dust free and has been approved by the Bristol Vet School for use with horses suffering Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

But beds must be put down properly in the first place, stresses Gib, which is why he visits the stables of new customers and puts the bedding down himself.

He uses nine bales for a 3.69m x 3.69m (12ft x 12ft) box, which after damping down will be 12.5cm-17.5cm (5-7ins) deep when compressed.

Damping is essential to trigger absorbency and ensure the settling which stops the horse kicking its bed around. One watering-canful a bale is the suggested rate and as hemp has a proven absorbency of 500% the bedding soon feels dry again. The underfoot feel of a well bedded box is similar to that of a deep pile, fitted carpet.

"Set one customers horse beds up properly and check it every couple of weeks," is the advice given by Gib, one of a nationwide network of Aubiose distributors, to the retailers he takes on. A satisfied customer is the best sales tool, he believes.

Gibs customers include racehorse trainers. He runs the 486ha (1200-acre) Westbrink Farms, his familys enterprise at Westley Waterless. This is close to Newmarket, the centre of the horse racing world, and his family has long supplied Newmarket studs with tractor and trailer loads of hay and straw.

Cropping on the all-arable holding includes 40ha (100 acres) of hay for sale, and Gib dubs trading in these commodities "a business in winter to get off the farm."

At one time he also had a livery yard, training yearlings and breaking point-to-pointers. For this he converted redundant farm buildings, once the accommodation of carthorses, into a range of boxes plus a couple of work units for craftsmen.

He later decided there was no money in the livery yard business and now lets most of the horse accommodation to leading eventer Charlotte Bathe, but he retains a couple of boxes for his own use, and beds them with Aubiose.

Disposing of soiled hemp is far easier than other bedding materials, he says. It composts very quickly and has value as a fertiliser.

"Trainers in Newmarket compost it and put it on the grass gallops," he says, while his wife, Lesley, uses spent Aubiose straight from the stable to mulch their garden shrubs.

Ann Rogers

Martin Ewing began importing the French grown and processed product four years ago.

Gib Edge uses Aubioseg for his own yearling colt, seen here with marketing assistant Vicky Mills. He always visits the stables of new customers and puts the bedding, which has a 500% absorbency rate, down himself.