The basics for cleaning stalls regardless of what type of bedding you choose, is pretty much the same. You start by taking out the water buckets, cleaning them and getting your tools. For straw stalls, you will need a pitch fork that has only three or four prongs. These are usually made of metal and are a bit heavier than the new plastic shavings forks available. The straw pitch forks are designed to be able to pick through the straw as there will be manure biscuits spread throughout. When using straw bedding, you should have dirt floors in the stall, no cement or black top. If you have rubber horse mats in the stall, be prepared to bedding down these stalls very heavily as not to cause hock sores. If the stalls do not have a sufficient amount of straw, as the horse gets up from lying down, he or she will scrape their hocks on the mats, putting sores on them, sometimes, severe ones that are very prone to infection. You will also need a good strong metal rake as you will need to rake the stall each and every day after moving the bad straw out and the good straw will be piled up in the corners.
Bring your wheel barrel to the front of the stall with the handles facing in toward you. Start to the right or left, go all the way around the outside of the stall, picking through the straw and put the good straw in the first corner that you just passed. Keep going and keep piling the good straw up in the same corner. Some people will just take the whole middle out of the stall and throw it away. That is ok if you can afford it. I never could so I would pick through and save as much as possible. If your first corner is full of good straw that you are saving, choose another corner. The following day, use the other corner in order to allow you to rake the corners that you were not able to on this day. After getting all the bad straw out, really rake the stall well getting as much chafe and manure biscuits as possible. More than likely you will have one or more large wet spots in the stall. The old timers used dry lime and sprinkled a fairly generous amount over the wet spots. There are claims that the lime can produce breathing issues but there is no solid evidence to prove it. There are other products you can find that are a little more expensive but will kill the urine odor and absorb the moisture. Now, take all the good straw that you have saved and spread it evenly over the whole stall. Now take a bale of straw, put it in the entrance of your stall or in the middle of the stall and break it open. You can take your straw and shake it out in the middle of the stall or spread it as you go. I like to shake and pull the straw apart by hand instead of using the pitch fork. Level the stall out as much as you can. I like my stalls to be knee deep in bedding. Remember, it will reduce down to about half that size once the horse gets into it and walks around. I always say, the deeper, the better.
There are different types of straw. There is wheat straw, oat straw, and rye straw just to mention a few. You must take into consideration that there may be some wheat or oats still attached to the straw. If you have a horse that has an unusually strong appetite (piglet), there is a chance that your horse may get colic. This will sometimes interfere with them eating their grain or hay and they may not be getting the nutrition that you wish, or your horse may be consuming too much grain. Also, it will be hard to monitor the amount of grain that your horse is consuming. Personally, straw has not been my first choice but there are many horses today that are being bedded on straw. A horse lying on a very well bedded stall of beautiful yellow soft straw is a sight to behold. They look so comfortable. The truth is that the price of straw is very high and if it is not of high quality and has good volume, you will need between one and two bales of straw a day if your horse stays in most of the day. Straw has been around for a long time and will probably be used for centuries to come. Some of the greatest horses in history were bedded on straw their whole life. Personal choice, economics and location are all deciding factors in what bedding works the best for you, and your horse.
When purchasing straw, take a small handful from a bale and smell it. If it smells even a little moldy or mildewed, definitely pass. If the straw is very shiny and seems to have short pieces, more than likely it will not have much volume and will take a large amount of straw to fill the stall sufficiently. At the same time if the pieces of straw are too long, it will be hard to shake it out and will be slightly hard for your horse to move around in the stall without having large pieces of straw wrapping around their legs. Buying and using straw, learning the advantages and disadvantages is just another part of being a horse owner. My advice to you is to try it, you just might like it.