Cottonwood for horse stalls

Is this a suitable species? September 25, 2002

A customer wants me to saw some lumber for horse stalls. He has a lot of large eastern cottonwood trees that he has been told would be suitable. I am a little concerned that the cottonwood might be too soft. He also has water oak and hickory.

Forum Responses
Cottonwood is the choice of champions. Cottonwood does not sliver and therefore, many breeders use it as flooring. After it has dried, try driving a nail into it.

I agree. No slivers and horse pee seems to make cottonwood as tough as steel. Once when I was camping, I gave a dry piece the ole Paul Bunion with a good axe. I ended up throwing the cottonwood, axe and all into the fire cause there was no way to get the axe head (broke the handle off) out of the wood.

They won't chew on it, either. It will work much better than the water oak or hickory.

Saw it and nail it as quick as you can. There are several old buildings including a barn here made from cottonwood that have been around close to 100 years, so I am told by the old timers. I sawed some standing dead cottonwood earlier this summer for corrals. We put two coats of good paint on it. I wonder how it will hold up outside. Time will tell.

If you do not have white oak, the cottonwood is best. Hickory will rot if wet and bugs will eat it up. Water oak is a red oak and will not hold up well if in ground contact or wet. If you are using them for posts in the ground, put in some bug dope or some other environmentally unfriendly stuff to help with the life of the post.

I cut a lot of lumber for horse stalls and the most requested and used is red oak, due to the fact that horses won't chew it. It is very bitter and doesn't have a pleasant smell to them. I have never used cottonwood, so I can't give advice on that, but I have used pine, pecan, sweetgum and poplar and all were eaten by bored horses in a stall. I have seen horses that are bored or upset in a stall eat a 2 X 12 board plum into pieces in less than a day's time. My vet tells me that red oak is poisonous to them, but since they won't even try to chew on it, they will never get enough of it to hurt them.

You could mix lumber types, yes? Some people around here use pine, but I'm currently writing doctors to have their heads examined for tumors. At minimum, cottonwood for the top "rail" or plank.

From what I have seen, Eastern cottonwood does not hold up well at all when outdoors. The wet/dry/rewet cycle just rots the snot out of it. It is true that is dries like steel. If I ever have to split a piece of cottonwood that has dried, I just install a ripping chain on my saw and have at it.

Interesting with the horse stable thing. What is the Latin name for cottonwood? I've never heard that name connected with a European species.

In my area of southwest B.C., it is Black Cottonwood (Populus balsamifera trichocarpa), used mainly as pulp. But I have seen it used as panels on a custom door and as trim. It had a pretty colour that caught my eye, and when I asked, I was surprised to find out what it was.

A lowbed operator had some cut as planking for the bed, but told me it busted up too fast. I wonder if it should have dried, as it was green and used right away?

Eastern cottonwood is Populus deltoides. One interesting point is that the carvers really go for the bark. The bark of old and usually big trees gets deeply etched and some woodcarvers like to do faces on it. I don't know how you would go about harvesting it to be in good enough condition for resale, but the dried bark goes for $5.00/lb. US or about $7.50-8.00 CDN for 2.2 kilos.

And if you have ever tried to split a piece of elm with the grain that corkscrews down the piece, you will have some fun.

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Comment from contributor A:
The only oak that our horses don't crib chew is blackjack, but like all oak that is in contact with the ground, it rots easily.

I used some cottonwood inside for stall walls and that above the soil level has lasted well (16 years).

But the king of wood for stalls is persimmon - it is wonderful, hard and long lasting. I had cut one very large persimmon from our Oklahoma farm and it made the best stalls in the barn.