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Stall Flooring
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Nate
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 Posted: Wed Mar 13th, 2013 12:02 pm
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I have a barn with two 12x12 box stalls and each box stall has a 12x24 dirt turnout. The box stalls have concrete for flooring. I have read that concrete flooring is bad for a horse's joints and back. I have read some websites that say 3/4" rubber mats and shavings can help make the flooring better for the horse, but others say that rubber mats are still not enough. I want to do what's best for my horses. I'm willing to take the cement out if it is what's best for the horses, but I would prefer to leave it in. My horses get exercised 5 days a week.

After hearing your comments about hooves at Horse Expo 2013 in Pamona, Ca I was thinking about putting in cobblestone flooring, but I don't think it would be appropriate in this situation.

What do you think?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Mar 14th, 2013 02:04 am
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Nate, Equus Magazine has at some time in the past reviewed this issue. I don't remember the exact back-issue, but if you want to find it call (301) 977-3900 and ask for their archive/back index person and he or she will probably be able to find it for you.

The general consensus is that you can go ahead and leave the concrete, which is no harder in fact than the packed lime tailings commonly used in the Midwest would be. Either of these is as hard as cement, and they have the advantage that, when you strip the stall, you can disinfect with lime and/or bleach very effectively.

Rubber mats on top of the cement are not, as you have already heard, enough. Go ahead and put the rubber mats in, but that will just be the bottom layer. The best in my book for this purpose are the ones that are made like interlocking tiles -- no bigger than 2 ft. X 2 ft. This makes them much easier on the person's back when it comes time to strip, because in stripping you'll want to take the mats out too to hose them off and clean them while you then also go in and clean the cement underneath.

On top of the cement, then, go the rubber mats; and on top of the mats goes plenty-deep bedding. The bedding can be straw (the very best bedding of all), or it can be shavings. Straw is hard to come by sometimes these days, so most people use shavings. 'Plenty-deep' means a couple of feet deep, not just a sprinkling or six inches. In the end this costs absolutely no more than thin bedding, because, obviously, you cycle it through, throwing out every day only that portion of the bedding that's been soaked with urine and/or gotten too dirty from manure. Then you add as much new bedding every day as you took out, thus maintaining the depth.

If you notice 'camel marks' -- that is to say callused areas where the hair has been rubbed off -- on your horse's knees or the sides of its ankles or hocks, your bedding isn't deep enough.

Remember to pile the bedding deeper against the sides of the stall, as a nice preventative from the horse getting cast.

Do we have some other readers here who have experience with cement stalls and who want to comment? -- Dr. Deb

renoo
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 Posted: Thu Mar 14th, 2013 03:11 am
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Hello!

In my years of searching for the best living conditions for my horse I have changed four stables - the first had a cement flooring plus shavings or straw - whichever was available. Other stables use turf/peat also (sorry, I don't know the correct term in English for this substance). The next stable had wooden floor plus shavings as bedding. The third stable had packed dirt/sand as flooring, and shavings as bedding as well. The last stable isn't a stable actually, but we have several shelters placed around a (not sure how to call it properly) "hay shelter". First winter the flooring was dirt (mud eventually) and then cement slabs were installed.

Now about the flooring. No horses had trouble because of the cement flooring in boxes. Except some that used to paw - cement is a pretty good abrasive material. The only problem was with straw bedding, because some horses would eat their boxes almost empty overnight. I'm guessing that might depend on the type of straw. The wooden floor tended to become slippery, and the wood slowly rotted away. The packed dirt/sand flooring is hard to maintain, because due to the mucking, it slowly forms a bowl shape; adding new sand/dirt ends up giving no good result, because the horse mixes it with the bedding and is mucked out again. I've heard soil with high clay level is better for maintenance.

A lady who used to be a jockey back in USSR told me the horses had big boxes with cement or dirt flooring, and then a smaller "bed" which was a slightly raised wooden platform with really deep bedding. She said the horses knew the difference.

Dorothy
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 Posted: Thu Mar 14th, 2013 03:42 am
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In the UK virtually all stables are built on concrete bases. Some people just put the bedding of their choice directly on this, but many do now use rubber matting plus bedding, and, as Dr Deb says, there needs to be enough.

If you use rubber mats without bedding (as some of the matting companies suggest you can) or with not enough bedding, frequently horses won't lie down, but the stable very quickly becomes revoltingly smelly and dirty as the urine ends up decomposing under the mat rather than being soaked up by the bedding. This is truly disgusting.

Dorothy

Nate
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 Posted: Thu Mar 14th, 2013 10:38 am
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Thank you for the advice.

Katherine
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 Posted: Fri Mar 15th, 2013 05:31 pm
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You also need to consider drainage - bedding can be categorised into two types - absorbent and non-absorbent.

Most straws are pretty non-absorbent hence you need a form of drainage or you will potentially end up with a wet smelly floor. Conventional (British) stables with a concrete floor have a very slight slope built into the floor, leading to a drain which goes into some sort of effluent system. The drain has a grated top so a foot doesn't get stuck and bedding doesn't get packed down the hole.

Shavings are far more absorbent generally, so the need for a drain not so necessary. However, I would always prefer to have a drain and slightly sloping floor (only a couple of degrees slope is required) so that when you wash down, the water runs away as engineered, preferably not out the stable door and onto the front yard!

Old work horse (tied) stalls were slightly sloped as well, front to rear, with a channel behind the horses that was obviously mucked out very regularly. The whole idea is to prevent pooling of urine whatever the type of enclosure or bedding.

I have a field shelter which has granite hardcore/sub-base flooring. This was installed on top of 4"x2" rock, and is an excellent outdoor base. The hardcore is approx 1"-2" crushed rock with rock dust within it, and it consolidates quite well. The flooring needs topped up around 5 yearly. This is excellent, as it drains freely and in winter the horses come in for hay and in only a few minutes their feet and legs dry off while they eat. In a cold and wet climate, this I find, completely prevents mud fever and chapped heels, even in pink skinned animals. Keeping dry footing (whether considering mud, water or urine) as much as possible prevents lots of problems.

Katherine

Last edited on Fri Mar 15th, 2013 05:32 pm by Katherine

Jamsession
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 Posted: Fri Mar 22nd, 2013 08:59 am
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Cement, in my experience, is probably also the easiest to maintain. The barn I'm at has packed dirt/clay under the mats, which makes cleaning and disinfecting quite a bit more difficult. About the best you can do is scrap everything level and drop some lime over the whole floor to control the smell. However, this has worked well for the barn owner, as all of us (co-op situation) keep our horse's stalls very clean. Guess it depends on a few factors. The barn I used to work at had cement floors with mats and bedded very deep. They kept stalls fairly clean but not clean enough, as the ammonia smell still permeated the barn even after stalls were done in the morning...

Jacquie
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 Posted: Tue Apr 23rd, 2013 03:27 pm
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Concrete floors can be slippery so if the horses are shod they may slide when the try to get up even if they have a really deep shavings or straw bed.
I have 12 stables in total, 8 of which are in my top yard and have concrete bases with rubber mats on top and 4 in the lower yard have rubble with rubber mats on top.

I use compressed wood pellets as bedding. Not usre if they are available in USA but they are also marketed as a bio fuel to use for central heating boilers. They make a lovely soft bed on top of the rubber mats, and I soak them with water to fluff them up and make them go soft. It is very counter intuitive to use loads of water in a stable to make a nice dry bed (!) but you have to believe me when I say it works really well and the horses seem to like it. It makes mucking out a lot easier as it is very easy to remove the urine soaked bed and only the poops and nothing else. So muck heaps are smaller too. Straw makes a mahoussive muck heap in no time!

The concrete stables dont get at all smelly as they were laid carefully to have a very slight slope from back to front towards the doors and can be hosed out very easily without removing the mats, when necessary. The large rubber mats have been in place for 3 years now and there is no smell in any of the stables.

The rubble base stables, with the rubber matting on top are the absolute best though and this would be my choice if I was to make new stables again, as the urine soaks right down away through the rubble and into the ground. BUT make sure that the water levels underground will not rise up in wet weather and flood the stables - yep, thats what two of my rubble base stables did this winter in our wet, wet wet UK winter! It could be solved though if I put yet more rubble into the affected two stables to raise their base level to above the highest water table level.

Some of my horses are very fussy about depth of bedding and wont lie or pee on anything less than a sumptuously thick compressed wood pellet bed, but some avoid weeing or lying on the bedding in the larger stables and chose to sleep on the bare rubber.


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