Choosing The Right Floor For Your Horse Stable

So you are getting a horse and need a place to house it.  Some board their horse but if you are planning to build a horse stable, what type of flooring you should have is the first consideration.  

Porous Or Impervious Base?

Two types of bases people consider are the porous or impervious base but both of them have several flaws you need to take into consideration.

  • Porous—this type will allow the moisture to be absorbed from above and directed to the ground below.  The porous one sounds like a good choice but it is not a one-way base.  This type of base will also absorb groundwater from underneath the barn or stable.
  • Impervious—this base will retain any wetness on top of the surface.  Since this base will hold any urine or water you need to think about how you are going to direct these from the stable.  The obvious choice is to install a drainage channel that leads outside way beyond the stable or barn.  You could also us highly absorbent bedding

Which either base you choose, you are going to need a few inches of fine gravel or sand under the base.  For the porous base, it will prevent the water from pooling and coming up through the base and allow any liquid to drain into the ground.  With the impervious base, it will ensure the stability of the floor and drainage of the water or urine.

Common Types Of Flooring For a Horse Stable

1. Interlocking Bricks

The older stables that have been showcased in stately or historic homes often use grooved stable bricks.  They also have a slightly sloped floor at the rear where the drainage is.  This intricate pattern looks like art but they are not very practical.  The channel will frequently get blocked.  The grid that is placed over the drainage can become dislodged by horses, which can cause injury 

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2. Rubber Mats

Using rubber mats over the base can help to remedy the issues of excessive wet wasted bedding, and coldness that is associated with concrete. The rubber mats can also be used as a cover-up for slipperiness, unevenness, and hardness of the existing floor.  If you use rubber mats and they have not secured adequately with interlocking tiles or sealants, they can move.  The bedding could get between the gaps trapping debris underneath or causing unevenness.  It can also lead to a build-up of odor and bacteria.

concrete floor

3. Concrete

To help combat the problems that can happen with the brick style of flooring, concrete has become very popular.  Using concrete does not solve the drainage problem as it is a cold material.  This means that it will absorb urine but never really dries.  The plus side is it is easy to clean, hard to damage, and durable.  You should consider using textured concrete so the surface does not become slippery.

4. Sand, Soil, or Clay

These are types of porous floors that do allow water and urine to drain straight through and leave the existing soil in place.  If you have a limited construction budget, this is an inexpensive option.  The one drawback with this type of flooring is that it needs to be kept level and free from any holes because you do not want your horse to step in one and break their leg.  It will also need to be topped up periodically because some will be lost during the daily mucking process.

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If you instead choose to have hard-packed floors of sand, earth, or clay with a base of rubble, there is not as much chance of having injuries than with concrete or brick.  This type of flooring will have greater insulating properties.  If you decide to use sand, you need to be aware of the potential of sand colic if you are feeding your horse from the floor routinely.  

5. Asphalt

This is an alternative to concrete but is not widely used.  Asphalt is a mix of sand and aggregate stone that is held together with tar.  The one that works best is loose weave asphalt that is laid onto small pebbles over the rubble.  This type is warm and the urine will just drain away through the layers.  You must make sure that the top layer of the asphalt is smooth level and coarse but not tamped down.  If it is, then it will clog down and render any drainage non-existent.

It is relatively expensive but not long-wearing.  It is not as durable as concrete and is considered less cold and hard.  It does need to be taken care of to make sure that the surface does not trap urine.

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6. PE Foam Flooring

This is the type of flooring that is used when money is no object.  In some veterinary hospitals, they used this laminated PE foam flooring.  It has excellent insulating properties against both the heat and cold.  It is also waterproof.  This type of flooring acts like an impermeable barrier preventing fluids from seeping through to the subfloor.  It is very kind to a horse’s joints with a cushioning effect.

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7. Crushed Limestone

Although this can be safe and comfortable, it has to be level and well packed.  The best way to use crushed limestone is to lay it over several inches of sand.  You need to monitor it to ensure that it does not compact too much.  It could become almost concrete-like in hardness.

Conclusion

  • The hardness of the flooring can have an impact on the health of a horse’s legs, especially if they have to stand for a long period of time in the stable.
  • If they have to stand for a long period of time you should add rubber matting to a concrete floor or choose natural flooring.
  • Rubber matting is only three percent softer than concrete flooring, especially in cold weather.
  • From a leg health perspective, you need to choose your flooring carefully.
  • At one time, wood was the standard horse stable flooring.
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