Are you having trouble deciding what type of flooring to use in your horse’s stall? Providing your horse with the best care is every horse owner’s number one priority. You spend countless hours deciding what products are best for your horse and it is no different when it comes to stall flooring.
You have many options for the flooring in your horse’s stall. Each material varies in cost, comfort and maintenance levels. You can choose between dirt, concrete, asphalt, rubber matting, or plastic grids. The choice depends solely on what expectations you have for your stall flooring.
Deciding which flooring is best for your horse depends on your location, resources and your horse’s specific needs.
There are a variety of flooring materials you can use, but essentially you must go with what works best for you and your situation. The following guide will help you make your decision.
The Right Base for your Flooring
Before you decide on a flooring material, you should first make sure that your stall’s base is prepared properly. If you haven’t built your barn yet, be sure to choose a location that is safe from flooding and where water from rain and snow will drain away from it.
You may need to have some land grading done if the location you have chosen is not ideal for water runoff. If your barn is already built, you can still have grading work done to correct any flooding or moisture issues you run into.
Once your barn is in place, you can prepare the base in each stall to make sure that whichever flooring you choose will have the best functionality.
For each stall, if you are starting with a dirt base, you will need to dig out the first few layers of dirt. This is usually about one foot deep. Then, you will need to level out that layer.
The base has to be level to prevent strain on your horse’s legs.
Next, you need to compact the leveled dirt as much as possible. This base layer of dirt will be under your final flooring, whichever one you choose, so you need to make sure that it is done right.
Stall Flooring Options
Flooring in a horse stall is actually comprised of multiple layers. The first and deepest layer is the base. A good, level base is essential for the layers on top. Each subsequent layer will be affected by any issues with the base layer.
The next layers depend on which type of flooring you decide to use and whether you need multiple layers of different materials. On top of your final layer, you will put your shavings or whichever kind of bedding you choose for your horse stall.
There are a variety of different options for stall flooring and several factors should be considered when choosing the right floor for your barn. Here is a comparison chart to provide a quick overall look at each flooring type.
|Material||Cost||Maintenance||Level of Comfort||Longevity|
Dirt is the simplest choice for your final layers of stall flooring. It is often the initial choice when designing your barn. It is the cheapest option and is already the base layer for your stalls. You can use topsoil or clay dirt, both are good choices but clay is known to compact much easier than topsoil.
Once you have leveled and compacted the base layer of dirt, you can add additional layers of dirt and even grade the top level with a slight slope so that the water will drain off. The problem that occurs with dirt is that it will need to be removed and replaced relatively often.
Over time, dirt floors will absorb a lot of moisture and will need to be redone. Dirt floors can freeze more easily, and they tend to stay damp. The stall will need to be cleaned out very often to prevent moisture buildup.
Dirt as a flooring option is much easier on a horse’s legs than other options. It is also easy for most barn owners to handle installing themselves, so that makes it even more appealing. Overall, dirt is a good option that serves as the flooring for many barn stalls.
Using concrete for your stall flooring is another option. This type of flooring is often used because of how easy it is to clean. Also, installing concrete can be done by almost any adult, if they know what they are doing. Once installed, concrete is long lasting and hard-wearing.
Concrete stall flooring can pose some problems for horses however. For one, you never want to put a smooth surface on the top of the concrete slab that you put in a horse’s stall. Even though you will put bedding over it, a horse’s hoof can still slip on the slick, smooth concrete underneath, especially if it becomes wet.
If you decide to use concrete as your flooring base, you will want to make sure that it has a rough surface.
You can roughen the surface by running a broom over the concrete before it dries to put texture on the top surface.
Concrete also does not have any give in it, so your horse’s legs could suffer over time. To combat this, you will always need to use a thick layer of bedding over concrete to prevent injury to your horse.
Rubber mats or thick pine bedding will help to lessen the risk of injury when using concrete as stall flooring. This, however, means that there are additional costs associated with using concrete as your flooring.
A popular option for stall flooring is rubber mats. This flooring typically is placed over top of other types of flooring. While rubber floor mats are very expensive, they do allow provide extra cushioning on top of your other flooring, especially if it is concrete.
When installing this kind of flooring, it is recommended to use rubber matting designed specifically for horse stalls. Your mats should cover the entirety of the stall. Rubber mats come in different sizes, some covering the whole stall, some come in multiple sizes and others come in small squares that have to be interlocked together.
The mats you choose should be textured to prevent slipping. Rubber matting is ideal for stall cleaning and it makes the whole process much easier. A good rubber stall mat can last up to a decade if special care is taken and it is secured properly. The extra cushion provided by these mats are much easier on a horse’s legs than concrete or other hard flooring.
You will probably need help installing this flooring. A large, stall sized mat can weigh up to 100 pounds and you will need multiple people to safely place it into the stall.
Also known as grid mats, plastic grids are a type of subflooring. They have open grid holes that can be filled with dirt or other materials. A top layer of flooring will be needed above it, but plastic grids add a layer of protection. Plastic grids stop the flooring base from being damaged easily and allow for more drainage.
The open grids are placed on top of a leveled flooring base. Clay, dirt, or a gravel mix should be used on top of the grids to fill the open grid holes and create a hardy top layer. You will need to add enough materials so that the horse is not stepping directly on the grids. You will want a thick layer of material between their hooves and the grids to prevent damage.
Plastic grids are rather expensive, but they are easier on a horse’s legs than concrete. They also prevent damage to your floor, avoiding maintenance down the road. Since a top layer of flooring is required, this type of flooring also incurs additional costs on top of the high costs of the grids themselves.
You will also need to check the grid subflooring every now and again to make sure it is intact and doesn’t need to be replaced, but typically plastic grids will last a long time.
Many people mistakenly believe that concrete and asphalt are basically the same when it comes to stall flooring. While they are similar and are both easy to clean, they do have a few differences.
First, asphalt is not as hard as concrete and offers a little give that makes horses slightly more comfortable. It often has more traction on the top layer and it is not as costly as concrete.
Asphalt does not last as long as concrete and might chip over time. Asphalt typically will need to be replaced after a few years go by depending on how it holds up and how thick of a layer you initially installed.
Like concrete, you will need to have an additional layer on top of asphalt as it is still rather hard and can slicken over time. Installing asphalt will most likely require the help of a professional to make sure it is installed correctly and lasts as long as possible.
Although in today’s world wood is not often used for stall flooring, it still is an option. It can be rather expensive because you must purchase planks of wood at least 2 inches thick and it must be weather treated.
Most people recommend placing a gravel layer beneath the wood to aid with drainage. Wood flooring provides more cushion for horses; however, it still can be slick when it gets wet. It will hold onto odors and it is rather difficult to clean thoroughly.
You must stay on top of checking the wood flooring for broken pieces of wood and replace any damaged boards immediately to prevent injury. While it remains an option, wood does require a lot of maintenance and it will eventually need to be replaced.
Each type of stall flooring discussed here is utilized by different horse owners around the world. Each type has positives and negatives.
They all need maintenance of some kind, but some more than others. Some are very costly and may not be cost effective in your situation. Whichever flooring you provide for your horse, always be sure that your horse has adequate bedding to not only keep him or her comfortable but also safe from slipping.
Also, be sure to prepare your flooring base properly before you install any kind of flooring, even simple dirt. An adequate base layer can go a long way to making your flooring selection last as long as possible.