How to choose flooring for the stable
When building or renovating a barn for horses, what they will be standing on is a very important consideration. Horses that are kept in have to stand still on whatever is on their stall floor for long periods of time, which can be hard on their legs. For this reason, from a leg health perspective, flooring needs to be chosen carefully. Maintenance is another factor. The upkeep of some types of flooring is easier than others. You may wish to have one type of flooring for aisles, and another installs. And, the type of floor you will choose for a new barn will depend on the existing natural soil, what materials are available to you, and your budget. Here's a look at the types of flooring found in horse's stables.
1. Soil, Sand or Clay
Leaving the existing soil in place is inexpensive and a healthy option for your horse, but your floors may require daily upkeep to keep them level and the soil may have to be replaced in time.
Clay based soils will also need a lot of maintenance in horse stalls. Damp clay can be slippery or sticky and horses can dig holes and hollows depending on where they most often stand, paw or walk around. It's possible to install clay floors, and it's recommended that these be laid over a thick layer of crushed gravel and kept clean and dry.
Sand is frequently used for stall floors. It is easy on the horse's legs, non-slip and requires minimal bedding material over top. It drains well, and is replaceable once it becomes very soiled. Sand bedded stalls may need 'topping up' as sand is taken away each time the stall is mucked out. Sand colic is a concern if horses eat off of the floor. Sand floors also become uneven easily if the horse paces or paws in its stall. It may also be drying to hooves.
Wood was once the standard flooring material in horse stables. Wood floors are easier on a horse's legs than many other choices. It's warm, non-slip when dry and has relatively low upkeep. Treated wood is required to prevent rot from urine and water spills, and to dissuade rodents and bugs from chewing through it. The wood planks should be at least two inches thick and sit atop a base of sand or gravel for drainage.
Any spaces between planks need to be filled with sand so that feed and bedding don't spill through. The downside of wood floors is that they can be slippery when wet, they can hold odor, can be damaged by pawing horses and can be hard to disinfect. The cost of plank flooring is one factor that makes this a less popular option than it once was.
Concrete flooring is very common in stables. It is very durable and easy to clean and is hard to damage. It can be slippery, so while very smooth finished concrete may be attractive and easy to sweep in feed and tack rooms, textured concrete is better for stalls and aisles.
If horses are kept in for long periods of time, it will be healthier for their legs if rubber stall mats are laid over the concrete, or at very least, the stall is bedded deeply. It also tends to be very cold and damp, so some horses may be reluctant to lie down in their stalls.
4. Crushed Limestone
Sometimes called limestone dust, this material, if installed properly, can be a comfortable, safe stall flooring. It must be well packed and level when it is put in. The benefit of crushed limestone is that it provides good drainage if properly installed with several inches over a bed of sand. It's also a non-slip surface. However, limestone can pack to an almost concrete-like hardness, which means stall mats and/or deep bedding will be needed to provide comfortable footing for your horse.
5. Interlocking Brick
Interlocking brick or pavers are attractive, but present the same problems as concrete floors. Because of the grooves between the pavers, they can be a bit harder to clean. Rubber and synthetic bricks are another option, and these are easy on a horse's legs, provide good drainage and are non-slip. This is probably the most expensive option for stall and aisle flooring.
6. Grid Floors
Several types of grid floors are available for stalls. These honeycomb patterned grids are laid over a few inches of sand or crushed gravel and then filled with crushed gravel or stone dust to make a floor that drains well.
Asphalt is a bit easier on a horse's legs than concrete and can be made so it drains relatively well. When first laid, asphalt is non-slip, but may become slicker over time. It needs to be laid thick enough that it does not crack. It's easy to clean, although disinfecting the porous surface may be difficult. Asphalt may be one of the less-expensive options for stall floors and aisles.