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We are changing the flooring in our horse stalls, and one option we are considering is concrete. However, we decided to research it first and write a helpful post on concrete floors in horse stalls.
Horse stall floors can be concrete, but they need covering either with a pliable material such as a rubber mat or at least 8 inches of bedding material. A bare concrete stall floor could injure a horse.
Many horse owners select floor material for their horse stalls based on how easy it is to keep clean. There is a lot to choosing the right stall floor for your barn, and ease of cleaning is just one of the factors.
Concrete stall floors are easy to maintain.
When choosing a floor for your stall, your analysis should be divided into two categories: your horse’s health and maintenance of the stall.
The following is a list of factors to consider when choosing a stall floor:
1) how will the floor impact the leg health of our horses;
2) will the floor stay relatively dry;
3) will the surface be slippery;
4) how often will it need to be maintained to remain level;
5) how easy will it be to keep the stall clean; and
6) how much will it cost to install the floor.
Europeans have used concrete in their barns for stall floors for many years. A concrete stall floor provides a stable, level base that lasts, and it is easy to clean and can be disinfected. Concrete is impervious to rodents and difficult for a horse to damage. You shouldn’t discount these advantages.
Dirt stall floors become unlevel.
Horses defecate and urine approximately 1/2 ounce of feces and 1/3 ounce of urine per pound of body weight per day. This comes out to around 50 pounds of raw waste per day for a 1,000-pound horse.
Because of the amount of waste a horse displaces, you must clean horse stalls regularly. Floors made of clay and dirt are susceptible to becoming unlevel quickly.
Cleaning a stall requires mucking out the stalls daily. During the mucking out process, not only will you remove the wet bedding and manure, but you will also remove some of the flooring material if the floor is clay, sand, or dirt and create uneven places in the stall. Horses will typically urinate and defecate in the same location in a stall.
Unlevel stall floors are not suitable for horses. It’s unhealthy for the horses’ legs and also creates a spot for urine to pool. To re-level stall, floors require adding more material and repacking.
Depending on the amount of time a horse stays in a stall, you could find it necessary to re-level a stall floor multiple times per year. With concrete stall floors, this is not an issue.
Concrete floors can be washed and disinfected.
Concrete floors are much easier to clean. Mucking out a stall with concrete floors is easier than dirt or clay stall floors, and you don’t create holes. You can also remove the bedding material and rinse the concrete with water.
If you elect to disinfect the floor, you can wash the concrete with a commercial disinfectant to provide an even cleaner environment for your horse.
Maintenance of concrete floors is relatively low; they remain level and are durable. They can also be kept dry with regular cleaning and good drainage. Concrete stall floors check some of the boxes in our needs lists but let’s look at the negative aspects.
As you can see in the picture above, we lay rubber mats over the concrete floors in the wash rack. The rubber mats work well to keep the horses from slipping. Imagine the muddy mess we would have if we didn’t concrete the wash rack floors?
Horses avoid laying on concrete stall floors.
Horses kept in stalls need to lay down and rest. Concrete floors are hard, cold, and slick, not the most comfortable environment to get a good night’s rest. Most horses housed on concrete avoid laying down in their stalls. There are several reasons for this.
Concrete is hard, and a horse is heavy; this combination leads to sores on the horses’ hocks and other areas prone to scraping injuries. Horses housed on slick surfaces such as concrete have difficulty rising from the ground and avoiding laying.
Concrete stall floors have no movement.
Concrete is a cold surface and provides little comfort to a horse. The cold nature of cement is especially troubling to horses in cold environments. Concrete doesn’t flex. Horses need a surface that provides some “give.”
Standing for hours on an unforgiving surface leads to soreness in the hind legs of a horse. It can also cause a horse to “stock up.” People required to work on concrete for extended periods often wear shoes with padded support, and a mat is likely laid over the cement.
Concrete stall floors need a mat or thick bedding.
A mat is needed to alleviate some of the negative impacts on their legs. And the price of concrete continues to rise, so your initial cost per stall is high. Further, a stall with a concrete floor will need more bedding and a solid rubber mat, which adds to the overall cost.
We typically don’t consider concrete a porous material, but it will soak up liquids. Most stalls with concrete floors are covered with a rubber mat, allowing urine to seep between the covering and the concrete. When this happens, the concrete eventually absorbs the urine and creates a nasty and unsanitary condition.
As you can easily see, we cover our concrete floors with a deep layer of pine shavings. The shaving provides comfort, protection, and cleanness.
Concrete stall floors can be unsanitary.
The absorption of urine traps germs, viruses, and odor. The trapped urine can lead to respiratory problems. Horses tend to spend a lot of time with their heads lowered. Breathing in the ammonia from the urine causes damage to the lining in the horse’s throat and lungs.
It is critical when designing a barn to consider ventilation, have plenty of windows and use good stall fans to move out airborne pollutants. If you elect to build your stalls with concrete floors, horses should be turned out at least four hours per day.
How to Make a Concrete Stall Floor Better For Your Horse.
If you already have concrete in your stalls or intend to build a barn with concrete stalls, there are things you can do to improve it for your horse. The simplest thing to do is to add a thick rubber mat.
Adding a mat will provide some “give” under your horse’s weight. Also, you need to use a minimum of 8 inches of bedding. If your horse is a hard keeper or stocks up, you will need more than 8 inches of bedding to keep your horse sound.
There are a variety of mats on the market that you can use in stalls. Some mats come in small sizes and can be put together like puzzles. There are also larger 4′ x 6′ mats available that provide a good cushion for horses. You can click here to check prices on Amazon.
When installing concrete, make sure the finish is not smooth; horse hooves need something to grip. Commercial epoxies are available for horse stalls that seal concrete and prevent it from absorbing moisture. You can mix an additive with epoxy to create a surface compatible with horses.
I have researched the best possible mats I could find. The Equine Stall Matt is also highly rated by Amazon customers. Here is the link to the Amazon customer review page so that you can read for yourself other customers think of this product:
There are health problems related to horses kept in a stall.
A horse kept in a stall for long periods needs a floor surface that has texture to prevent slipping, is pliable to relieve stress from the horse’s legs, and is easy to keep dry.
Horses are natural herd animals; they move around in social groups and graze all day. But there are reasons it becomes necessary to keep a horse in a stall. These reasons could be pasture limitations, training, or weather. When you decide to keep your horse in a stall, you will want to provide a safe and healthy environment.
Too much time in a stall can cause a horse to develop respiratory disease.
Placing horses in stalls for extended periods can adversely affect them. Some horses housed too long can develop respiratory airway disease, intestinal disease, and orthopedic disease.
Respiratory inflammation can be caused by bacteria found in fecal matter, hay, and straw. These airborne irritants will create excess mucus, inhibit a horse’s ability to breathe freely, and lead to long-term respiratory damage such as heaves.
To combat respiratory inflammation in the horse stalls follows these steps:
- Cleans stall twice daily, removing manure and wet bedding;
- keep the stall well ventilated
- Always use stall bedding material that is high quality and low dust.
- Fans can be helpful; however, if the stall and barn are full of dust, the fan could cause more harm than good by kicking up dust.
Stall confinement can lead to colic in horses.
Colic can be caused by stall confinement. Horses not accustomed to being stabled are at a high risk of impaction colic. A study showed that 62% of impaction colic occurred within the first two weeks of horses with a significant change to their daily routines, such as stall confinement or transportation.
Even horses used to being stall kept are at a higher risk of developing colic than pasture kept horses. When horses are taken from the pasture to a stall, try to minimize the changes to their diet.
Also, include an exercise plan to reduce stress and increase metabolism. Exercise assists the digestion of solid feed and reduces the chances of impaction. Give your horse as much turnout time as practical. Pasture time equates to a healthier horse.
Patty Graham-Theirs, Ph.D., conducted a study of horses divided into three groups: full-time turnout (A), stalled during the day (B) and lightly exercised five times per week(C), and stalled during the day, without exercise. The study lasted 14 weeks. The horses in groups B and C were both healthier in several key areas.
Groups A and B had reduced heart rates, lower body temperature, and lower peak CO2 blood concentrations, indicating better fitness levels than the horses stall kept without exercise. Also, the full-time turnouts had a greater bone density. pastured-horses-more-fit/
Too much time in a stall retards a young horse’s growth.
Keeping foals and young horses stabled can retard their physical development. Pasture time is essential for the proper growth of cartilage and bone in horses.
Young horses need time running and playing freely to develop correctly. The restriction imposed by a stall hinders their physical and social growth. Many horses confined to at a young age turn to cribbing as a stress reliever. (See our article here on cribbing)
Horses kept in a stall for extended periods are susceptible to “stocking up.”
Older horses are susceptible to stocking up when kept in stalls with hard surfaces such as concrete. Stocking up is a term used when fluid pools in the lower legs of horses, usually caused by inactivity. Stocking up can be managed with regular turnouts and exercise.
If this is a regular occurrence, you can wrap the horses’ legs when he is in the stall. Be sure to use the wraps properly and change daily. (click here for a price on Self Adherent Wrap)
Horses stalled for extended periods are at risk of developing physical and emotional problems. If you intend to stall your horse, be sure to balance their stall time with turnout time and implement an exercise plan.
Concrete is not our choice for horse stall floors.
Although concrete stall floors checked off many of the boxes we considered necessary in an ideal stall floor, it didn’t provide us with the confidence that our horses’ legs wouldn’t be adversely impacted. So we’ll look at other flooring options.
We decided to use clay floors in the stalls and aisles and used concrete for the washrack, chain-wall, and tack room.
Wood stall floors?
Retired Missouri veterinarian Dr. Chip Kammerlohr DVM recently emailed me about his experience using wood floors in a horse barn; I found it enlightening and wanted to share it with other horse lovers.
We had had three hospital stalls for sick or injured horses that were 12 x 12 plus a feed room, shavings storage, and a small area to store Alfalfa hay we fed. We also had a concrete floor in our locked tack room.
We were immediately concerned about stall flooring both for comfort and safety. We had a friend/acquaintance that taught Horse Science at Rogers State in the Claremore, OK area.
The college had just built him a nice horse barn where money was no object, so I called him to ask about horse stall flooring. He said, “come down and look because if I tell you, you won’t listen, and you will believe it only if you see it?”
My practice was busy, and a 2 1/2 hour trip one way was really an imposition, but on a Sunday morning, we loaded and drove West.
He met us at the new barn, and the first question he asked was, “what is the biggest problem keeping a horse stalled?” Yup, keeping the stall clean and odor-free.
He gave me a wheelbarrow, a scoop shovel, and a large push broom and asked me to clean a stall. No, I was not a happy camper; within 5 minutes, I had scooped all the pine shavings out and swept up the dregs.
The FLOOR was treated pine 2 x 6 that were 12 feet long. During construction, they dug a hole 2 feet deep, filled it with lateral rocks 18 inches, then 4-5 inches of washed pea gravel about the size of a dime leveled flat, laid the 2 x 6 side by side using a 1/2 to 5/8 inch shim to leave a gap.
Then on each end laid a 1 x 6 12 feet long and screw anchored each 2 x 6 with three countersunk screws. The only attachment points were at each end. Then they covered the floor with pine shavings but only enough for traction, padding for a nap, and good coverage for urination.
With the gaps in the boards, you have excellent drainage through the washed pea gravel, and cleaning the stall wall to wall takes only a few minutes.
YES, there is a caveat, the boards under the shavings are SLICK, but after having a horse stalled 24 hours a day for a couple of days, the slick goes away and is never a problem again.
From 1983 to 2012, I only had to replace a couple of boards in one stall because two boards “bowed” and arched after a heavy rain, and we quickly replaced them.
I found wood to be an ideal floor covering, especially for cleaning and odor control. My floors were still holding up well when I sold my barn.
Numerous clients copied my floors, but some used fine chat as a base with a high limestone content. Not a good idea because limestone and water or urine make concrete those who followed directions loved the finished floor as I did.
What do you need in a horse stall?
Horses need a hayrack, some way to hang a feed and water bucket, good ventilation, tie rings, suitable flooring, and lighting. For more detailed information on horse stalls and some design tips, check out this article: What Horses Need in Their Stall. 6 Stable Design Tips.
What’s the best material to use for horse stall bedding?
I prefer to use pine shavings for stall bedding; they’re easy to clean and absorb moisture well. Various other bedding materials are also suitable for horse stall bedding. To learn more about stall bedding, you can read this article: What’s the Best Stall Bedding for Your Horse Barn? 4 Options.
- Click here to review stall mats offered on Amazon.
- To read about horses sheets and turnout blankets, click here
- To read Amazon customer reviews of stall mats, click here
I love animals! Especially horses, I’ve been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn’t make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines.