Concrete and asphalt may seem like a simple way to achieve a solid, level stall-floor base that's durable, inexpensive, and easy to clean--but experts recommend against both.
John Brennan, who operates North Run Farm with his wife, top trainer Missy Clark, says concrete was commonly used in barns in Ireland when he was growing up there. This unforgiving surface, he says, can be detrimental to soundness. "If you stable a horse on concrete for a few weeks, he'll become sore in his back and legs."
Standing for hours on a hard surface contributes to stocking up (accumulation of fluid in the legs)--especially if your horse has limited turnout and spends most of he day in his stall, says Dr. Edgar Ott, animal nutrition professor at the University of Florida. Concrete and asphalt also get more slippery with wear, and can cause pressure sores and rubs on elbows and hocks.
If your stall floor already has an asphalt or concrete base, you can improve it slightly by adding 3/4-inch-thick rubber mats for a little extra 'give': be sure to use at least 8 inches of bedding-more for horses who are stabled for a long period of time or who tend to tock up.
Stall mattresses, which require no drainage underneath, can be installed over concrete or asphalt. Synthetic grids such as Groundmaster and Equustall can be installed on a concrete or asphalt base if you drill 1-inch-diameter holes a few inches apart to drain any moisture that passes through the grid. In every case, however, a better alternative for your horse is to break up and remove the concrete or asphalt, excavate the stall to a depth of several inches, and iinstall a base of screenings for rubber mats, a synthetic grid, or a stall mattress.
You'll find complete information on stall flooring, including step-by-step instructions for building a base and the latest on options from synthetic grids to rubber mats and stall mattresses, in "Comfort Underfoot" in the August 2003 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.