Many horsemen still raise their eyebrows at the mention of any non-wood horse-trailer floor. They’re skeptical, to say the least, citing concern that the floors won’t hold up or will crack or fall apart under the horse’s weight.
And, for a long time, wood floors were the only option, despite that horrific accidents occurred every year as a result of horses falling through decayed floors. Now, however, alternatives are surfacing, and the rumors surrounding them are being busted.
Actually, the proof of the durability of aluminum floors passes you each time you see a huge semi with a livestock trailer. These rigs used aluminum floors long before horse-trailer manufacturers even considered the idea. These are strong floors. And they stay strong, because livestock haulers pressure-wash them, often after each use.
That brings us to another misconception among horsemen: When you purchase an aluminum trailer, you don’t have to clean it out. Not true. Aluminum can corrode, in the same way that wood floors will rot, if not taken care of. Plus, replacing an aluminum floor costs big bucks.
Aluminum comes in different tempers and alloys. For example, the extrusion used in Sundowner floors are 6061 (the alloy) and have a T6 temper rating, which gives the floor a rating of 45,000 pounds per square inch (psi).
The temper rating, which signifies the amount of titanium used, is what you’re interested in. The higher the number, the stronger the aluminum, because it contains more titanium. Incidentally, titanium is one of the most expensive metals in the world, and T6 is the same temper rating used in the aircraft industry. The price of your trailer will, of course, reflect the cost of the materials.
Many aluminum floors are put together initially with the same interlocking system as Legos. They are aluminum “boards” that lock together to form the floor.
Sundowner trailer floors are sort of a c-channel extrusion. The floors are actually assembled upside down. The six-inch-wide planks are locked together. Then, on the bottom half of those planks, skip welding is used to tie them together. The bottom rails and cross members are welded to the floor and, by the time the work is finished, it then becomes one solid floor unit.
The cross members that support these floors underneath play a large part in how strong the final floor will be, in the same way they would with a wood floor. For example, Dream Coach, which also uses T6, has an interlock T-floor design with three-inch I-beams on 4.5” centers.
Aluminum is a strong alloy that has some flex but not as much give as a wood floor. That flex, however, allows the floors to “breathe” so they aren’t so rigid that they will break. To assure comfort for horses, use rubber mats from ??” to 7/8” inch thick on top of your aluminum floors.
Drain holes are important with aluminum floors, to help minimize the effects of urine that becomes trapped under the mats. If the trailer you purchase doesn’t have drain holes, or you want to put them in a trailer you already have, consider drilling one or two 9/16” holes through the floor at the back of every stall. Be sure to place them so you don’t hit crossmembers.
Rumber is revolutionizing horse-trailer floors. This environmentally friendly material is made from recycled tires and plastic. Extruded into planks, just like lumber, the boards can be attached to cross members to form a floor.
Its cushioning quality and traction surface take the place of both a floor and mats, making maintenance a breeze: No pulling out mats and flipping them over to clean underneath. You just turn on the hose and wash off the floor.
Rumber is a floor option with many horse trailer manufacturers, such as Classic Trailers, Inc., Dream Coach and Gooseneck Trailer Mfg. Co. It can also be purchased to replace floors in older trailers. It comes in lumber dimensions and sheets, such as 2x8-inch, 2x6-inch and 2x4-inch. Because they are extruded, you can order specific lengths.
In horse trailers, Rumber boards should be placed upon 12” center supports. The minimum recommendations for those supports is 2” angle iron that is ??” thick. Using 2” x ??” screws or bolts, the boards are secured at each end and 24” to 30” maximum centerline spacing. The floor can be used in either steel or aluminum trailers.
Even though the boards are tongue-and-groove and tightly snapped together, they do offer drainage space. In addition, they have a flexible surface that takes a lot of the stress off a horse’s legs during hauling.
Unlike mats, Rumber floors don’t buckle when a trailer is closed up and stored during hot summer months. They hold their form and shape, and screws, bolts or nails won’t damage them.
These floors are non-absorbent. Water, manure and urine can’t soak in, as they do into wood. The acid from urine doesn’t affect them. Still, for sanitary reasons, you need to hose off the floor regularly and to prevent the urine from seeping into the walls.
Because the product won’t rot or corrode, the safety factor of these floors is high. Rumber has a 20-year limited warranty. Contact Rumber at www.rumber.com or 877/786-2371.
Most rotted-out wood floors are a result of neglect, as the acid from urine, which could have been hosed out regularly, was left to eat away at the floor. Wood floors may last 20 years if taken care of properly, but aluminum and Rumber floors are attractive modern alternatives.
Although Rumber appears to be the easiest to care for, we aren’t going to suggest you make a trailer decision based solely on its floor.
Select the trailer that best meets your own travel needs — number of horses, trailer weight and dimensions, dressing room, etc. — then learn to properly care for the floor that comes with it. If you have a choice, consider Rumber.
However, even if you find the most urine-resistant floor in the world, it’s still going to need to some maintenance. Pull out and clean mats monthly, allowing them and the floor to dry. Maintenance won’t just save you the cost of a new floor, it may save a life.