Horse Stall Mats are becoming increasingly popular due to the advantages they offer on other floor surfaces:
- failure . The traditional concrete floor is very hard. Unless you provide a thick layer of litter, this hardness can stress the joints, possibly damage the feet and cause sore spots where the horse lies down to rest or sleep. The mats offer a softer and softer surface, more comfortable for horses and less likely to cause impact stress injuries.
- Heat . The materials used to make the horse rugs are naturally insulating. This is both more comfortable and healthier for horses, especially in the winter.
- Traction . Concrete and wood floors can be slippery when wet; the rugs offer better traction and reduce this risk for horses.
- Smooth . Many mats have a smooth surface, which is much easier to clean than concrete or wood surfaces.
- Sterilization . Carpets can be easily sterilized with a disinfectant, which is difficult with absorbent surfaces such as wood or earth. Especially in the case of a contraction of the horse a contagious disease, the ability to sterilize the stall floor is important.
- Drainage . Unlike concrete, rugs allow urine to drain. Usually this happens to the joints between the mats, although some types of rugs allow urine to drain through the mat itself.
- bed linen . Many owners find that less litter with mattresses is needed, partly because the rugs perform the function of bedding (insulation, soft and comfortable surface, shock absorption, traction) and partly because the ability to drain urine means which is dirty less bedding. This saves not only on bed linen costs, but also in terms of time and money associated with cleaning the barn.
An opaque floor can be laid on any hard and non-mobile surface such as concrete, asphalt and wooden floors. As such, the mats are more of a floor covering rather than a standalone floor. Some mats (thicker and more resistant ones) can also be laid on compact stone, provided that the stones do not exceed a certain size (large stones can cause bumps or even tears in the mats). Soft surfaces, such as earth or sand, are not suitable as they can move under the mats, causing depressions in the rugs. In the end, this can lead to separations between the mats or even tearing them.
The stall mats vary in type, quality and performance characteristics. Consequently, selecting a mat for individual requirements requires consideration of a number of factors. The important differences between the various mats are in terms of:
- Material . The most commonly used material is rubber, although there are different types and qualities of rubber used (it largely depends on the manufacturer). There are also non-rubber mats, made with high-tech materials such as EVA. High-quality rubber tends to be more expensive, but is more resistant. High-tech materials such as EVA tend to have slightly different performance characteristics (eg more shock absorbers) and tend to be lighter for a given size.
- Cut it. The mats usually vary in size from about 30 square cm (one square foot) to about 2 square meters (3 square yards). However, we have seen rugs up to 12 feet by 12 feet (almost 4 feet by 4 feet), designed to cover an entire barn with a single piece (which weighs 600 pounds or nearly 300 kg). Large mats are heavier (larger mats weigh 100 kg or 200 lbs each), which makes positioning more difficult. However, their weight and size are an advantage as it makes them less likely to move once positioned and also less prone to bend around edges or corners. Smaller rugs are easier to work with. In case of tearing or other damage, it is cheaper to replace a smaller mat than a large one.
- Thickness . The thickness varies from about 1 centimeter to over 2 centimeters. Thicker mats have 4 advantages: they tend to be more resistant, are less likely to curl around the edges, less likely to move, rugs are generally indicative of quality. However, as the thickness increases, the price and weight also increase.
- Weight . The weight depends on the type of material (EVA is much lighter than rubber) and on the thickness of the mat. Heavy mats are more likely to stay in place, while lighter mats are useful if you travel frequently with your horse (for example, between horse shows and races) and you like to bring a portable mat with you. One of the advantages of an EVA mat rather than a rubber mat is that it only weighs about a quarter of the rubber, so it is more suitable if you need to move it often.
- interlocking . Some mats fit together, while others have straight edges and simply rely on their weight to hold them in place. Being all the same (size, weight, thickness), the interlocking mats stay in their best place and are much less likely to lift the edges. Some mats are designed to lock and unlock easily (for easy transport if you often move positions with your horse) while others are designed to lock securely in place (making transportation more difficult, but providing better performance in static installations).
- Quality . Like any product, the quality varies. A long warranty (5 to 10 years) is an indication of quality. Thicker rugs are generally of better quality than thin ones. Given 2 rubber mats of the same size, if one is substantially heavier it is probably of better quality (the lighter one is probably not pure rubber, but instead rubber mixed with lower and lighter materials). None of these are an absolute mark of quality, but they are usually good indications. It is also worth checking whether the manufacturer has a reputation for producing quality products. Also ask if the rubber has been reprocessed (which is good) or if the rubber has been tied with urethane glue (lower quality).
- Permeable . The mats should not be permeable, i.e. urine should not be able to enter the surface of the mat. If the materials or production methods are of low quality, the mats may be partially permeable, resulting in urine that enters the carpet and produces odors.
- Porous . Some rugs are porous, allowing urine to pass through. However, most are not porous, although urine can flow out through the joints where the mats meet. With smaller mats, there are more joints, so urine tends to flow more. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage (see discussion below).
- Flat, grooved or footed bottom . Many mats have a flat bottom. With the flat bottom, any urine that penetrates under the mats (for example, draining through the joints between the mats) can be trapped there. If you have a permeable surface under the mats (e.g. compact stone) this may not be a problem, but if you have a non-permeable surface (e.g. concrete) under the mats, you don’t want to have trapped urine that releases ammonia and odors. . With thickets or feet, this urine may be able to drain (if this happens in practice it will depend on factors such as the slope of the underlying surface and if there are dives in the underlying surface).
- Portable . Some mats are designed to be portable, some are not. Factors to consider when considering portability include: weight, size, ability to roll up. If they are interlocked, check that they can be locked and unlocked easily and without special tools.
- Reversible . Some mats have an upper and a lower side, while others can be reversed (upside down). The advantage of the latter is that when a part shows wear, you can turn it upside down to extend the lifespan.
- Flat or textured top . Some floor mats have a flat, smooth top, while others have a textured top. The smooth upper parts are easier to clean (the thickets or protrusions on textured carpets tend to trap dirt), while the textured upper parts provide horses with better traction. Some people buy floor mats with a grooved bottom and then turn them upside down so that the grooved side is facing up; this is especially true for high traffic areas such as corridors or washing areas (where water and soap would otherwise produce a slippery surface).
- Cut to fit . The mats are available in a large variety of sizes. However, to get a perfect fit, you may need to cut the mats. In this case, before purchasing the mats, check that they are designed to allow this.
- Price . Prices vary, but as an approximate indication, look at 20-40 euros per square meter.
For photos of different types (interlocking, textured), see horse mats.
If urine is discharged through the mats instead of resting on them, the amount of dirty bed linen is significantly reduced. This reduces the time required to clean the barn, reduces the amount of spare bedding required and reduces the amount of storage space required for dirty beds.
Although all of these are important benefits, what happens to urine after it has been drained through the mats must be considered. If the underlying surface has good drainage (eg thick layer of crushed stone), urine can flow out. However, if the underlying surface is impermeable (eg concrete), urine simply accumulates under the mats, where it can release ammonia into the air (which is unhealthy for the horses in it, particularly for their lungs) and produces unpleasant odors. Although you can occasionally lift the mats up and clean them underneath, the fact that cleaning urine under the mats is more difficult than cleaning the urine on them.
Consequently, depending on the surface of the underlying floor, you may prefer that the urine flow out, or you may prefer that it does not. According to your preferences, you should choose the mats accordingly: the small mats drain more than the large ones (the joints are closer together and there are more), the straight edge mats drain more than the interlocking, the porous mats drain more than non-porous.
If you decide to use mats that easily allow urine to drain, you should consider the following:
- Choose a mat with a fluted bottom or foot, so that urine can drain out instead of getting trapped.
- Try to have a floor with good drainage. If this is not possible, allow the urine to flow out using a flat floor (no immersion where urine can accumulate), smooth (so that fluids flow easily) and tilted so that the liquids escape.
- Consider choosing mats whose design and weight allow you to easily lift them, allowing periodic washing of the floor below.
A stable with rubber mats is cleaned in much the same way (hay pitchfork and / or shovel) than any other stable. Many people also periodically use a water hose to wash them periodically. If the mats have feet or thickets underneath, this can also help flush out urine that has flowed between the joints (see the discussion on drainage above).
A pressure jet can also be used. Although this is very effective, be careful not to hold the pressure jet immediately against the surface of the mat as this could damage the mat (the pressure jet manual must indicate the minimum distance to keep the pressure jet away from the surfaces to be to clean).
If the mat needs to be absolutely clean, other cleaning tools that might be helpful are a brush, soap and disinfectant. Before using any chemical on the mat, just follow the instructions provided with the mat to make sure that the chemical does not harm it.