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Hi Cherry,

We moved with our ponies onto a five acre hobby farm which was previously a dairy operation.  There is a large cement yard around the barns causing a lot of wasted space. It would be a perfect winter/sacrifice area for spring though, the barn shelters the north and west sides. I was wondering if there would be anyway to cover this? A base layer of gravel with sand on top? How deep? Ripping it out is not an option, and I don’t like the idea of horses on concrete.  Wondering if you have any suggestions? Thanks,

Allison

Hi Allison,

Well of course I have to go on the record that my suggestion would be removing the concrete but I realize the effort, expense it would take and that you said removal is not an option.

By the way, what you have are concrete pads, not cement. Concrete is comprised of cement (a fine powder), aggregate (sand, stones) and water. It is sometimes reinforced with steel mesh or bars (rebar). When concrete is poured it is agitated and worked so the large pieces of aggregate settle somewhat leaving a sand/cement mixture on top to form a smooth surface. Concrete is one of man’s most durable building materials and it can be a major undertaking to remove it, especially if it is reinforced with steel.

So here are some other things you probably have already considered or have even done by now.

Using the concrete as is for eating areas would be OK, but if the ponies would also be required to use them as loafing areas, standing for long periods of time and/or laying down or rolling, then concrete pads would not be good for the long term for obvious reasons of abrasion and discomfort. However, concrete covered with rubber mats might make a super nice feeding area which would be more comfortable than bare concrete and easy to keep sanitary (as long as the ponies don’t urinate there).

If the areas will be used for loafing, then covering the concrete pads with rubber mats or rolled rubber flooring could work. Another option would be covering the concrete with road base, which is a mixture of gravel and dirt and then a layer of a well-draining fine gravel such as decomposed granite (which is what I would use here in the western US) could work.  Note that if your ponies use the area as a toilet (which they most likely will do) then you will have to diligently manage moisture, odor and sanitation. With a situation like this, whether it is in stalls or outdoor pads, you should plan on an annual overhaul. Perhaps this is something you can do if you only use it seasonally.

You asked about gravel and sand. Gravel on concrete could be like walking on ball bearings and would be tough on hooves and not much more comfortable than plain concrete. It would allow somewhat for drainage of urine, especially if the pads are sloped away from the barn which I imagine they are.

Sand is also a risky choice if the area would be a place you would feed the ponies as sand colic would be a problem if they ingested sand with any hay that fell out of their feeders, for example.

No easy answer. Please reply to this blog and let us know what you have done or are planning to try.

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Dear Cherry,


What is the best kind of flooring to have in a stall? We are building a new horse barn and want to know about the stall floor to make it as easy to keep clean as possible. The stalls will be 10ft. by 16ft. the stalls will be used to feed and hold a horse for foaling.

Thanks for your time.
Debbie

Hi Debbie,
I prefer interlocking rubber mats over decomposed granite or another well-draining, well packed base. I bed with shavings normally but use bright oat straw for foaling.
Cherry Hill

Stablekeeping, A Visual Guide to Safe and Healthy Horsekeeping by Cherry Hill


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Here’s a handy way to keep your stall mats in place, excerpted from the book Stablekeeping, by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh, who designed the anchors.

Do your stall mats shift and bulge? Here’s a simple way to make horse-proof anchors that will help keep even a four-corner junction in place.

Illustration from Stablekeeping

by Cherry Hill & Richard Klimesh

Why they’re handy:
Stall mats, especially those thinner than 3/4 inch, have a tendency to bulge along seams and intersections of corners. Bulging corners can be chewed or pawed by horses, and the uneven surface makes cleaning the mats more difficult. With their rounded stake heads, these anchors sit tightly against a mat, allowing a broom, shovel or hoof to slide over them without catching the edge of the mat.

Materials:

  • 1/4-inch diameter steel rod approximately 12 to 18 inches long (the softer the soil, the longer the rod)
  • 1/4-inch steel washer
  • 1 1/2-inch diameter fender washer with a 5/16-inch center hole. (Fender washers are relatively thin and have a large outer diameter compared to a small center hole; available at hardware and auto stores.)
  • 1-inch-diameter pipe (See step 2).

Instructions:
1. Weld the 1/4-inch washer flush with the end of the rod and then weld the fender washer on top of the smaller washer. Weld the center hole of the fender washer and two or three spots around the smaller washer on the underside.

2. To round the head, insert the stake through a piece of 1-inch diameter pipe so the head of the stake sits flat on the pipe. Bend the perimeter of the large washer down over the edge of the pipe using light taps with a hammer. (Always wear eye protection whenever striking metal with a hammer.) Remove the stake from the pipe.

3. Clean out debris from under the corners of the mats so they lie flat and even. Insert the mat stake between the corners of the mats and use a hammer to drive it to the surface of the mats. Keep the stake vertical so the head will sit level.

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