Rubber mats for a large area?

Last post 04-02-2011 9:22 PM by NeverDull Ranch. 10 replies.
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  • 03-02-2011 1:14 PM

    Rubber mats for a large area?

    I am curious if anyone has used rubber mats to cover a large, run-in barn.  I'd like to upgrade the dirt flooring in my 30 x 30 run-in but am concerned that a dozen or more standard 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 mats (designed for box stalls) spread over that large an area inhabited by loose horses (3 to 4) would slip, curl, and generally be a problem, even if I get the heavy-duty 3/4" thick ones.  Has anyone tried this?  Would special-ordering the full-size 12 x 12 stall mats work better, or would I have a similar problem?

    I won't go to concrete in this building for many reasons, though I certainly have seen the spray-on solid rubber used over large areas of concrete, such as at zoos and veterinary facilities.  But that's not going to work here.  The horses have 24/7 turnout, and can come and go into this barn for shelter.  It's where I feed them.  But, of course, they've decided it's their potty area too... so I always have to clean it out.

    I'm looking at either putting mats over the existing dirt floor, and/or upgrading the flooring, or both.  The dirt floor has some clay in it, but it's a cleaning nightmare, gets holes, permanent wet spots that won't dry, etc., and any bedding I use gets ground into the dirt, very difficult to get really clean.

    I have considered upgrading the flooring to road mix or something similar.   Am also debating using some other sort of fill, such as pea gravel (local sand and gravel place looked at me funny when I asked about "fines" or "stone dust." They replied, "sand or pea gravel is what we have unless you want road mix with some clay in it.")  All our gravel naturally has a high limestone content in this area.

    Another possibility the sand & gravel folks mentioned was recycled asphalt -- stuff from torn-up roads, run through the rock crushing equipment and sold as a gravel mix, packs down to be more stable than gravel, drains better than clay, used on a lot of rural driveways and such.  Has anyone tried this? The asphalt smell won't be an issue here as it's not closed in, and I'd presume I'd have to do mats over the top, but curious if anyone has input.

    Is there any other hoof/leg-friendly alternative to rubber over a harder base if you are trying to find that balance between comfort and cleaning ease?

    All comments welcomed!
  • 03-02-2011 1:47 PM In reply to

    Re: Rubber mats for a large area?

    The good, heavy duty mats themselves won't curl or slip, but what happens when a horse pees on them?  They get really slick.  Unless you're going to cover the mats with some deep shavings or sawdust or something like that, which would be almost impossible to keep in a run in, I think your best bet would be to have some sandy loam hauled in, which might cost a small fortune, but probably not too bad compared to what all those mats would cost.

  • 03-02-2011 5:43 PM In reply to

    Re: Rubber mats for a large area?

    I'm not sure why you don't want to go with concrete or a blacktop surface, then put mats in. We'd advise the interlocking ones. But we would not place them over loose dirt because they will shift. We also wouldn't place mats without some type of bedding, as the other writer stated, because the mats may get slippery.

    Have you considered packed bluestone? You'd need a professional to come in with a 30-ton roller to be sure it's well packed. You could install a geotextile tarp under the bluestone to help with the drainage. This won't be inexpensive, but it may do the trick. Don't laugh, but your best professional to help you with type of a situation could be an experienced septic-tank installation company. Not the ones that just come and suck the stuff out, but the guys who actually put in a septic system. They really know drainage! We recommend their advice for wet arenas, too.

    We have seen very large mat rolls (like a huge roll-out carpet but made of rubber. Check some of the livestock supply places. However, I can't tell you how well they work, as we don't have any experience with them. It's a thought, though. But again we'd worry about them becoming slippery. And, of course, if you don't address the clay problem with something that will help the clay drainage problem, you're still going to get buildup.

    Do a search on our website for our mats articles, as you may find some of our testers' experiences with the various products helpful. There is one that is specifically made for drainage-problem areas like this. The plastic pieces snap together and are made to encourage drainage. You could contact the company to see if they have larger ones. Remember, as a subscriber, you get full access to all back issues.

    Overall, I'd give serious consideration to the geotextile on the clay with packed bluestone.

    Cindy Foley, Horse Journal Editor-in-Chief
    Filed under:
  • 03-03-2011 6:14 AM In reply to

    Re: Rubber mats for a large area?

    Cindy Foley:
    Have you considered packed bluestone? You'd need a professional to come in with a 30-ton roller to be sure it's well packed.

    In a 30x30 run-in?  Not so sure a 30-ton roller is a good idea, what would you do along the walls and around the support columns?  If you're going to spend that much, it might just be easier to have a new barn built from the ground up starting with the foundation you want......

    eta:  i've had the thick, heavy mats on dirt floors many times (under feeding areas, particularly for Sr. horses that drop feed) and once they get settled, you're doing good to move them at all, much less without intending to.

  • 03-03-2011 7:30 AM In reply to

    Re: Rubber mats for a large area?

    i've had the thick, heavy mats on dirt floors many times (under feeding areas, particularly for Sr. horses that drop feed) and once they get settled, you're doing good to move them at all, much less without intending to.

     I definitely have to second this. We keep the super thick rubber mats in my sister's run-in. I'm not sure of the size but I'd say it is smaller than what you are talking about. The mats may shift slightly but we haven't had any issues with them bunching or curling up. The dirt floor in our run-in is pretty solid, though and doesn't have the drainage issues you describe. We just keep the mats covered with shavings which really hasn't been much of an issue but again I'm pretty sure it is a bit smaller space than what you are describing. 


    "If the world were truly a rational place, men would ride sidesaddle" ~Rita Mae Brown

  • 03-03-2011 11:53 AM In reply to

    Re: Rubber mats for a large area?

    Thanks all, I did read the rubber mat article back in the day, and I concur on the need for bedding.  The info on types of mats is good, and I've considered the interlocking ones -- not sure how well they'd hold together over this large an area.  Any thoughts?  

    Also am going back and forth on getting mats with drainage holes versus those without.  Not sure if the holes plug up so fast nothing goes through, or if sweeping sand or something over them will fill them but cut down on clogging... once these babies go in, they aren't going to be moved unless it's a crisis!  ;-)  

    The septic tank tip is an excellent one!  We definitely have a drainage problem as there is a very high water table here as well -- sit a plastic bucket on the floor and there will be a damp spot under it in a day or two!   Leave it there a week and mold grows! One reason we are going to upgrade the flooring is that it will raise it a few more inches too, which is all to the good!  (There is a concrete foundation around the building, it's "stick built" not a pole barn)

    Cost is the biggest issue with concrete, (not only installation but there are property tax consequences to upgrading the building to a concrete floor as well)  I also worry some about lack of "give", but the biggest issue is winter -- ours is a bear!  I do worry about slipping as the horses go in and out, and often with snow packed into their feet in the winter.  

    I'm not wholly opposed to the concept of asphalt (not as hard, not as expensive) but I have no experience with it.

    Given that rock varies around the country, I have two questions: What is "bluestone" (slate? shale?  limestone??) and what is "sandy loam?"  I'm not opposed to some other sort of flooring than rubber over X, But I know I'm sick of digging out urine holes and hauling in dirt all the time. I thought it was bad with clay-floored stalls, it's worse in a run-in because they have more room to urinate!

    Please send further thoughts!  Great ideas!
  • 03-03-2011 12:37 PM In reply to

    Re: Rubber mats for a large area?

    i have a couple different types of rubber mats.  where i live it rains alot and even though the shelter is dry, it does get damp and then  it is slippery.  it's okay for slow moving animals, but, if they jump around or push each other, one could slip too much and maybe pull a muscle or something.

    my neighbor\s horses move very slowly around and i don't think she has any problems, but, i have a 5x10 super duper heavy duty mat along the front of the manger and i have seen my horse slip a bit on that when it's damp.  but it's just a small area in his shelter to keep the area in front of his manger cleaner.  i like it cuz i can hose it down and clean it easily once in awhile.

    i put rubber mats down in another pen under a 10'x20' canvas tent with no sides and my guy got hyper one day and was galloping around and under the tent and there was mats flying everywhere!   these mats are maybe 3'x10' and laid in a row.  i can't move them by myself, but, him galloping over them, they just flew like paper.

    i put road base down in my corral and under the 10x20 shelter, and raised it a couple inches higher in the shelter area to keep that dry.  then in the corral i added birds-eye gravel (where i live pea gravel is bigger and doesn't fall through the tines of the manure fork).

    this year i think i'll freshen it up with more of a sand base.  i have trouble with damp too, so, it's a process learning about the drainage, isn't it?

    i like the idea of getting septic guys opinions, too.

    Gailforce -- Another old lady rediscovering her inner cowgirl.
  • 03-03-2011 1:08 PM In reply to

    Re: Rubber mats for a large area?

    what is "sandy loam?"  

    it's a very sandy soil (not just sand, although sand is the dominant component) with excellent drainage and dries really quickly. 
  • 03-03-2011 1:31 PM In reply to

    Re: Rubber mats for a large area?

    I was going to put rubber mats with holes in my wash stall for drainage, but a sales rep I spoke to said that as soon as the horse poops--and he said his horses poop the instant they come into the wash stall--it's impossible to get the manure up, it falls into the holes. Then you have no drainage AND manure that will never get picked up. I nixed the mats-with-holes idea quickly. :)

    "The horse you get off is not the horse you got on. It is your job as a rider to ensure that as often as possible, the change is for the better."


  • 03-03-2011 2:12 PM In reply to

    Re: Rubber mats for a large area?

    You are so right on the mats for the wash stalls! In fact, we recommend a drain cover with strainer of some type that will help catch this, along with a shovel and wheel barrow right near by. Talk about a mess!
    Cindy Foley, Horse Journal Editor-in-Chief
    Filed under: ,
  • 04-02-2011 9:22 PM In reply to

    Re: Rubber mats for a large area?

    If you set the mats on a bed of SAND they won't move around that much.

     If they do, High Country Plastics makes these ingenious little "grabber" devices specifically for grasping rubber mats.  They won't damage the mats like pliers will.  And they allow an upper-body-strength-deficient wimp like me to drag a mat singlehanded.

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