Permeable Stall Flooring, Some Options

Manufacturers Of Permeable Stall Floorings

It's 20 degrees even in the barn, and there you are mucking stalls again. Or rather, you're excavating stalls -- your slob of a gelding has managed to create a stinking, sodden crater in the center of his stall floor. As you wipe the sweat from your brow and haul the fourth disgusting wheelbarrow of urine-soaked shavings and dirt and heaven knows what else out to the manure pile, you can't help thinking, "There has got to be a better way!"

Fortunately, there are manufacturers who agree with you. Perhaps having faced some of the same frustrations themselves, they've created a range of products that promise to take the back-breaking labor out of stall cleaning. By covering a dirt stall floor with a durable, liquid-permeable surface, they promise to eliminate those stinky craters, cut down on the damage your horse can wreak with pawing, stall-walking, or weaving, and help save you tons of bedding. Sounds good, right?

Permeable stall floor coverings function differently than rubber stall mats, whose main purpose is to provide cushioning for your horse's legs. Rubber is basically waterproof, so urine and other liquids pool on top of such a surface, to be soaked up (one hopes) by the bedding in the stall. Permeable stall systems, by comparison, let urine percolate through the material to be soaked up by the ground underneath-thus keeping the bedding drier and cutting down on mucking time and effort. They don't provide much in the way of cushioning, but they can act as a protective layer for the floor, shielding it from a horse's more destructive urges.

A permeable stall floor requires an underlying dirt floor with good drainage. These floors won't work on concrete or asphalt surfaces, nor will they operate as well as they should on a clay floor that doesn't absorb liquids very well. In most cases, you'll need to invest some effort in preparing the floor for optimum drainage before you lay down a permeable stall floor. Perhaps you'll need to add a little stone dust fill to level the floor and smooth out the ruts and bumps, or maybe a "leach pit" (a central hole dug two to three feet deep and filled with coarse gravel) to help urine drain away. How much preparation you'll need depends on your local conditions; if you live below sea level near New Orleans, for example, you'll have more difficulty with drainage than if you live somewhere with a higher altitude and sandy soil. Your local county extension agent can help you assess your local soil conditions and give you some idea of the best way to prepare your floor.

In general, a poorly draining soil should be excavated between three and 10 feet deep and replaced with better draining materials-large chunks of crushed rock at the bottom, followed by a layer of smaller gravel, followed by stone dust at the surface, for example. Making sure the surface has a very slight grade (about 2-6%) toward the outside of the building will help urine drain. It's possible you might have to let the base settle for weeks or months before you install a permeable flooring system.

It's worth putting in this initial effort, say the manufacturers of permeable stall floor coverings, for the ease of maintenance you'll enjoy later. These products are designed to be permanent installations, and the last thing you need is to have liquids come percolating back up through the surface, forcing you to pull up the floor and start again. Most companies assure their clients that investing some time and energy in the beginning quickly will pay off in a more pleasant environment for you and your horse.

Two Different Approaches

Permeable stall floors fall into two broad categories: grid systems of highly durable plastic, and lightweight, one-piece "tarps" that roll out to cover the stall floor and are held down with stakes or staples. Both have their perks, not the least of which is that they're considerably lighter than rubber stall mats, and generally can be installed by one person.

Equustall, an interlocking grid system manufactured by ACF Environmental of Richmond, Va., has been on the market for about a dozen years. It is made of polyester fiber-reinforced polyethylene, which originally was designed to help support 60,000-pound fire trucks on remote access roads. The 3-foot by 3-foot pieces have regular perforations and are outfitted with tongue-and-groove sides so that they slide together and lock, according to Equustall sales manager Cory Simonpietri. The individual pieces can be cut with a handsaw, allowing you to custom fit the material to your stall. The company assures customers that a snug fit can be achieved without having to anchor the pieces to the floor, and ACF claims that even a horse wearing shoes with toe grabs will be unable to shift the Equustall flooring or pull it up.

Once Equustall is installed on a level, well-draining floor, ACF recommends putting a layer of crushed stone on top of the grid to fill in the holes and provide a smooth top surface. This should reduce the chance that you'll jam the tines of your pitchfork into the grid holes as you're mucking the stall, although Simonpietri notes that you might need to adjust your mucking technique at first. Lowering the handle on your fork should allow the tines to glide over the top of the Equustall floor. But if you do catch the fork in the holes, he adds, it shouldn't damage or shift the flooring material.

Because Equustall is rigid, it's forgiving of stall floors that aren't perfectly level, and it also is durable enough to withstand the destructive urges of a horse which paws or stall walks. Says Simonpietri, "We have some (Equustall grids) that have been in stalls for 12 years and still look like new."

Simonpietri is honest about Equustall's main drawback, "It's possibly the most expensive flooring on the market," he says. An average 12-foot by 12-foot box stall, for example, would cost a little more than $500 to equip with Equustall. "We recognize that not everyone will want to pay that much, but you have to factor in that it's very low maintenance once it's installed, and you can reap the benefits long-term. Not only will it save you 25-50% on bedding, but because it makes your stalls so much lower maintenance, you can spend more time enjoying your horse."

Stall Carpeting

The other main approach to permeable stall floor coverings is a one-piece "tarp" or carpet, usually created of man-made fibers such as polypropylene. To anyone who has struggled with rubber mats weighing 100 pounds each or more, these carpets are a relief; they're lightweight enough to be carried by one person, and they roll up for easy transport. Southwest Animal Products of San Diego, Calif., which markets a product called Stall Skins, advertises that a standard 12-foot by 12-foot stall floor covering weighs less than 35 pounds. Most can be ordered in custom sizes if your stall is an odd shape.

Stall "carpets" need to be anchored so that they won't curl up at the edges or shift as the horse moves in his stall. Metal or plastic stakes with carefully rounded tops-designed to be pounded flush with the ground so that they won't protrude and injure a horse-are the usual method of keeping this flooring in place. Says Southwest Animal Products' manager Nicky Johnson, "The stakes can be pulled up if you need to move your Stall Skin, but they're designed to be completely flat and hard to find. We recommend about 24 stakes per 12-foot by 12-foot stall, so there are no gaps or places where the Stall Skin could wrinkle."

Ideally, a carpet-type floor covering should combine durability with the ability to let liquids pass through to the ground below. Johnson notes, "When we send samples out, we encourage people to try and destroy (the fabric). It's a non-woven fabric, so it won't tear or shred-and believe me, people have tried!

"Stall Skins originally were developed by a farrier who 'got sick of shoeing horses in mud,'" says Johnson. Southwest recommends their product not only for use in stalls, but for outdoor applications such as improving the muddy footing under a gate.

Groundmaster is a similar product made of strong, but lightweight textured polyethylene. The company claims their product provides excellent drainage and shock absorption for your horse's legs.

One of the drawbacks of a single-piece floor covering is that it can develop little "hills and valleys" over time, which can be difficult to smooth out. Connecticut horsewoman Ann Compton, who uses Groundmaster in her stalls, found that her stall coverings have become more brittle with age, tending to crack where they've been smoothed out. But she said they do seem to do an excellent job of letting liquids pass through the floor to the ground beneath, often keeping the wood shavings above so dry that the bedding becomes powder before it is removed.

Prices on these products vary, but expect to pay an average of $200-$400 per stall, depending on the size of your stalls.

Under most conditions, if you've made certain the drainage in your subfloor is adequate before you lay down a permeable stall floor, you should find that you have little trouble with ammonia smells or squishy floors. If you do feel the need to disinfect and deodorize, most companies recommend you remove all of the bedding from the stall, then spray the floor with a liquid disinfectant such as TekTrol or a solution of water and a floor cleaning product such as Pine-Sol. This should be necessary only once every four to six weeks. (Lime-based products are not recommended as they tend to sit on top of the floor covering and might be caustic to your horse's skin.)

While stall floor coverings aren't an absolute necessity, those who've tried them agree that they certainly cut down on mucking time and money spent on bedding. For most, the initial aggravation of having to prepare the floor for good drainage is well worth the eventual benefit. If you choose to install one of these products, you might just be counting your blessings the next time you clean stalls when it's brutally cold outside.


This listing is not an endorsement. If you are a manufacturer and your name didn't appear on this list, please contact and we will include your listing.

AB Associates
5914 Short Leaf Ct.
St. Louis, MO 63128
314/842-6969; fax 314/842-1526

ACF Environmental
2831 Cardwell Rd.
Richmond, VA 23234
800/788-6223; fax 804/743-7779

B&W Awning
219 Walton Ave.
Lexington, KY 40502
859/254-0973; fax 859/233-4354

Groundmaster Products
HC4 Box 169 P
Gainesville, MO 65655
800/411-2530; fax 417/679-3015

Invisible Structures
20100 East 35th Dr.
Aurora, CO 80011-8160
303/557-1202; fax 800/233-1522 or

Kraiburg Inc.
1229 South G Avenue
Nevada, IA 50201
888/382-6767; fax 515/382-5436

Southwest Animal Products
3052 Industry St., Suite 107
Oceanside, CA 92054
800/400-3165; 760/754-3165; fax 760/754-9692

PO Box 2270
Alpine, CA 91903
877/228-7837; 619/390-2420; fax 619/390-2425

About the Author

Karen Briggs

Karen Briggs is the author of six books, including the recently updated Understanding Equine Nutrition as well as Understanding The Pony, both published by Eclipse Press. She's written a few thousand articles on subjects ranging from guttural pouch infections to how to compost your manure. She is also a Canadian certified riding coach, an equine nutritionist, and works in media relations for the harness racing industry. She lives with her band of off-the-track Thoroughbreds on a farm near Guelph, Ontario, and dabbles in eventing.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More