How to Maximize Horse Stable Drainage
Wet areas around your barn or in your stables can cause major issues for the health and well-being of the animals in your care. Horses that spend their time in wet stalls have a higher likelihood of developing diseases, including white line disease, abscesses, and fungal infections.
Not only that, damp areas within your barn can lead to decay and degradation, whilst also increasing the risk of slips, trips, and falls. It’s also a health hazard to you and your workers as well, as damp wet conditions can create mould which bacteria can thrive in. As a result, root out any sources of standing water within your barn.
Having a thorough plan for how to drain water out of a horse stall can help you limit risks and add to the quality of life of your animals. In this article, we will discuss:
- Why is horse stable drainage so important?
- The difference between porous and nonporous flooring.
- The best type of flooring materials to use.
- How to manage your floors.
- How to design your stall floors for drainage solutions.
- Drainage considerations for other areas in your barn.
Why is horse stable drainage so important?
Water easily collects in areas with poor drainage. If you’re using an unfinished dirt floor, depending on your soil type, you may experience wet areas within your barn. For example, loose soil has more void areas inside of it for water to pass through, whereas clay and other dense earth may cause pooling.
When a horse spends a significant amount of time standing on a damp stall floor, their legs and feet can suffer from injuries and infections. As well, if you leave your horse within wet conditions, the wet soil can become compacted inside of the hooves of your horses. Your horses could suffer from several maladies, including thrush, a bacterial infection that can eat away at the bottom of a horse’s hoof, which leads to black, foul-smelling hooves.
If you’re experiencing a lot of excess water within your horse stalls, you may need to consider the drainage system in your barn. In order to do that, you may need to put down several layers of screening and soil to properly move moisture away from the horse stalls, as well as away from the foundation.
Porous and Non-porous flooring
There are two main types of flooring: porous and non-porous. Porous floors absorb water. Porous floors have a foundation of gravel or sand, which allows the movement of water through.
Non-porous, or impervious floors, may feature a slope to allow the water to drain out of the stall. They may also feature a drain channel at the end of a slope, where water can be easily transported away. Nonporous flooring may even have a few layers of sand and gravel substrate underneath to keep the surface level, and drain away any excess water underneath the surface layer.
The best types of flooring materials to use
There are many views on what the best type of horse stable flooring materials are. Some prefer to work with porous material like sand or gravel, whilst others choose to use impervious materials like rubber mats. There is no simple answer to what is the best flooring material to use, but what’s important to consider is that which materials help to prevent standing water and keep your horses healthy.
It should be noted, you should also include a layer of bedding on any surface that you have, as bedding provides your horses with comfort. Bedding also is great for cleaning, as you can easily remove any feces or other organic material in the hay or straw that you use.
Topsoil is a great material to use for the floors in your barn, as it is easy on your horse’s legs, whilst also being able to absorb water and urine. It also has a certain degree of nonslip capability, however saturated or compacted soil can become slippery. Another benefit is that it is relatively inexpensive.
Some downsides of topsoil include that it keeps odours in, and is difficult to clean. It’s also not the most durable type of stable flooring, as horses can easily kick up portions of their stall, making it uneven, which can increase the chances that your horse may fall.
Clay is a semi-porous material which stays relatively flat and is incredibly durable. It’s also great to use because it provides great traction for horses. One of the main problems with clay is that it doesn’t drain easily, which may leave standing water on the surface. This is especially true with compacted clay, which can create pools of surface water.
Concrete is a dependable material which can hold up from the wear and tear a stable floor may experience. You can easily pressure wash concrete to clean it from all the muck and organic residue left on it. Also, you can have concrete poured which features a textured surface layer which provides a bit more traction.
Concrete floors are expensive, and they’re also hard on animals joints. There’s no give to concrete floors at all and, over time, this can lead to joint issues in your animals. Concrete floors can also absorb uric acid from urine, which can lead to the buildup of bacteria.
Wood is a solid material which can hold up against the rigours of daily use. One of the major issues with wood is that it can absorb water, which can lead to mould and rot. Wood also has a tendency to degrade fairly quickly, making it not the most ideal for stable floors.
Horse stables with rubber flooring provide great traction for animals, as well as providing cushioning to your horse’s legs. Rubber is also great because it provides a nonslip surface, and even if there are water spills on the surface, your horses can still get great traction. Some even feature stud dot or amoebic surface textures, which provide a bit more grip.
Below, you can find some of the most popular rubber mats available on stable mats Ireland:
- 17MM 1.83M (6FT) X 1.22M (4FT) AMEOBIC RUBBER STABLE MATS
- 17MM 0.91M (3FT) X 1.22M (4FT) STUD DOT RUBBER STABLE MATS
Both of which feature a raise surface texture for added traction, and drainage furrows to allow moisture to move away from the centre of the mats.
How to make a horse stall drain well
Combine a couple of different floor materials in order to create excellent drainage. Using rubber mats in conjunction with gravel and sand can be the best way to create proper drainage in your horses’ stalls. Also, include a French drain, a trench filled with gravel, around the walls of your stable to help promote drainage. Below, you can see the steps that you need to follow in order to create good drainage solutions using a french drain:
Evaluate the area
Your first step, before digging any holes, is to evaluate each individual horse stall in your barn. Check for areas where there are pools of water, or signs of water damage, like mould. If you’re building a new barn from scratch, evaluate the property, and build it on an area where there is a natural high point for water to drain down from.
If you have an existing barn, look for where the water is coming from. Maybe you have a leak in the roof, or there’s a hill beside your barn and all the water seems to drain down from it. Fix these issues before you address the water issues within your barn.
Also, look at the existing soil inside of your barn. As mentioned above, if you have clay floors in your horse stalls, then you may already know that clay doesn’t drain very easily. Alternatively, if you have loose soil on the floors, and you notice that there are several pockets where the soil has eroded away, you may want to deal with that issue to prevent water from eroding the soil.
Excavate the French drain channel
First, before you dig your channel, speak with your local town or city’s electrical safety authority. They can let you know where all the power lines are and help you prevent digging into any of them.
Next, measure out the length of the drain channel that you’d like to dig, making it between 20 cm to 45cm in width. This will be wide enough to push water away from the centre. You can either dig the channel by hand with a shovel or rent an excavator.
One of the most important things a bout drainage is the slope. If you’re using a combination of rubber mats and gravel subfloors, you’ll want to have a tiny slope on your mats to allow for water to drain away from the centre. However, since there will be horses inside of the stables, you don’t want the slope to be too great, as this can cause slips and trips. Make sure that the slope of the ground in your stables is no more than 2.5 cm per 1.5 m of distance.
Also, be sure to include a slight slope to the drainage channel itself, no more than a 1% slope or 1 cm drop for every metre of distance.
Next fill with compacted gravel
The next step involves covering the floors of your stables and the drainage channel with compacted gravel. Gravel is great to use, as it allows for easy drainage, and is even better to use than sand or limestone. Sand can shift underneath the mats, which can cause holes and recesses, whereas gravel stays in the same spot. You may wish to use a combination of gravel, sand, and limestone, but just keep in mind that if you use limestone dust, it can dry the hooves of your horses.
Lay rubber mats
Your last major step is to cut and install the rubber mats to fit the stable area. You’ll need to cut them to fit all areas where the horses will walk on, but try to leave the French drain uncovered, as this will allow easier drainage. Keep in mind that you can expect some drainage through the seams of the mat, and that’s why it’s important to put several layers of gravel, sand, and limestone.
Periodically, lift the rubber mats and check to see if there is proper drainage occurring underneath of them. If you lift the mats and you notice a giant pool of water, then you’re going to have to rethink your drainage solution.
Alternatives to the French drain
There are several alternatives to the traditional French drain. You may choose to insert PVC pipes into the gravel, as laid pipe can help to increase water flow. Plastic pipes are great to use because they provide very little resistance for water to flow, and they don’t need as much of a slope for proper water drainage. Pipes can also direct the water far enough away from your barn to prevent erosion to the foundation. If you install a pipe into a French drain, make sure that you put at least 2.5 cm of gravel on the bottom, and add gravel on top of it.
Preventing standing water in your stables is important because it can affect the health of the animals that you care for. Horses that live in wet conditions can develop bacterial and fungal infections, as well as risk slips, trips, and falls. The best solution for drainage within horse stables is a combination of rubber mats, gravel subsurface, and French drains around the perimeter of the stalls. Here’s the good thing about dealing with drainage issues within your barn: Once you deal with them, you usually have an easier time maintaining proper drainage.
Author: David Van Kooten