Sunday, December 18, 2011

mats in the barn aisle

When we moved here 7 or so years ago, our barn aisle had a dirt floor. My first instinct was to put a cement aisle in and then mats on top of that. But it wasn't really a top priority in the beginning when we had so many things to buy to get "set up" here. As time passed, I came to think the dirt floor was actually pretty nice. Easy to rake out, easy to make cozy by just allowing scattered hay to lie on it, pretty easy on the horses' feet.

Eventually I came to be familiar with the downsides. Dust. And more dust. No clean surface for doing anything with hooves. More recently, since I've been letting Salina and Rafer and Redford have the barn aisle as part of their "territory" it has gotten worn down in some places and not quite as level as it used to be.

We've been doing some work around the barn and paddocks this month. We've filled the shelter (just need one more load) with small stones. It was dirt too and I had some issues with it over time in some ways similar to the barn aisle. I wanted the shelter to be tidier and also a different "terrain" for the hooves. These stones are small and very cushy. The horses are loving standing on them and I can already see a difference in their feet, which seem tougher.

I considered putting screenings or even these small stones in the barn aisle too. I also considered rubber pavers. Somehow, I wanted a smoother surface in the barn aisle so that ruled out stone, and the pavers were nice but expensive.

I read about doing cement and inlaying mats - I still like that idea but right now I'm not wanting to spend the money to do that - and I still hesitate about the cement just because if I end up not liking it, it's such a bear to change.

So, after living with the dirt aisle for years, we got stall mats and have doubled them up down the center of the aisleway. Ideally, we will put in stone dust, pack it down and level it, and cut mats so they fit flush to the stall walls on all sides and go all the way to the barn doors. But for now we've just lined them up, leaving a bit of room on either side.

I could see when we put them in that Redford was alarmed about this new thing in his barn, so I let Keil Bay in first so everyone could see him saunter through. He lowered his head to check them out but didn't even slow down as he clop clop clop clopped through. Salina was right behind him. These two have Been There and Done That and nothing really upsets them. Redford skedaddled right and left and right and left a few times, wanting to follow Salina but nervous about these black things in his way. After about 15 seconds he made a mad dash through the barn, and the cutest little hoof sounds!

Rafer was totally fine with the mats. In fact, he seemed to like the authoritative sound his hooves made and he kept walking back and forth and back and forth.

Cody checked them out and then walked on over. The pony was last and just in case we changed our minds and diverted him from going through, he came through at a big pony trot. He loves trotting through the barn aisle, so this was no different for him.

I cleaned hooves tonight on the new mats, which immediately got nice and brown with dust, and then white with the hoof powder I used. It was nice to be able to clean a hoof and have it stay pretty perfectly clean when I set it down. I swept the hoof pickings into a pile between each horse. Nice and tidy. I think we'll live with them this way as we work on putting stone/gravel/screenings in some other areas and then we'll see proceed with the full matting process.

Any thoughts and ideas are welcome! And we're getting ready to re-roof the barn, so I would LOVE to hear any input about metal roofs versus shingles. We are seriously thinking of going metal.


Grey Horse Matters said...

I think the mats will work out nicely just to keep some of the dust down. We have a blacktop aisle and mats at one end for when the farrier or vet is there. It's also where we tack up and the horses seem to like the cushioning for their feet.

I wouldn't recommend pavers for the aisle because even though they look nice they are almost impossible to clean. We have them in the grooming stall and you can't sweep them with a broom the only thing that works to get the dirt and hair out of the seams is a leaf blower.

We have a metal roof on our barn, garage and indoor. I like them better because the snow slides off easily and they seem to stay clean. That's about all I have to offer as opinions. Hope it helps.

billie said...

A, thanks for the insights. I do think the mats are going to work for us, especially once we get the aisle floor packed and level. I forgot to note that last night when I was grooming and picking Keil's hooves on the new mats he was turning around and hooking my arm with his nose and pulling me up to him - he was wanting to hug and snuggle. Not sure if that was related to the mats or just his mood in general, but it was sweet. :)

RE: roof - I have read that metal can add to the heat in a long barn, but ours is short (only 36-feet long) so there's never really an issue with air flow. I've also read that metal roofs have a MUCH longer life span, which is partly why we are considering it. We'd like to do it and then be able to just forget about it for the remainder of our lives!

Matthew said...

From what I have read over the past week and this morning, a metal roof is the way to go. And more attractive, too!