A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My stall floors are HORRIBLE! Suggestions?

Picture from last February when it snowed
Ok, so I have this barn.  It's not the best barn, but it has potential.  I have 3 rows of stalls in it.  The normal inside rows which face each other, and then this set of stalls on the outside.  I have a total of 15 stall "spots" but only have 12 set up as stalls.  The others are divided into things like a chicken coop, tack/med area, and a run in.

Well, to understand my problem, you have to understand a little history of this barn.  I bought the place in 2007.  The man who owned the property before us purchased it in 1980.  I've had trouble finding out if he built the barn or moved it in, but either way, it was done in sections.  The above line of stalls all seem to match, but as you can see, they aren't exactly level.  It's even worse in person.  The entre barn was built with each stall level to the ground it is on.  And it's on a bit of a hill.

Ok, so each stall is unique.  Kind of annoying to rennovate, but they are nice big stalls, ranging from 12 x 12 to 12 x 14.  The 12 x 12 stalls back up against each other with a removeable wall between them (lift the boards out type) and make amazing foaling stalls.

But, when the previous owner had the place he never cleaned out the stalls, or so it seems.  When we bought it, there were HUGE (as in bigger then I could move) chunks of decayed hay/manure.  Big lumps like boulders.

We finally got the stall floors "level-ish" and were able to start using them.  It took time, with us starting out with one useable stall, then 2, then 4, and so on.  Right now, we have all the floors level-ish.  So, I have been using the barn like normal for almost a year, and we have a new problem, and one that I can't seem to figure out how to fix on a budget.

The "compost" which makes up the stall floors (technically they are dirt floors) gets wet from the urine, and the rain that comes in the open sides, and is not drying out.  Shavings are basically worthless because of the set up.  I can put down 5 bales of shavings in a stall, and in less then 2 days, they have all degraded into dirt.

Now, before you think "duh, just dig them out" well, I've tried to hand dig out a few of the worst ones, and refill them with sand.  We just happen to have a nice pit of sand on the property, so it seemed worth a try.  In a couple of days, it was no different then the others.  I think it lasted less then 2 weeks for 2 days of back breaking work.

Our plan is to eventually cut off the stall fronts, use the tractor to dig down to the clay base, then add on the PROPER base for a stall (crushed rock with mats over it).  But, I'm not there yet, and I'm on a tight budget after last year's drought.  With all the OTHER projects we have here (cross fencing is the main one right now) I'm looking for ideas to hold me over until we can get there.

So, I've tried shavings, and gave up on them.  I tried straw on it's own, and it's not that much better.  Right now, I am using those pelleted shavings (the dehydrated ones) under the straw, and that seems to be decent, but I still have this pocket in each stall, where the horses urinate, that just won't dry up, no matter what I put on it.  I try to dig it out, and just end up with a hole of soft dirt, that quickly gets wet again, and then mixes with the bedding on top of it.

So, I figure there are enough horse people out here with "common man" barns, that maybe someone has run across this problem before, and has some ideas.  If not, I'll just keep trying to make it better until we can dig them out.

That was my project yesterday.  Leveling off the "wet spot" and dumping dehydrated pellets on it to soak up the "wet" and then adding fresh straw to each. 

I really like using the straw in my barn over the shavings for so many reasons, but I'm not sure that every one agrees.  Oh sure, it's harder to "pick" the stalls, but I just remove more, and add back in more.  Straw right now is drastically cheaper then shavings so even removing that much extra doesn't hurt the budget, and when pulled out, it makes a better compost, which then fertilizes the pastures.  So, for an extra 30 minutes of "work" I get much more benefit (the compost).  My concern though, is that my potential boarders won't like that I use straw instead of the more common shavings (here at least shavings are the most common). 

So all in all, I guess I have 2 things I need suggestions on:  Any ideas to fix the stall floors, and what do you think of bedding horses on straw rather then shavings?

And I realized that almost all the pictures of the inside of my barn are from baby pictures.  So enjoy some gratuitous babies!


  1. Every barn I've boarded at except for one (very high end show barn) had dirt floors.  One place a private owned barn a friend and I leased. The barn was seriously wet from rain and high water level in the ground.

    We ended up just putting the crushed lime stone down ontop of what was there, didn't dig it out, then put matts over that.  Not wall to wall mats just center and of stall or where it was wet.  That was effective.

    As for bedding.  I honestly don't care as long as it's clean.  The most common is shavings, but at the cost of shavings I've been wondering about going to straw myself.  Problem for me and most barns is dry storage, or lack of it, for bales of straw.

  2. First off bedding... I personally prefer straw.  It gives the horses something to safely munch on between feedings, its warmer, and I've never found it harder to groom a horse bedded in straw rather than shavings. 
    (actually the 'shavings are cleaner/easier to groom' argument has never worked for me, I find straw much easier to pick out of a tail lol)

    Now on to the stalls themseslves... I'm not sure if this is a feasible option for you but I like it if it is.  I boarded for a long time at my bff's parent's place.  A private facility there wasn't a lot of money or time put into the barn.  It was an old, converted hog barn with a wood floor; pits, lumps and bumps.  Not cool and no matter what we did there was no permanent fix.  Then bff's dad managed to get some railroad ties and laid those in for floor.  Nice, level, easier on legs/hooves than concrete, and if you put them in with teeeny spaces there is drainage.  Plus the ties are heavy duty and stand up to time.  I no longer board (yay!) but those floors were at least 15 years old and looking good still.
    Look around, if there are railroads anywhere near you you can sometimes get ties cheap or free when they do track maintenance.
    (they also make nice sturdy posts for things like pens or corner posts) :)
    Is there anyway to block the fronts of the stalls?  The lower half, looks like its mesh or something like that.  Nice for airflow, especially in those Texas summers, but it does let in moisture.  Its not an ideal solution, or a permanent one, but until there are more funds what about putting plywood or tarp across the front (just the lower half!  on the wall) to block rain/snow from getting into the stall.  Yes it can still blow in the top but I'm betting there would be less.

  3. At an old standardbred barn I boarded at , they dug down the middle of the stall to drain , filled with gravel , then sand on top then bedded with straw. might work till you can get it fixed the way you want 

  4. not sure how easy it is to get for you, but we here in Wisconsin use fines, like sand, but gets hard, so the water and urine will still drain through, but not like sand, etc so you get mud, wet, etc......and yes, by all means straw is just as good for bedding, sometimes I even use old hay that is not dusty, some people will give it away and it has no feed value so use it as bedding. Good luck.....Becky

  5. I'm with Jeni: I don't care as long as it's clean.

  6. You could dig french drains for each stall as Sherry suggested.  What about mats on top of what's already there and deeper bedding around the edges to help catch water?  You can minimal bedding the middle of the stall in exchange.  I personally prefer pellets to shavings as they're handier for me.  Shavings are expensive and I dealt with sticker shock when I first moved to Georgia nearly 2 years ago.  Having grown up in the PNW, shavings were abundant and delivered via dump truck, not purchased in prettily packaged bags that would cost my eldest child's college fund to keep my stalls deep bedded with.

    Another thought to putting a french drain in each stall would be to do a french drain around the entire perimeter of the barn, so that water will move AWAY from it completely.  Of course, this would require a lot of digging.

  7. I have enough to store a week's straw easily.  My feed store keeps it on hand for a very reasonable price (about as low as I have seen it in the fields) so I am not worried about storage of it.

    Have to say I am loving the straw though.  The horses are more likely to lay down on it, even when "wet" it doesn't have the same "eww" factor, and actually lets the icky stuff stay away from the horses.  When it is cold, you can "deep litter" the stalls, and the heat from underneath warms the entire barn (compost heat) and oddly it doesn't smell bad when you deep litter.  (Warning, read up on deep litter before trying it).

  8. Brilliant!  I live right next to a rail road, (a double line stop over point) and they are always pulling ties.  When I ask for some, they "accidentally" forget to pick up a few (like 30) so yeah, they are very easy for me to get.  Will post that idea to the "property engineer" Jae.

    We have a plan to enclose the side there eventually.  With all the rust, there will be a lot of cutting out, and putting in new pipe.  When he does this (I'm begging him to wait until later in the year, like May) we will be boarding in the bottom half of the stalls, and the top half will get "windows" with a shutter type of thing.  That way they can be open for air in the summer, and closed for bad weather.

    It's just that there's SO MUCH to do on each stall, that we need to do a stall at a time, and that means weeks with too few stalls in the barn.  I'd hate to do that with winter weather just around the corner, even if it will be in the 60s and perfect this week.  Murphy's law and all that!