Although I like to keep horses in a natural environment whenever possible, there are times when they need a cosy home and that’s why I have a lovely block of stables. If they’re ill or the weather is atrocious, the horses appreciate having a dry building to call home. So we had a company that specialises in property renovation visit and convert our old barn into individual stables and a large open space.
The builders were quite surprised to be awarded this contract because they usually work on old houses, so this presented a unique challenge. First they drew up plans to convert the large space in the most efficient manner, then they set about dividing it into a large open-barn area at one end and individual stables at the other. The stables resemble an American Barn and are much more comfortable to work in than an open yard!
I suppose this is more-or-less the opposite of open-plan conversion – which is one of the things these guys do on a regular basis. They take a house with small rooms and knock down many of the internal walls to create a large, airy and functional space. Our barn started off with a large and airy space, albeit not particularly functional, and they turned it into smaller units to accommodate my precious animals. It was a different sort of challenge for these builders and they produced a fantastic results. I guess it made a change from house remodelling
Once you have the right type of building to house your horse, you need something to make it comfortable for standing and lying down. I use the new type of rubber mats that are soft to walk on. They’re much lighter than the more traditional mats so easier to move around, though they do tend to stretch so you may have to take them up again and trim. I believe the best type of flooring would be rubber floor made to fit the stable and fitted around the edge, but these are hideously expensive so unfortunately the budget doesn’t stretch!
On top of the matting I use miscanthus grass as bedding. You don’t need much and it’s very absorbent. I spread thinly and it soaks up the urine so you can remove a minimum of the grass. Miscanthus is a giant grass they often grow for biofuel. I’ve seen fields of it in Wales. They chop it into small lengths for bedding and it isn’t palatable to horses so won’t be eaten. I also like straw but find it too heavy and hard work to muck out, although I do like the fact that horses can top up on it if they want something to eat in the night.
Ultimately it’s down to personal preference which type of bedding you use – just make sure it’s comfortable enough for your horses to lie down if they wish.