A rubber stable floor offers a number of advantages over the traditional concrete floor or other types of floors:
There are two solutions for providing a rubber stable floor. One is rubber mats (click on horse stall mats and cushioned stall mats for details) which one lays on top of an existing floor (e.g. on top of a concrete floor) and join together to form a rubber floor. The other solution consists of liquid rubber which is poured onto the concrete floor and then allowed to harden (this takes one or two days) to form a single rubber surface which covers the entire floor. The term 'liquid rubber' refers to the fact that the rubber is in liquid form when it is initially put onto the stable floor, but it then forms a solid rubber floor. Both solutions have advantages and disadvantages.
Stall Mats versus Liquid Rubber
The main disadvantage of stall mats is that urine can run underneath them. This occurs at the seams where the mats join (one normally uses multiple mats to cover a stable floor) and also at the gaps between the mats and the walls. This urine builds up under the mats, releasing odours and harmful ammonia. Although one can partly compensate for this by periodically lifting the mats and cleaning under them, this takes a certain amount of time and is not easy (rubber stall mats are heavy).
With liquid rubber, the floor is in a single piece and joins with the wall (in fact, one would normallly apply the rubber onto the wall as well for a height of at least several centimeters). Consequently, there are no seams or joins which would allow the urine to enter. Furthermore, the rubber bonds with the concrete floor, so there is no space for urine or dirt underneath the rubber. This is a major advantage over stall mats, as it is not only healthier but also there is no need to periodically clean underneath it.
An important advantage of stall mats is that they are not fixed to the floor, as they rely on their weight to hold them in place. Therefore, one can remove them and use them elsewhere. This makes them convienent if you are just renting a stall for a period of time. One would not want to use liquid rubber in a temporary stall as it bonds to the concrete floor and cannot be removed or reused. Another consideration is that rubber stall mats tend to be less expensive than liquid rubber.
Consequently, liquid rubber is a superior solution for a permanent stall, while stall mats are more appropriate for short to medium term installations.
Rubber mats are simply laid on top of a hard surface (e.g. concrete stable floor). They may or may not be interlocking. With lower quality mats, one may need to fasten the corners to stop them curling up. See horse stall mats for further details.
With liquid rubber, there are three components. The first is the liquid rubber itself, the second is a chemical 'hardening' powder and rubber granules (chunks of rubber). The hardening powder is mixed with the liquid rubber to cause the rubber to harden into a solid. The granules are mixed in so that the resulting floor is rough rather than smooth (a completely smooth floor would have poor traction when wet). One mixes the three components together, spread the resulting mixture on the floor, smooth it (e.g. with a trowel) and then wait for it to harden.
One can either hire a professional to lay a liquid rubber floor or do it oneself. If doing it yourself, some key points to remember:
The price of rubber mats is about $20 to $40 per square meter (depending on quality, thickness and other considerations) and the price of a liquid rubber floor is about $30 to $60 (depending on thickness and whether you use a professional to install it).
Against this cost, there are a number of advantages in terms of horse comfort and horse safety (see top of this page). In addition, most people find that they can use less bedding as the rubber provides much of the bedding function (e.g. insulation, shock absorbtion). On average, users report a 50% reduction in bedding with a rubber floor as opposed to a concrete floor. The resulting saving in bedding, plus the associated savings in labour and storage, will over time pay for the cost of the rubber floor. Consequently, a rubber floor is not only better for your horse, but it is also economic over the longer term. The time it takes for the rubber floor to pay for itself will of course depend on your local costs for bedding and labour, as well as the percentage reduction in amount of bedding required.