Virginia horse owner fulfills health and easy cleaning priorities with unique flooring product.
By Kim Miller | Equestrian Writer
Cheryl Riddle's equestrian friends doubted her horse sense when she purchased ComfortStall flooring for Far Winds Farm in Barbourville, Virginia. Five years of draft horses pawing and thoroughbreds spinning in those stalls has converted those initial skeptics.
The lifelong horsewoman knew it was the right stuff right away and that's been born out at her home stable. Her upbringing and young adulthood included ample experience with various stall keeping practices. "I've cleaned every kind of stall. Dirt floors, rock dust floors, regular stall mats," she explains.
When she and her husband Bud Riddle began planning their own barn five years ago, Cheryl knew none of those materials would be involved. Local barn builder Tim Hill of the Virginia Barn Company relayed another client's satisfaction with ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring and Cheryl recognized its benefits immediately.
Then and now, she prioritizes her horses' health and comfort, along with ease of maintenance. "This is a product that I feel is really good for horses and makes your life easier."
Wisely having considered flooring at the outset of the barn planning and budgeting process, Cheryl notes that ComfortStall was easy to install over the barn's concrete foundation.
Expected & Surprising Health Benefits
She expected ComfortStall's layer of orthopedic foam to provide nice cushion and it has done that and more. Most of the year, the Riddles' horses live half of the day outside. Even so, the legs of one of their fox hunters, a Thoroughbred, stocked up "every single solitary day." That is until he moved into the new barn with ComfortStall. The flooring's slight give creates a pumping action and energy rebound, improving blood flow and reducing inflammation. After many years of needing to wrap legs every day, Cheryl loves that there is no longer any need for that.
The flooring's firm cushion also requires microscopic muscle movements for horses to maintain their balance. This form of "proprioception" is highly valued in the physical therapy world. Cheryl loves this everyday plus, and especially when a horse has to be on stall rest. "You just don't get that bounce back effect from shavings."
What did surprise Cheryl is how often and how long her horses lie down in their stalls. "We finished our barn just as it was beginning to be hot out," she explains. "The horses were out at night and inside during the day. They all came in and just laid down." Their obviously relaxed state continues to impress her. "They don't care if I am blowing the aisle way or whatever."
Knowing that at-home horse keeping meant she'd be the primary stall cleaner for five horses, Cheryl put a premium on efficiency of time and effort. She has honed the process to "the fastest I've every cleaned stalls in my life."
"We pick up the poops, clean up the wet spots, sweep, spray a little Stable Fresh on the exposed flooring, spread stall pellets to absorb the urine, then cover with two-to-four inches of shavings." Horses that urinate in one spot are much appreciated, and those who relieve themselves in various places require a bit more time.
Hauling out heavy stall mats, stripping the floor to its base and laying down gardening lime to absorb ammonia odors are annual barn chores to which Cheryl has happily said sayonara.
ComfortStall's single-piece durable rubber top cover is sealed to the stall wall. This prevents urine from seeping to the stall base as happens between the seams in traditional stall mats. "There's no urine smell, except when it's cold out and the horses have been inside all day. That goes away instantly when the stalls are cleaned and then it smells instantly fresh again."
The flooring prevents urine seepage but it doesn't prevent horses urinating - sometimes copiously. Bud Riddle's 18-hand, 1,800-pound Registered Premium Spotted Draft Horse, Connor, for example, consumes three buckets of water every day and if he's inside all day, that's where it comes out. While ComfortStall cuts the need of bedding for cushion, it is needed for absorbing urine and the quantity varies by horse, Cheryl notes.
She's been a pleasantly surprised by ComfortStall's longevity, too. Especially with Connor. He and a slightly smaller draft-cross like to the paw the floor, while the two Thoroughbreds Cheryl fox hunts are always on the move in their stalls. "I keep expecting to see a tear or hole, but there's not a mark or scratch: not a thing. I am very happy with their durability. If I were to build another barn, I would install it again."