Horse Care Tips

Stall Flooring for Homebody Horses (Base, Mats, Bedding)

horse stall
Written by Natalie Gasper

Help your equine friend bed down in comfort

There’s more to stall flooring than meets the eye—there should be at least three layers, in fact! That said, there are many options to choose from. While it may feel easier to just choose dirt, we promise, there are better options available. We’ll break down everything you need to know about selecting the best flooring for your stalls.

First, you need to decide on the base layer and the drainage layer. Compact dirt or clay is most popular, followed by a layer of gravel mixed with sand. Then, you’ll need to add ¾-inch stall mats, usually 4×6 in size, on top to protect the flooring and your horse’s joints. Once the mats are installed, it’s time for a layer of bedding (shavings or pellets are the most common).

Stall Flooring Basics

Stall floors are composed of multiple components and layers. These generally include the base, stall mats, and bedding. The base is important for drainage, while stall mats help cushion joints and also make cleaning easier. Bedding should be absorbent to soak up urine and give your horse some cushion when laying down.

You need to choose a combination of option that fits your budget, but that also provides good drainage (necessary to keep stalls dry and free from odor) and support for your horse’s legs.

It’s All About Layers

The best stall design involves multiple layers of various materials that are designed to keep the floor level and the stall dry.

At the very least, you need a three layers of gravel/sand covered with mats and topped with some sort of bedding.

Stall Floor Base

The base of a stall has multiple layers. At the very bottom is a layer of compact dirt or clay. On top of that will go something porous, like gravel and sand or unsealed asphalt.

Once you figure out the right base for your stall, you can put down a layer of rubber mats.

Design Considerations

A poorly designed stall can lead to problems like swollen joints, slippery surfaces, or lasting odors. In any stall, in any location, you’ll need to dig down to install a base for drainage.

Taking the time to level the base is also crucial.

Finally, you’ll need to settle on materials, both for the base and the top layer.

Base Materials

Dirt often comprises the bottom-most layer, but you can also use stone dust or clay.

Above this, you’ll want a layer of gravel mixed with a bit of sand (to help keep the gravel in place). Some owners prefer to use limestone.

Stall Mats

Most barn stalls are completed with a layer of stall mats, but they’re not one size (or thickness) fits all.

Why should you consider rubber mats for your horse’s stall?

  • Comfort
  • Reduces labor
  • Easy to clean
  • Prevents digging
  • Makes stall cleaning easier
  • Protects the base layers

Mats come in a variety of shapes, thicknesses, and options. Generally, mats are very heavy and difficult to move. Smaller mats can be easier to move, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing once they are positioned in a stall.

The thicker the mat, the more cushion it will likely provide.

Mats can be interlocking, which helps keep them in place, but also adds some cost.

If you’re bringing stall mats with you to horse shows, you may want to invest in lighter-weight, interlocking mats—your back will thank you!

Pricing can vary drastically depending on options. However, mats will help save on bedding and joint maintenance—over time, they are an excellent investment!


To ensure a smooth installation process, there are a few things you need to know before choosing your mats, including the available size and thickness options.


Stall mats come in a range of sizes, though 4×6 is most common. You can also find 12×12, 2×2, and 3×3.

How many 4 x 6 stall mats do you need for a 12 x 12 stall?

You’ll need six 4×6 mats for a traditional 12×12 stall. They should fit perfectly if the stall measurements are exact. Use the minimal number of stall mats necessary to reduce the chance of the mats shifting.


A ¾-inch mat is the optimal thickness for stalls. There are also options for one- or two-inch thick mats. The thicker the mat, the less bedding you will need (in terms of joint support and comfort).

Thicker mats also hold up better and are less easily moved around. They’re also beneficial for horses with arthritis.


For new mats, plan to spend between $40 and $70 apiece or $300-500 per stall. Used mats may be cheaper but check for cracks and damage. Thicker mats will cost more and are heavier, so you’ll need help installing them.

Interlocking mats are more expensive, but are more likely to stay put in the stall.

Mats are heavy and cumbersome to move, so the more securely you can install them, the less trouble they will cause you in the long run!

Innovation occurs in all industries, including stall flooring. Check out this cool solution: 

Stall Mat Maintenance

Getting a mat level and installed is one thing, keeping it clean is another.

Most importantly, make sure you choose a mat that’s water resistant and NOT absorbent—an absorbent mat won’t just absorb liquids, but also smells, and there’s no way to get rid of odors.

How to Keep Stall Mats from Smelling

Start by keeping the stalls clean and dry. Remove manure and urine regularly and air the stall out as needed.

Once a year, you’ll need to remove the mats from the stall to give them a thorough cleaning and disinfecting.

How to Stop Stall Mats from Moving

Make sure the mats fit the stall properly. Interlocking mats are a great option.

Some owners also use wrestling mat tape or gorilla tape to keep stall mats put.

If you need to move stall mats instead, how about getting creative? Brilliant!

Or, of course you can simply get a horse stall mat gripper.

horse stall mat gripper

Click to see it at Amazon

Stall Bedding

Once you have the base layers and mats sorted, it’s time to choose the best stall bedding. Bedding options may vary geographically, but these three options are fairly straightforward. 

Most Common Stall Bedding for Horses:

  1. Shavings (Flakes or Fine)
  2. Pellets
  3. Straw


Shavings are one of the most popular choices. They usually come compressed and in bags, although some barns may opt for bulk shaving delivery.

Wood shavings are generally categorized into flakes or fine. Flakes are fluffier, while fine is easier to clean.

When handling a lot of stall shavings, you may want to utilize a disposable dust mask, as it isn’t good to breathe in a lot of wood dust.

horse stall bedded down with shaving flakes

Horse stall bedded with shaving flakes. Photo Cred: Canva

Shavings are absorbent and easy to sift through.

Wondering just how many bags of shavings you need for your stall? Read about stall bedding basics here.


Pellet bedding is best on top of mats and expands when water is added. You’ll lose minimal bedding when cleaning and the soiled bedding is good for composting. Pellets help control ammonia odor and are much less dusty than shavings.

Both pellets and shavings are typically made of pine. Avoid black walnut sawdust, as it can be toxic to horses. Maple should also be avoided, as red maple leaves are also toxic to horses. Some horses are allergic to cedar shavings.

horse stalls bedded down with straw, aerial view

Horse stalls bedded down with straw. Photo Cred: Canva


Straw is readily available but may be prone to mold and not very absorbent. It’s good for horses with dust allergies or pregnant mares about to foal. Straw is harder to pick through when cleaning, making this the most time-consuming option of these three.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the best rubber matting for horse stalls?

Any brand is fine as long as the mats are at least ¾ inch thick and heavy-duty. Thicker mats provide more cushioning and can mean less bedding is needed. Heavier mats also stay in place better.

horse stall mats

Click to see them at Amazon

Q: Are rubber mats good for horse stalls?

Rubber mats are a great choice for horse stalls. They can sit on top of any base material you use, make cleaning easier, and add extra support for your horse’s legs.

Q: Are horse stall mats worth it?

Yes! They are expensive and can be difficult to install if you choose a thicker option, but they are worth every penny. They protect your flooring, support your horse’s legs, and can save on bedding costs.

Q: How long do horse stall mats smell?

If you get brand-new mats, they’ll have a “new car” smell for 10-14 days. It’s not strong (or dangerous), just the faint scent of rubber you’d find in a gym.

Q: Should horse stalls have concrete floors?

Concrete is generally not recommended for horse stalls. Even with mats, a concrete base is harder to stand on for a long period of time than packed dirt or layers of gravel. Concrete won’t let moisture drain, which could cause odors to linger and make cleaning between layers more difficult.

Q: Can horse stalls have dirt floors?

Yes! Dirt is a common stall floor base. Dirt floors can become uneven without a layer of mats, though. Horses that tend to paw can wreak havoc on a dirt floor without mats! You may want to leave the dirt as your base, add a layer of gravel/sand, then stall mats, then top it off with the bedding of your choice. This will allow for proper drainage, help keep the floor level, and make cleaning a breeze.

Q: How many stall mats do I need for a 10×10 stall?

A 10×10 stall would take four 4×6 mats and one 2×2 mat in the center.

Parting Thoughts

Designing and building a functional stall floor takes time, but your horse will thank you for your diligence.

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About the author


Nancy loves retraining off the track Thoroughbreds and working with her dogs!