Stall mats have been a great solution for us, paying for themselves in reduced bedding costs many times over. Everywhere we’ve boarded our horses and in our own barn, we have used sawmill sawdust or pelleted bedding. Without mats, contact with the bare earth resulted in damp, less absorbent sawdust, so we used more. And every time we cleaned a stall, we were also removing a bit of the dirt floor of the barn. With mats, smelly urine isn’t soaking into the ground, isn’t softening the ground, and horses can't paw a hole into the floor. Wet sawdust can be easily removed with a stable fork or a flat-faced shovel. If I’m having an obsessive-compulsive day, I sprinkle stall deoderizer on the damp spots, but usually I just put clean sawdust over the moist area.
Of course, there are negative possibilities. Bedding stays drier and may become dusty if not frequently watered or replaced. I’ve heard the argument that more bedding is used with stall mats because nothing soaks into the ground, but that hasn’t been our experience. Also, I’ve read that wet mats can be slippery. We’ve never had that problem with sawdust, but when we bedded our mare in straw for foaling, the dry straw was very slippery on mats, especially to a wobbly foal.
We initially tried putting mats only in the wet areas of each stall, and that worked pretty well. But eventually, the flooring around the mats became lower than that under the mats, so as we could afford to, we added mats until the stall floors were completely covered.
15 year old mat in high-traffic stall doorway, secured with landscape spike and (rusting) washer.
The stall mats sold by Orscheln are 4 by six feet. Before laying the mats, we level and firmly pack the stall floor with lime screenings. We drill holes around the edges of the mats roughly 1’ apart, and through the holes drive galvanized 12” landscape spikes with large washers. We tried using fewer spikes, but that allows sawdust to work its way under the edges, causing a hump. We use a utility knife to cut the mats to fit.
We’ve had some of our mats for 15 years. They are still in great condition, showing little wear and no holes or ripping, and should be usable for decades.