Sometimes horses may be placed on the second floor above a covered yard, or above other animals. In any case, the stable floor should be water-tight. Wooden floors, all things considered, are usually the best; but conditions may be such as to justify the use of other materials. Brick, cement and stone floors are somewhat objectionable for the following reasons, - they are hard for the horses to stand upon, are slippery, and, if bedding is not abundant, are damp, and they absorb the heat of the horse when it is lying down. A good, tight stable floor may be made as follows (Fig. 91):
Lay an unmatched rough inch floor, C; upon this place strong tarred building paper, B, with joints well lapped. Saw and prepare the two-inch planks which are to form the floor, A. For every four hundred square feet of floor, procure one barrel of Trinidad asphalt and three gallons of gas-tar. A large iron kettle may be used for heating and mixing the material, which should be in proportion of about one to ten. With an axe remove the barrel, and chop off and place in the kettle pieces of asphalt until it is not much more than one-half full, then add the due proportion of gas-tar. The kettle should be placed in a rude arch at a little distance from the building. By means of a slow fire, heat the material. If by chance the material should take fire invert the kettle. When all is ready, dip the hot mixture into a galvanized iron pail and pour it in a small stream on the paper, spreading it to the width of the plank intended to be laid, by means of a shingle or paddle. Lay the plank in the hot material, being careful that when it is spiked down the hot asphalt does not fly into the face. Then proceed to lay other planks in like manner. Finally pour some of the material into the cracks, if there should be any.1
Fig. 91. Making a barn floor.
Should the floor become worn in time and need repairing, even up the surface by spreading thin cement mortar upon it, and upon this lay a second plank floor. The cement mortar will assist in making the floor watertight and in preventing dry rot. Barn floors which have become worn from driving over them may be treated in like manner.
When the second floor is laid on the first (when it becomes worn), a portion of the stall may be provided with a removable grating, which will measurably prevent the horse from becoming soiled. This is objectionable in some respects, because the horse must be removed and the grating lifted if the stable is made clean. After having tried several methods, and observed many, for caring for and removing the liquid voidings, I know of none better than to absorb them by use of chaff or straw bedding of various kinds placed just ahead of the cleat shown in Fig. 89. The planks of the floor of the stall should be laid at right angles to those of the rear walk-way and two inches higher, their rear ends lapping upon the plank walk two to four inches. The planks upon which the animals stand are not infrequently laid with a fall from front to rear of two to three inches. Such a floor is cruel to the horse and does not promote cleanliness. One inch fall in six feet is sufficient. Horses when worked hard, if left free in the field, seek to place the heels of their feet, especially their front ones, higher than their toes and their front parts lower than their hind parts. By so doing they rest the back tendons and the back side of their legs, the parts which are subjected to the greatest strain when at work; hence a floor which has a marked rearward fall is objectionable. Sizable farm-horses should have stalls ranging from five to six feet wide, since the stables are cleaned, horses groomed and harnessed without moving them from their stalls.
1A floor laid as described, eighteen years ago, is still in good repair.
The box for feeding grain should be large, made of hard wood with level, broad bottom. The edges of the box and the strong bars placed in front and at the rear of the feed-bunk would be better covered with band-iron. That part of the manger designed for hay is usually too large, that for receiving the grain too small. Horses are inclined to eat their grain too fast. A large flat-bottomed grain-box tends to make them eat slowly, and hence to insalivate their food. Horses are usually fed too much hay. If the manger is large, it is difficult to prevent the attendant from over-feeding, unless he is required to weigh each horse's hay ration, a thing usually impracticable.
The hay should not be thrown from an upper story directly into the manger, no matter what kind it is, neither should it be thrown direct from the mow in front of the horse, but into a small room separated by a door from the stable proper. This room should be large enough to permit of the hay being shaken up and sprinkled with water when occasion requires. Neither should the bedding be thrown down in such a manner as to cover the harness and horses with dust.
Fig. 89 shows a straw chute constructed on the outside of the stable but opening into the straw-mow above and into the stable below. The door, shown by dotted line, is hung by means of weights, moves perpendicularly, and is closed when the bedding is being thrown into the chute and opened when the bedding is being removed to the several stalls. The chute may also be used as a ventilator.
A few paddocks, or better, small fields, should be provided near the barn for the dams and foals and other horses on occasion. They should be provided in any case if live stock is being raised. The enclosure should be large enough to allow of some pasturage. Paddocks are usually so small that the grass is destroyed by the tramping of the animals. Not only will such small fields serve to separate the dam and foal from other livestock, but they may be made the means of advertising the fact that good animals are being reared, provided they are suitably located. They should, where possible, be in sight of the front veranda and abut on the public highway, that the passer-by may linger to see and be persuaded to purchase. Such fields and the colts are to the breeder what plate-glass windows and their display are to the merchant. The merchant never puts his finest goods in the back end of the store, or where they cannot be seen readily. Increase the productivity of the large fields, and then these small fields will not be missed when laid down in permanent pastures and used for displaying the best animals.