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We have recently purchased a farm and intend to break thoroughbreds. The barn has concrete stall floors, we have considered purchasing a thick rubber padding used in heavy conveyor belt to put over the concrete to save the labour of breaking up the concrete. Do you have an opinion or suggestion on this issue?

- J. W.


I've seen that type of material used on several ranches, and it works very well. It won't eliminate the need for bedding (such as wood chips), however. You'll need some sort of absorbent material such as straw or shavings to keep urine from pooling on the rubber. Most conveyor belt materials have a rough side and a smooth side. It's tempting to put the smooth side up because a scoop shovel slides over it easier. I prefer the rough side up, because it gives horses and people better traction, and thus prevents accidents.

Another good material is the "felt" used on paper-making machines. It absorbs wastes and has to be replaced more often, but it seems a little softer than hard rubber -- and is sometimes easier to obtain in a paper mill town like the one where I live.

By the way, I know it's mainly a matter of semantics, but I prefer to use the word "train," rather than "break." To me, breaking a horse implies a contest of wills that leaves the horse's will "broken." I'd rather see an attitude of cooperative "training" of the horse... building on its natural instincts, inclinations, and abilities to build a working relationship that's enjoyable for both horse and rider. But again, it's a matter of personal preference.

Happy Horse Care!

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