In Florida, this filly and her mother benefit from unique flooring for their stall. The new facility dedicated to breeding and training opened last year and has 24 stalls, all equipped with ComfortStall. In this article we tell you the story of its founders!!!
Kim F Miller, Equestrian Journalist
Both Delfine 3 and its young owner Emma Whillans were new to the birthing experience. For a brief moment late one Saturday afternoon, Emma had been worried: “Della” was wandering restlessly in her playpen, atypical behavior for the former junior jumper star. “I knew something was wrong.”
Under the constant supervision of her veterinarian who was monitoring the process, Emma had tested the pH level of Della’s milk. The values at 7.5 indicated that it was very unlikely that the foal would be born that night.
Just half an hour later, it had become clear that nothing was wrong, and nature was simply taking its course: after calming down emotionally, Della then threw herself on the floor of her playpen. Several contractions later, there popped out a beautiful healthy foal, “One.”
When discussing the magical moment of a horse’s birth, The Floor is not usually the first topic of conversation, “Yet that night, we mentioned ComfortStall four or five times,” Emma says.
The trainer prioritized orthopedic flooring already as she began designing the Florida training facility, which opened last July. He started with 16 stalls, and recently installed ComfortStall in 8 more, in a separate barn. Two of these were converted into birthing boxes.
Helping many horses
As Emma predicted, ComfortStall has helped many of her horses retire as well as save money on her business. An Andalusian with an arthritic fetlock and a Holsteiner with navicular bursa problems are doing much better since moving to Whillans Equine.
ComfortStall requires only enough bedding to absorb urine. Its top layer, sealed to the box wall, prevents the infiltration of urine, the source of unhealthy air that requires regular and meticulous cleaning. In addition to being an environmentally friendly choice, the reduction in litter and labor costs means that the return on investment occurs in less than a year.
During a weekend vacation in the United States, Emma witnessed firsthand the effectiveness of paving in a farm setting.
“I knew I wanted to have the option of splitting two stables to create a foal box, and I’m so glad I thought of that in advance.” The top cover of the ComfortStall is normally installed so that it extends a few inches on each wall and then sealed with HDPE anchor strips.
After being advised a box with plenty of bedding to facilitate the mare’s comfort throughout her pregnancy, Emma was happy to already have ComfortStall in the dedicated box.
Because it was Della’s first pregnancy, Emma removed her shoes because it is more likely for an inexperienced mare to accidentally step on her foal during the early days. The advice made sense, but Emma was also concerned about the extra 200-pound load on a barefoot mare accustomed to horseshoes. “First I removed her back irons,” Emma explains. “On the traditional mats she was a bit annoyed, but in the box with ComfortStall she was fine.”
The most beautiful hour for paving
Pregnancy usually brings swollen legs due to restricted circulation, but again della had no problems. The constant, small muscle movements the horse makes when standing on ComfortStall stimulate blood circulation and proprioception (the ability to perceive and recognize the position of one’s body and the state of contraction of one’s muscles), which improve joint health, both pregnant and non-pregnant. As a result, Della did not suffer.
The floor also “went into action” when Della experienced anxious behavior just before going into labor. “He was a bit on edge and had nerves for a while,” says Emma. “It had some scratches after hitting the walls, but I can’t imagine what it would have looked like if it didn’t have this flooring.”
Sure, Della inadvertently stepped on Uno a couple of times, but fortunately the impact was mitigated by ComfortStall. “Both of our vets told me how lucky I was to have this flooring.”
While straw bedding is often used in whelping pits, Emma dislikes its inability to absorb urine. If the pH reading had indicated that Della was closer to labor, Emma would have added more large straw shavings to the box to provide the traction needed for Uno to get up. After her arrival, Emma used a modest amount of shavings to soak up fluids, but nothing compared to what she would usually put on traditional pads to support the new mother and her foal.
While flooring is too often an afterthought when designing pits, Emma put it first. The birth of Uno is the most recent positive demonstration of this wise investment.