When I began asking barn managers to name their most indispensable barn tools, they answered with everything from muck rakes to husbands. I learned not all barn tools are created equal, and that some barn managers are very particular about the types and brands of the tools they use. Here’s how the answers sorted out.
MUCK RAKES AND FORKS
The muck rake ranked number one. Most managers like rakes with metal tines that are placed close together. Some like the metal handle because it is lighter, others prefer wood because it doesn’t get cold in winter and is easier to grip. Believe it or not, high tech has come to this lowly tool.
The new DuraFork Ergonomic Manure Fork ($23) is one example. Its shape is said to relieve some of the strain associated with mucking stalls. DuraFork heads are made from polycarbonates for strength and flexibility, and they come in assorted colors. You can buy the head only. The DuraPitch comes in two sizes, has angled tines, and a basket to prevent manure from falling off the fork.
The British Fyna-Lite is made of spring steel tines and is said to be virtually unbreakable. The space between the tines is 5/8 inch. Fyna-Lite’s Rubber Matt Fork, which has rounded tines so you can muck without poking and damaging rubber stall mats, won a BETA Innovation award.
Sherred Williams of Wake Forest, N.C., says there are several different brands of rakes at Graystone Stables, but her favorite is the Future Fork. She sometimes has a hard time finding it because it’s the favorite of the maintenance men. Sherred says the tines are a bit closer together than on some other brands, and it is easier to pick out the wet pine shavings.
Wheelbarrows were also near the top of everyone’s list. Barry Leonard of Lexington, N.C., breeds Clydesdales. He says his two-wheel, eight cubic foot wheelbarrow is indispensable around the barn. He says it is so easy to handle that when his wife broke her arm she could move it with one hand. Other barn owners find the one-wheel models easier to turn in tight spots, though also tippier.
Motorized wheelbarrows are making inroads at many barns. The rugged Power Barrow Company’s Brutus is a four-wheel model with a motor. Ideal for those who have to push uphill, it will take a 30-degree grade and has a release lock for easy dumping.
Some barn managers prefer the garden cart for moving feed and hay and cleaning stalls. Muller’s Smart Cart gets a thumbs-up from my survey. Carts are lightweight, under 50 pounds, with a choice of 20-inch spoke wheels or a wide tread 16-inch turf tire for easy movement in deep sand or heavy mud. The Smart Cart has snap-out polyethylene pans, with no-bolts assembly. There are two sizes of pans that can be interchanged. The frame is aluminum and the axle is plated steel with a powder-coated cross brace that works for both size wheels. The versatility of this cart makes it a great tool around the barn.