Most horse owners use some type of labor-saving equipment or machinery to make management tasks easier. These labor-savors may range from a 4-wheeler to pull a hay cart or a small manure spreader to a small tractor for powering a larger manure spreader or front-end loader, to a larger tractor to handle big round bales.
Dr. Bob Coleman, State Extension Specialist at the University of Kentucky said that when purchasing any piece of equipment, you need to consider several factors: Why do I need it, and what will it do for me?
“If it’s a small ATV, it can pull something, but we need to determine its capacity. It can pull a small wagon, which in some ways is simply keeping you from having to buy a bigger wheelbarrow,” he said. A person can throw a bale or two on the 4-wheeler itself, or stack 6 or 8 bales on a little wagon.
A 4-wheeler can also be handy to travel around a larger farm carrying a few tools and fencing materials for checking/fixing fences, or for irrigating. “It improves our mobility and we can take along supplies that we don’t want to have to carry. There are also small pieces of equipment that it might be feasible to pull with a 4-wheeler, such as a small wheel-driven manure spreader, or a small sprayer. The Gator might be better for this than the 4-wheeler, but you could have an ATV-mounted sprayer and take care of larger acreages without having to hire someone to spray. There are also some small no-till drill seeders that can be pulled by an ATV,” said Coleman.
“Some people have attached sprayers and other equipment to a riding lawnmower, but it’s not designed to do this. If you try to handle small pieces of equipment with a riding lawnmower, you put yourself at risk for overloading it, unbalancing it and having an accident. The ATV allows us to do more without the safety issues and be able to get by without a tractor,” he said.
The ATV has potential for multiple tasks, and there are some nice ones available that do have some attachments that can help us get the job done, noted Coleman. "The biggest thing is safety, and making sure that the person using it knows how to operate it and is doing it in a safe manner," he advised. " It’s not a toy for the kids to ride or a recreation vehicle for inexperienced people when they are supposed to be out checking fence. Even when scooting down the road on one of these, safety should always be the first consideration. It may be the handy way to get from point A to point B, but if you are in traffic on a road, you may be at risk. It can be a surprise for other vehicles to come over a hill and suddenly have someone in front of them on an ATV. Road travel isn’t what they are designed for.”
Some of the popular ATVs today are more like a mini-pickup, seating two or more people, with a frame that can be used to create a roof over them, and a small box or dump box behind the seat that can carry as 600 pounds or more, with a towing capacity of, 1000 pounds or more. Examples are the traditional John Deere Gater (with new models that have the capacity for more than 75 different attachments), the Kawasaki Mule (with cargo box capacity of 1,000 pounds and towing capacity of up to 2,000 pounds), the Polaris General (a side-by-side vehicle with a 600-pound capacity dump box) and the Honda Pioneer that can haul up to 1,000 pounds and pull 2,000 pounds (one version seats three people and another seats five).
The Kubota RTV has a conversion system that can transform the vehicle from two passengers (with large cargo bed) to four passengers and smaller bed. The Can-Am Defender has a hard cab, heater and electric windows. Bobcat (best known for its skid loaders) now has utility vehicles--with great carrying and towing capacity and the ability to operate front-mounted power takeoff and other attachments. Exmark utility vehicles have a tilting cargo box that readily transforms from flatbed to box. Mahindra USA offers three models, including a three-passenger vehicle with cargo area that folds to a flatbed.
There are ATVs to suit just about any purpose.