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.
Wanda Bunn owns The Circle J in Nash County, N.C., where she teaches western and hunt seat lessons and her daughter Joy trains quarter horses. Wanda claims her John Deere Gator as the tool she can’t live without. She uses it for cleaning stalls, taking feed and hay to the pasture horses, retrieving hay from its storage building, dragging the ring, and working on fences. Bunn also has a sprayer and pull spreader attachment.
There are advantages to ease of use beyond the obvious, she says: “With its power dump, there’s no more pushing heavy loads of manure out, and the pile can be further from the barn and house.”
BROOMS AND BLOWERS
Several barn owners like using a leaf blower to clean the aisle and walk areas of debris. It does a thorough job, can get to hard to reach areas, and is easy and fast. The blower can also be used to clean out cobwebs and dust, and of course for stable yard cleanup of leaves. It is best to use the blower when the horses are out of the barn, though, as it stirs up dust.
For light work and low sound, the cordless 18-volt Black and Decker NS118 (about $70) is a convenient and quiet blower. It has a two-year warranty. The electric Toro Power Sweep ($30) weighs just five pounds, has two speeds, a 7-amp motor, low noise and also a two-year warranty. The gas-powered Echo PB-200 weighs 8.8 pounds and comes with a five-year warranty.
For a blower/vacuum combo, the gas-powered Homelite is handy. It weighs 10.9 pounds and has a two-year warranty. It vacuums and mulches leaves.
Getting water to the horses is a requirement in every barn. Most agree that buying heavy-duty hoses and reels pays off in the long run, since these items get much more than normal use in a barn.
Cathy Weaver of Holly Run Stables in Lake Norman, N.C., lists a close-off valve that connects to the end of the long water hose as one of her most indispensible tools. She made this twelve-inch hose attachment, which she uses for filling water buckets. The attachment reaches through the bars of the stall front to the buckets, and she can turn the valve on and off between stalls. This device is easy to make with a connecter and valve and a 12-inch piece of old hose.
POWER AND HAND TOOLS
Various hand and power tools made the list of have-to-haves. Hammers are used for minor repairs, breaking ice in the water trough, and in various building projects, large and small. A long-handled crowbar was on Cathy Weaver’s list. As with most other tools used in the barn, she has learned to purchase quality tools, as less-expensive items often break from heavy use. Quality tools save money in the long run.
Several managers mentioned their cordless drills for working away from a power source, like the pasture fences or for hard to reach places in the barn.
BARN CATS AND SPOUSES
Both spouses and cats have earned a spot on the list of indispensable barn tools. These friends provide companionship as well as serve a useful role. For example, a wheelbarrow just works more easily when pushed by a helpful partner, who can also offer encouraging words when the work gets overwhelming. And though some might not consider barn cats a tool, the cat’s tireless rodent patrol work deserves recognition, say some barn owners. Or would you rather do the mousing yourself?
For More Info
Black & Decker www.blackanddecker.com
John Deere www.johndeere.com
Muller's Smart Cart www.smartcarts.com
Power Barrow Company www.powerbarrowcompany.com
Union Jack, distributor for Fyna-Lite www.unionjackstable.com