Farms couldn’t function without wheelbarrows or carts. Here’s how to match the options they offer with the chores you need to get done.
Which whee lbarrow will work best
Caring for horses often means moving materials from one place to another. There’s feed to carry down the aisle and distribute to each horse and hay to deliver to the stalls and paddocks. The manure needs to be taken out to the pile and new bedding hauled in and distributed. Small wonder, then, that we depend so much on wheelbarrows, carts and wagons.
As simple and common as these tools are, they come in a variety of sizes, materials and styles. Most were designed for use at construction sites or in home gardens, and the best model for your horsekeeping needs may not always be obvious. In fact, at many horse barns you’ll find more than one wheelbarrow or cart, each dedicated to a different job.
The key to selecting the right wheelbarrow or cart for your situation is to match specific features to the jobs you do and the conditions under which you work. You well know what you need to accomplish each day around the barn. Here’s what’s available to assist you.
The Main Options
A wheelbarrow— a unit with one wheel set at the front of a curved carrier tray—has long been used for mucking stalls and carrying bags of feed and bedding. Its single wheel makes it easy to negotiate tight turns through doorways and around obstacles. The rounded, sloped front of the carrier tray is ideal for dumping loads of loose material, such as manure or shavings, and it’s easy to clean with a hose.
However, the shape of the tray can be clumsy for carrying flat or bulky items. It takes physical strength to lift and push a loaded wheelbarrow as well as a bit of dexterity to keep it upright. The single-wheel design tips readily, especially over uneven terrain. Some models have two wheels placed side by side at the front of the carrier; these provide more stability under heavy loads but require a larger turning radius.
A garden or utility cart has two distinguishing features: a relatively flat bed suited to carrying stackable items such as hay bales and feed bags, and two wheels—one on each end of an axle positioned under the carrier tray. Carts are also more stable and less prone to tipping than traditional wheelbarrows, and because the load is balanced over the axle, more of the weight is borne by the wheels, so it takes less strength to move it. However, carts require a wider turning radius than a wheelbarrow and may be difficult to maneuver in close quarters.
Some utility carts have plastic carrier trays with slightly curved sides; others have metal or wood trays with straight sides and flat beds. Many also have release mechanisms for dumping their loads.
A feed cart is designed for hauling grain and other feeds to farm animals. Most are plastic, with a single tublike container set upon wheels. Some have two wheels with supporting legs; others rest on three or four wheels. Several feed carts designed specifically for feeding horses have multiple compartments to hold different
concentrates and/or supplements, so each horse can receive a customized portion as the cart is moved down the aisle. Another option is a so-called chore
cart, which has a deep, large-capacity tub. These carts are designed to transport a large amount of feed to be dumped in one place, such as a trough for swine or cattle. A person using one to feed horses would have to reach all the way to the bottom to scoop out the last of the grain.
A wagon has four wheels and can carry much heavier loads, some as much as 2,200 pounds. Because all of the weight rests on two axles, no lifting at all is required to pull the load. Some also have removable sidewalls, so they can be converted into flatbeds for bulky items. However, having two axles spaced at the front and back of the load means that maneuverability in tight spaces is limited. Finally, there is a dolly or muck
bucket cart, which is a metal-framed unit, often with an adjustable handle, designed to hold one or two 70-quart buckets. This can be a lightweight, inexpensive alternative if you have only one or two horses, but it probably doesn’t offer enough capacity for someone who has to muck and feed a full barn.
Heavy vs. Light Duty
Wheelbarrows and carts are typically divided into two categories: those for homeowners, and those for contractors or industrial use.
The contractor grade models, called heavy duty, have sturdy construction, typically with added steel supports for the underside and a heavier gauge plastic or steel for the carrier tray. These models are built for a larger capacity (six to 10 cubic feet) and are more expensive. It takes more muscle to use them when they’re loaded, but these wheelbarrows will withstand years of punishing use and are the better choice for hard, daily work.
The homeowner models are intended for occasional use in landscaping or yard work. They are lighter weight and usually have a smaller capacity (four to six cubic feet); they are also less expensive. These models might be suitable for use in a small barn, or they might be preferred by someone who has difficulty handling heavier loads, but they won’t last as long when put to rigorous use.
Plastic is often preferred for wheelbarrows or carts used in horse barns because it is versatile, durable and lightweight; it is easy to clean; and it requires little maintenance. Even so, with heavy use over time, plastic carriers may scratch, allowing residues to accumulate,, and they can crack and break.
Metal trays, usually made of steel with some sort of protective coating, are stronger and more durable than plastic but they are also heavier and require more maintenance. These models are designed for jobs that require heat, such as mixing asphalt.
Take It For a Spin
As good as a particular wheelbarrow or cart may look, you won’t know if it’s right for you until you try it out. The height of the handles and the way the carrier balances over the wheels will make a big difference in how easily you can use it. Also consider the height of the bed and how high you’d have to reach or how low you’d have to stoop to load and unload it.
If possible, try out the models you are interested in at the store. Pile some bags of feed or mulch into the carrier tray and see whether you’re strong enough to handle it when it’s loaded. Don’t forget to see how readily it turns, especially if you’re considering a twowheeled model.
Choosing the right wheelbarrow or cart for the task at hand can help you speed through your chores while avoiding an aching back and shoulders at the end of the day. And that will leave you more time to enjoy your horses.