Small Farm Makeover: Essential Equipment for Farm and Ranch

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The Tools I Can’t Live Without

Having horses at home is wonderful. We can fuss over them whenever and however we want, go for a ride without getting in a car, and give them the life they deserve. But keeping a horse property, whether small or large, involves a lot of work and certain tools can make the work easier. It’s important to understand before you decide to “do it yourself” with horses at home that there is expense and maintenance of tools included in horse care at home. Here are some of the ones I appreciate most. 


A good tractor with a bucket on it can do a lot of the heavy lifting around an equine property. You don’t need a big one; many small tractors do a good job getting the work done on a small property. Tractors enable us to mow and harrow fields, mound and spread manure, work the arena, spread gravel and sand, and plow snow in the winter, among other things. 

Of course, tractors are expensive, but cheaper and/or manageable options can be found in used tractors and/or payment plans. Consider purchasing one with a neighbor or family member and share the expense (large farms and ranches often purchase expensive equipment using a cooperative method). Or, instead of buying, renting a tractor occasionally might be enough for you and your property. 

Field Mower (Brush Cutter)

If you have a pasture or open land, regular mowing during the growing season keeps it from going to weeds and aids in fire control. I’ve found my brush cutter (sometimes called a brush hog) to be a good investment, and they are tough machines that need only a little maintenance. 

Harrows (Arena and Chain/Drag for Fields) 

I use two harrows extensively on my equine property. The arena harrow, also called an arena groomer, is a specialized tool that creates a smooth, fluffy (but not too fluffy) footing for my horses in the arena. It can also be used to renovate driveways and has other landscaping uses. I scrimped and saved to purchase an ABI Attachments TR3 “Equine Edition” harrow—an expensive investment, but one that I use five days per week on my place because my arena gets a lot of traffic. 

The other harrow, and one I used to groom my arena with for years, is a chain drag harrow. Mine is over 30 years old and has done a lot of work. I use it to smooth out the driveway and paddocks, break up mole hills and manure in the pastures, and finish the fields after fertilizing or seeding. 

Weed Trimmer

Keeping the weeds from taking over is a never-ending task on an equine property. I don’t use chemicals on my weeds so regular cutting of weeds around the buildings, fences, and flower beds is necessary. 

Landscape Rake, Manure Fork, and a Good Wheelbarrow (or two)

A landscape rake is an essential tool around the ranch. A simple and inexpensive item, we use it to rake the track on the arena, smooth out holes and footing in paddocks, and help with landscaping gardens. 

For manure forks, I like the plastic ones because they’re lightweight and do a good job of picking. Yes, they break, especially in the cold and ice, so in winter you might prefer to use a metal-tined fork. I choose to replace the plastic heads when they break and use the plastic ones year-round. I use a clean one to pick broken ice chunks out of water troughs and I also use this tool in the garden. 

Finally, everything does depend on the lowly wheelbarrow. I go through a fair number of these and prefer the large Rubbermaid carts as they hold a lot and the large wheels make pushing easy, though some folks find them hard to dump. They aren’t good in the snow, though. Wheelbarrows are one of those things that people have preferences for that depend on their body types and sizes. Some people prefer to push the one-wheel variety. I like the kind that only need one hand to push, leaving my other hand free to open gates, etc. I try to keep one of each kind around the place; a broken wheelbarrow makes for a rough day. 

Tools are a fact of life on the farm and ranch. Buying and maintaining them is a financial expense and a time burden, so purchase the ones that help you get your work done so you can get back to what you love—riding your horse.

See this article in the May/June 2023 online edition:

May/June 2023 Issue

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