Ring Maintenance: Harness A Harrow

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All footings require maintenance. And unless you’re into hard manual labor, you’ll want a harrow to keep your footing horse-friendly. A harrow or drag adds air to the footing to provide some “cush” to a surface that’s become hard-packed from pounding hooves.

Some harrows have heavy-duty teeth that rip into the ground to break up a hard crust. Others offer a leveling action, to even out the hills and hollows by moving displaced footing from high spots to low spots. Still others finesse the surface, smoothing for a tabletop finish. Others do it all in one operation.

Flexible-Tine Harrows
Flexible-tine harrows are simple and typically the least-expensive drag. They look like a piece of heavy-duty diamond-mesh fence with a network of interlocking moveable V-shaped teeth (tines) that rake into the ground. The “moveable” aspect of the teeth give these harrows their “flexible-tine” moniker.

Attaching to your tow vehicle with a chain and drawbar, tine harrows are relatively lightweight; the smaller ones can be easily pulled with ATVs and riding mowers. Each harrow comes apart in two-piece sections with a total standard length of 7 ??’, which makes them easy to handle for one person.

While they do an excellent job of maintaining a soft, even surface, tine harrows are seldom heavy enough to break up a hard-packed surface. Tines are typically 3 ??” to 4” long and, in soft footing, will work up the top 2” to 3”.

You can, however, vary the level of penetration somewhat by turning the harrow around. In the “aggressive mode,” the teeth gouge into the ground at a steeper angle.

Pulled from the other end, the teeth comb the ground at a 30- to 45-degree angle. Or, to merely smooth the footing’s surface, you can flip the whole mesh over onto its toothless side and pull it as a flat mat. Even better, because the harrows are made in interlocking sections, you can pull the sections in sequence, with the first section in aggressive mode and the following section smoothing, in one pass.

Flexible-tine harrows are ideal for double-duty — many horsepeople drag them across their pastures to scatter manure (i.e., fewer flies and parasites), to work in overcast seed or to dethatch a too-thick lawn.

Tine harrows require no maintenance. Over winter, or whenever you don’t plan to use your harrow much, you can roll it up for compact storage or hang it flat on a wall.

Solid Frame Drags
Functioning much like a chisel plow, a toothy drag rips through hard-packed soil and digs deeply into the dirt. Typically, the depth of teeth penetration is controlled by setting the tractor’s three-point hitch. When dragging without a three-point hitch, you can add weight with cement blocks to increase teeth depth. Great for harrowing up hardpan, most of these drags don’t “finesse” an arena surface; in fact, they may leave furrows in it.

Rotary Harrows
A round rotary harrow looks like a laid-on-its-side wagon wheel with spikes along the bottomside rim and spokes. The wheel rotates off of a hub and spindle, spinning self-propelled as the harrow is hauled along the ground (which means no power-take-off is required on the tractor).

Rotary harrows churn and stir the ground more deeply than other types. They’re great for pulling banked-up footing from off the arena rail and redistributing it into the ring. They’re also fairly easy to “swing” into corners. And, with no corners to snag or hook onto stumps or trees, rotary harrows just roll off fence posts (that is, if you happen to hit one).

Although the teeth do wear out, they are often replaceable. Digging depth is determined by how you set the three-point hitch of the tractor. Horsepeople who are picky about a super-smooth surface may not like the wisp marks a rotary harrow tends to leave behind.

Multifunction Harrows
These versatile workhorses do it all in one pass by combining different equipment sections for sequential functions. The front section is usually a row or two of teeth to break up the surface and add cush, followed by a leveling blade or float bar. Some models combine up to four sections, for fine-tuning the surface. Multifunction harrows are heavy and typically require more horsepower under your tractor’s hood.

Selecting A Size
Generally, a harrow should be a minimum of one foot wider than your tow vehicle so it covers the tire tracks. While bigger may be better, take care not to oversize yourself out of the arena by buying one too wide to get through the gate. The most popular harrow sizes for horsepeople are the four-, six- and eight-foot widths.

Maintenance
Most arena harrows need little or no maintenance. Some of the rotary and combination harrows have bearings or bushings that need periodic greasing, but most have grease fittings.

For a small operation, with weekly or daily use, a harrow should last many years, depending on how hard the ground is. Stone screenings or hard-packed footing will wear down the tines or teeth faster than soft footing like sand or rubber.

The teeth on a flexible-tine harrow may bend a bit if snagged on a stump, but they’ll seldom break off. Extremely heavy use will eventually wear down the teeth, at which time it’s best to buy another harrow.

The points on spring-teeth harrows, however, are reversible (once one side is worn down, you can rotate them and use the other side to harrow) and replaceable for a few dollars apiece.

Harrows can be stored inside or out, although protecting them from the rain and dew will, of course, help deter rust. When possible, it’s best to store flexible-tine harrows rolled up and stood in an out-of-the-way spot or hung on a wall, to reduce contact with damp ground.

Shipping
Smaller tine harrows can ship by UPS, but most ship by common carrier. Freight expenses vary widely, but heavy harrows can cost several hundred dollars to ship.

TINE HARROWS

Country Flexible Tine
Construction: 3??” long tines of 7/16” diameter steel. Three-point lift costs $359.

Country Adjusta-Flex Harrow
Construction: 4??” long tines of ??” hot-rolled carbon steel. Adjustable (see chart). When the harrow is set in the V-mode, every other tine aims forward. You can’t flip this harrow onto its back for smoothing only (Country suggests dragging a bar/board behind it for conditioning and smoothing in one pass). A wheeled carrier for the AF-5 ($150); three-point lifts are $300.

Farnam Delta Flexible Harrow
Construction: 3 ??” tines of 7/16” high-carbon steel. Standard sizes are 8’ long. A lift for a 6’-wide harrow costs $385 separately; lift and harrow $680. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Fuerst F-l-e-x-i-b-l-e Tine
Construction: 3 ??” long tines of 7/16” high-carbon steel. Three-point lift for 6’ harrow $350. One-year warranty.

Handi-Klasp Flexible Harrow
Construction: 3 ??” tines of 7/16” high-carbon steel. Three-point lift for 6’ harrow $385.

Lee Flexible Harrow
Construction: 4” long butterfly tines of ??” diameter medium-carbon steel. Three-point lift for 6’ harrow $370.

Nichols Parmiter Flexible Harrow
Construction: 3 ??” long tines of 7/16” diameter steel (1/2” available). Three-point lift for 6’ harrow $268.

Panorama Flexible Harrow
Construction: 3 ??” long tines of 7/16” diameter steel. Three-point lift for 6’ harrow $346.

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SOLID-FRAME DRAGS

Country Arena Ripper
Construction/functions: Breaks up hard-packed ground with seven teeth that extend to 4” cutting depth (teeth are ??” wide and spaced 10” apart). Teeth can be adjusted 1” down as they wear and are replaceable ($4 each). The Country Ripper is available with either a three-point lift for tractors or a wheel carrier for use with a four-wheel-drive ATV or other tow vehicle (the lift or carrier is included in the $275 price). Ripper includes weight platform for up to three concrete blocks (to provide downward pressure on the wheel-carrier model; adjusting the height of the lift provides the pressure on the three-point lift model). No maintenance required.

Gibbs The Dragster
Construction/functions: Drag-behind triangle of 3” channel iron with welded ??” square teeth. Will fan out/move up into corners as it turns; can be flipped over onto its toothless side to smooth the ground. Can store it standing up against a fence or wall. Does not require three-point hitch; can be pulled with an ATV or riding mower. No maintenance. One-year warranty. Available in any size, $60 per foot in width.

Horsemen’s Track Harrow
Construction/functions: Harrows and smoothes. Simply designed, with four rows of staggered harrow teeth (1” diameter square steel), followed by a feathering bar on a 45-degree angle (with ??” steel teeth) to eliminate harrow ruts. Harrowing depth adjustable with three-point hitch to 3” or 4” (with 8” of extra adjustment as they wear down). No maintenance. Shipped fully assembled. One year warranty.

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ROTARY HARROWS

Snodgrass Arena Werks
Construction: Circular harrow that smoothes and levels. Six-foot model has 45 teeth (3/4” in diameter, 6” long). Standard with welded teeth; optional models with replaceable teeth (20 pounds heavier and about $100-$150 more expensive). A buggy attachment is available ($275 for any size) for pulling the harrow behind an ATV, truck or tow vehicle without a three-point hitch. Lifetime warranty on welding; hub and spindle not warranteed because buyer must assemble; $60-$80 to replace both.

Burgholzer Rotary Rake
Construction: Octagonal rake (frame is welded angle iron) with eight spokes and 60 hot-rolled steel teeth (3/4” diameter, round). The teeth are welded at an angle to the spokes and extend 7” below the frame. Teeth can be straightened and/or replaced; bearings should be greased when harrow is retoothed. No maintenance. Warranty, with money-back guarantee. (Pictured on cover.)

Gibbs Roto-Harrow
Construction: Circular frame of heavy 3” channel iron, equipped with a sealed hub-and-spindle assembly and ??” diameter square-bar steel teeth (replaceable teeth and 1” teeth are optional). Manufacturer suggests regreasing the sealed bearings (packed by hand) every couple of years. Shipped fully assembled. One-year warranty.

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MULTIFUNCTION EQUIPMENT

Parma Arena Groomer
Construction/functions: Three rows of vibrating S-tines (21 tines total, set 3??” apart) prepare the base, followed by an adjustable leveling bar that shaves off high spots and carries the dirt to fill low areas. The roller bar at the rear of the equipment helps further break up dirt clods and keeps the tines at a uniform depth. Bolt-together assembly required. A tongue with screwjack ($195, fits all models) available for hook-up without a three-point hitch. Maker recommends greasing the roller-bar bearings (with a grease gun) every 10 to 12 hours of use. One-year warranty.

Uwe Kraft Arena Leveler
Construction/functions: A harrow/leveler, made in any size. First section of unit consists of adjustable harrow teeth (12 S-tines on the 2.5-meter model), followed by an adjustable leveling blade (adjustable in height and angle). Guide wheels protect arena walls, and one side scraper is included. Hot-dip galvanized, no maintenance.

Snodgrass Arena Werks II
Construction/functions: Row of heavy tractor teeth (on a hydraulic assembly) followed by a standard Arena Werks rotary harrow. Standard with welded rotary teeth; replaceable teeth optional ($150 more expensive).

Elite Track & Riding Ring Leveler
Construction/functions: Previously made by Equi-Master, it harrows and levels simultaneously. Two-section unit includes a front row of spring-loaded tines (adjustable to 8” deep; 6’ unit has 10 tines; 9’ unit has 12 tines), followed by a leveling blade (blade angle/height is adjustable). Whole unit can be pivoted sideways at an angle of up to 40 degrees to pull footing from outside edge back toward center of ring. One wall-guide wheel included. Steel is hot-dip galvanized. No maintenance necessary. One-year structural warranty.

The Ground Hog
Construction/functions: Plows, discs, levels and pulverizes all in one pass. First row/section consists of hydraulically operated ripper shanks (7 shanks on the 6’ model) that break up a hardpan surface (can loosen soil down to 9” deep, adjusted from tractor seat). Second row, double grader blades level and redistribute the soil. Third row, 24 adjustable-depth tines (4” apart, up to 3” deep) comb the soil. Last section, a tension-adjustable, spring-loaded finish roller with 94 clod-breaking pegs pulverizes and firms the soil. Ripper shanks can be replaced when worn ($4.75 each). Maker recommends greasing the bushings and roller bearings (with a grease gun) every 10 hours of use. Totally preassembled. One-year warranty on workmanship.

West Coast “Red” Master Harrow
Construction/functions: Harrows and levels. One row of spring tines set 3” apart (14 tines on the 6’, 18 on the 8’), followed by a float bar/leveling blade. Tine depth is adjustable; unit is “free-standing” on wheels, to prevent scraping down to the base. The spring-loaded float bar/blade on back helps compress the fluffed footing for an even consistency. The maker calls design goof-proof. Tine points can be rotated and then replaced when worn (standard part, found at any farm-supply store). Can be used on Fibar by removing some of the teeth to widen the gaps between them. Ships assembled. One-year warranty, 30-day money-back guarantee.

West Coast “Red” Ripper
Construction/functions: Discs and levels, for use on hard-packed ground and especially helpful on stone-dust footings (which pack down quickly). Two rows of staggered heavy-duty harrow teeth (14 teeth on the 6’, 18 teeth on the 8’), followed by a spring-loaded float bar/leveling blade. Teeth can be adjusted down as they wear. Ships assembled. One-year warranty, 30-day money-back guarantee.

Reveal 4-N-1
Construction/functions: Four tools in one implement: plow, level, harrow and pulverize in one pass. The front of the unit acts as a chisel plow with several ripper teeth to break up hard ground (replaceable teeth, $8.64 each); the second section levels the footing with a channel iron beam (wedge-design scraper blade); the last section consists of two rows of adjustable harrow teeth (also replaceable) followed by a spring-loaded roller bar with spikes to pulverize clods and can be set to refirm the ground. The maker recommends greasing the roller-bar bearings (with grease gun) every eight hours of use. Hydraulic lift action. Three-stage unit without the front plow teeth is available (6’ $2,750; 7’ $2,950), as is a short 4’ long model (6’ $3,775; 7’ $4,000), which allows for shorter turns and working in tighter spaces. Custom-made units (10 to 14 feet wide) also available. Ships assembled. One-year warranty on workmanship.

System Track & Ring Conditioner
Construction/functions: Harrows and levels in one pass. Best for maintaining dirt/sand arenas (not made for gravel or hard-packed stone screenings). Two-section unit includes a front row of chiseled spring tines (12 tines on 8’ model, adjustable to 6” deep), followed by a leveling blade (fully adjustable in pitch, from 90 to 180 degrees, for moving different amounts of footing from high to low spots, and adjustable in angle, up to 30 degrees, for pulling footing away from side walls). No maintenance. Some assembly required. One-ye ar warranty.

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Bottom Line
If your footing is fairly soft and merely needs leveling and “fluffing,” a flexible-tine harrow may be all you need — plus you’ll find it simple to use. There’s little difference among flexible drags, and our choice is Farnam Company, which offers a basic harrow/drag we can pull with just about anything at a good price that includes shipping. If you want the harrow and its companion three-point lift, Farnam still edges out its nearest competitor, Parmiter from Nichols, when Farnam’s free shipping is factored in.

Because of the wisp marks rotary harrows tend to leave behind, we’d skip them for a regular riding ring. Rotaries are good, however, for round pens, since they pull footing off the side and redistribute it inward. In this category, we lean toward Snodgrass Equipment’s Arena Werks and Burgholzer’s Rotary Rake.

If your arena gets extremely heavy use and/or your surface packs down to nearly rock, you’ll need to dig down to aerate and refluff the footing while leveling the ruts and ridges. For smaller operations, we’d choose the surprisingly affordable (although not as heavy-duty) System Track & Ring Conditioner, with the Parma Arena Groomer a close second.

For busy training/boarding barns with a lot of traffic, we’d recommend one of the two four-section machines. While the Reveal 4-N-1 is a quality piece of equipment, the Ground Hog by Lucas Metal is (and does) basically the same thing, for less than two-thirds the cost.

Also With This Article
Click here to view ”Harrowing Tips For A Better Arena.”
Click here to view ”Arena Harrows And Drags Specifications.”
Click here to view ”Finessing Your Fibar Surface.”
Click here to view ”Multi-Function Equipment Specifications.”
Click here to view ”Pulling Power.”