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Choose the Right Wheelbarrow for the Job

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.

Photo by Celia Strain
With sloped fronts, wheelbarrows are ideal for dumping loads of loose material, such as shavings.
Photo by Celia Strain

Caring for horses means spending a good bit of each day 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.

Wheelbarrows, Carts and Wagons
A wheelbarrow, that familiar form 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 front 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.

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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 can tip readily, especially when the wheelbarrow is pushed 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.

Size Matters
Wheelbarrows range in capacity from four to 10 cubic feet, and carts can hold as much as 12 to 13 cubic feet. How large a capacity you need depends on two factors--how much material you need to haul at once and how much weight you can manage without sacrificing control. Larger isn't better if you can't prevent it from overturning.Don't forget to consider dimensions. If you need to get through narrow doorways, make sure you take the measurements into account and choose a model that will fit. Keep your available storage space in mind, too; larger wheelbarrows also take up more room in the shed.

A garden or utility cart has two distinguishing features: a relatively flat bed suited to carrying stackable items such as hay bales and bagged feeds, 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 lift and move it. Many are designed to be pulled rather than pushed--making them easier for some people to manage. 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 straight-sided, rectangular trays with flat beds made of metal or wood. Many carts also have release mechanisms for dumping their loads.

A feed cart is designed for hauling grain and other processed 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.

Some models, which are also called chore carts, have very deep, large-capacity tubs. These are designed for transporting a large amount of feed that will 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.

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