If you're doing a couple of stalls a day, you probably don't realize how much of a difference the right tool can make. But if you're doing a barn of 10, we know you have favorites.
A light weight is clearly important, as is good balance. No one wants to lift any more than necessary and, worse, you don't want to deal with a wobbly fork head. We also want to be able to move quickly through the stall, picking up the dirty stuff, tossing it, and moving on.
With these criteria in mind, we set out on a lengthy trial of stall forks, incorporating some of the longest-running brands as well as a few relative newbies.
Style.Tines are either pointed (traditional) or rounded, a new option designed to help your fork slide over uneven floors and stall mats.
We had no strong preference here, as our test stalls were matted and even, but we know some folks find a fork that sticks very annoying.
The Apple Picker Mat Rake and the Fyna-Lite Rubber Matting Fork both offer rounded tines. The Thunderbolt Sifter, which is a shovel that looks like a colander, also has a smooth bottom edge to glide along the surface.
You'll find slight differences in tine spacing, too, and we preferred more narrow-spaced tines, like those on the Apple Picker Missy Fine and the A Plus Equine Fine-Tines fork.
These work especially well with wood pellet bedding and shavings. However, if you're bedding in straw, you want a fork with slightly wider tine spacing.
Handle length is more of an issue to us than handle material, although the aluminum and fiberglass handles do feel a tad lighter than wood.
it's more important to not bend over any more than necessary when doing a stall, so we look for a minimum 48-inch handle.
You're going to want to grab these forks and give them a practice try in the store, but we found the Fine-Tines basket fork lightweight, well-balanced, durable and nicely priced.
Plus, we think a basket fork is the best method for shaking out the clean bedding and tossing the dirt. it's our top choice, especially at $24.95.
However, we also love the Thunderbolt Sifter. Although it is a little too short to be comfortable for us mucking stalls, we wouldn't be without this shovel for other projects, especially removing ice from water tanks.
For a Best Buy, it's tough to beat the Animal Healthcare Laboratories Future Fork. It comes in a wide variety of colors (useful for quarantine stalls or identification), and replacement heads are readily available almost anywhere -although we don't remember ever breaking one with regular stall work.With a choice of handles to boot, you won't go wrong here.
Article by Contributing Editor Lee Foley.