Mirror KB Appaloosa Horse Ranch & Photography Logo, professional equine photography and online gifts for the equestrian

Mirror KB Articles
about horses & horse care

by Kim and Kari Baker


Mirror KB Equine Article Series

Tractor Shopping

by Kim and Kari Baker

Your dream of property ownership has at long last been realized: a modest chunk of acreage with horse barn, corrals, round pen, and plenty of room to turn the growing number of horses out to kick up their heels.

The fantasy of finally having the time to relax and watch your horses frolicking around your own horse facility soon turns into reality, with fields to mow, stalls to muck out, and rotten fence posts to replace. As a newcomer, you’ve found that the lawn mower, shovel, wheelbarrow and assorted hand implements parked in the tool shed, as well as your calloused hands can’t handle the enormous job alone. The four-legged horsepower trimming the grass in the pasture isn’t doing the job you expected of them as well, although evidence in the barn points to the contrary. It’s time to go shopping for more horsepower. But, this time the horsepower will have mechanical muscle-- a tractor-- that will do the mowing, hauling, digging, and heavy lifting.

Is a tractor right for you?

There are several factors to consider before deciding whether there’s merit in putting your dollars into a pricey tractor purchase for your horse facility. When calculating your need for a tractor, take into consideration the size of your property and type of terrain. Be sure to weigh in the horse population and your management practices as well. For example, if you have less than five acres of mow able pasture and your horses are turned out for the most part, then your circumstances may not justify this major acquisition. However, if your horse facility exceeds five acres of pasture or you must stable a number of horses much of the time or you routinely do chores demanding heavy lifting you might choose to invest in a tractor. There certainly isn’t a hard-and-fast rule to determine whether or not you need a tractor, but the more land you have, the more horses you own or the less time you have to care for the facility, the more likely you will need a fuel-powered workhorse to help you out.

Tractor Selection

How much tractor do you need? Akin to picking out your faithful mount, there are several things the first time tractor buyer must consider before selecting that trusty tractor. “The size of tractor you require really depends on what you intend to do with it,” says Scott Garner of Coeur d’Alene Tractor in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. “You may have 500 acres mostly in timber and only a four stall horse barn with two horses. What good is a large tractor going to do you? Something in the 25 to 30 horsepower range would be plenty. On the other hand, 50 acres and an indoor arena and a barn with accommodations for 20 horses might be in need of a 50 or 60 horsepower tractor.”

Exactly which power range you require for your particular beast depends largely on the purpose for which the tractor is to be used. Before heading out to your farm-equipment dealership, make a list of jobs you expect the tractor to carry out.

The size of the mechanical-horsepower you choose should be determined, in part, on how much time you have to toil in the “saddle.” Larger tractors can do many farm related jobs much faster than the smaller ones partly due to added weight and traction as well as, the potential for faster paced work gained by the increased size of implements the larger tractor can handle.

Will you be using the tractor mainly for cutting over-grown pastures and handling manure, or will you also need to bale hay, plant new pastures or fence posts, move snow, or clean out irrigation ditches and ponds? “Even though most tractors are purchased for one or more particular purposes,” says Boone Cole of Triple W Equipment in Missoula, MT, “once you own one you will find you use it for many chores you didn’t think of.”

Some of the larger lawn/garden tractors can handle the cutting of small, level paddocks and can even be equipped with a mini front-end loader for moving manure. However, mowing or rough cutting even a moderately sized pasture requires a tractor with enough ground clearance to negotiate uneven terrain in addition to operating a heavy duty mower. The larger tractor will also be able to handle that hay field you might one-day harvest. Likewise, if you will be moving large compost or manure piles, you’ll want a tractor with a larger capacity bucket. The heavy-duty bucket will allow you to do light digging as well.

Why not always pick the largest tractor you can find? As tractors increase in size, they also increase in weight, horsepower, and price. “Although in general it is better to have too much power than not enough power, you will find that sometimes a tractor that is too big becomes unhandy, says Boone. “You may run into problems maneuvering in stalls and alleyways, fitting under a low shed roof or even turning around in a small paddock.”

Consider carefully what farm duties you want to accomplish with the tractor now as well as sometime down the line. It is better to slightly oversize your tractor purchase for activities that lay on the horizon, but you don’t want to buy a monstrous machine that is too cumbersome to do the job now.

The Implements

A horse farm or facility has special needs and you can be sure that there are tractor driven or pulled implements that will come to your aid, after all, tractors are meaningless power until paired with an implement.

“Implements are manufactured in a range of sizes according to horsepower to match your tractor,” explains Scott, “but, it’s your list of chores that will dictate what type of implements you purchase.” Some chores may be important enough to purchase a dedicated implement while others might be so infrequent that you can rent, borrow or even adapt your other implements to do the job.

The implement most often pressed into service is the mower. There are many different kinds of mowers, but for the common practice of rough cutting fields and pastures, the bush or brush hog rotary mower is the widespread implement of choice. They are usually attached via the 3-point hitch at the rear of the tractor and powered by the “PTO” or Power Take Off. The mower cuts and mulches the grass with heavy rotating blades. However, if you plan on cutting hay, in addition to a rotary mower you will need to purchase either a sickle-bar or disc type mower which slices the grass off at or near ground level.

Most horse facilities find the front-end loader or bucket to be another vital implement. Front-end loaders are powered by the tractor’s hydraulic system and are handy for handling manure or compost. The bucket can also be equipped with a spear for handling round bales or outfitted with forklift style forks for moving pallets of feed or carrying posts and lumber for the new fence line.

Next to the mower, you’ll find nothing more useful for pasture maintenance than the chain harrow. It’s great for smoothing those riding arenas too. Other implements that come into common use on the horse farm are rear blades for moving snow or leveling gravel and soil in driveways and around heavily used stock tanks or loafing areas, and manure spreaders for distributing waste removed from the barn. The hopper for distribution commercial fertilizer and the tank sprayer for spraying applying herbicides for weed control are also favorites for pasture maintenance.

The rear-mounted auger and the post-pounder are the tools of the fence builder or mender. The auger or drill powered by the PTO digs holes for the placement of posts while the post-pounder, which is powered by the tractor’s hydraulic system, drives pointed posts into the ground.

Another hydraulic powered rear-mounted implement is the backhoe. This implement is a lifesaver should you need to clean out irrigation channels and ponds or dig trenches for underground water or electric lines. However, they often demand enough hydraulic capacity to require an auxiliary pump fitted to the PTO.

No matter what selection of implements you choose, pairing it with the right tractor is important. The tractor must also match the implements you select in size, power source, and capacity. “If the implement is too small for the tractor, you are likely to damage it. If it is too large, the tractor will not handle it properly and it can even be dangerous,” explains Boone. For instance, hauling a trailer load of hay or the manure-spreader won’t put much of a demand on a tractor. You can even handle those jobs with some lawn/garden tractors. Likewise, cutting tools like a mower demand little pulling power from the tractor, but they do demand a specific range of PTO horsepower.

A farm-equipment dealer can help you in deciding which tractor will best power the implements needed to take on the job of caring for your facility. “We are oftentimes looked at as though we were car dealers, when in truth, we are more teacher than anything,” says Scott. “I have taught many a first time tractor buyer how to cut his fields, plow his snow and change his oil. We are farmers and ranchers too. We are glad to help and will share our opinions, but it’s up to you to do the work.”

Though purchasing the right muscle-machine and all its implements can be a daunting task, a tractor will allow you to easily carry out the many demanding jobs central to keeping up your horse property. Like flesh and blood horsepower, once you let the right tractor into your life, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without one--or maybe even two.

If you'd like to read more interesting articles click on the following drop down link: 

Choose which Article you want to ride down, then click on the Let's Ride button.

Mirror KB Photography & Gifts

1132 Arabian Lane

Libby, MT 59923-7982


Phone: (406) 293-6586

 Got questions? Email us at wranglers@mirrorkbranch.com


Trailhead | About Us | On the Trail | Raising an Orphan Filly | Tales of the Twin Wranglers
Training Philosophy | Photography | Promotional Photography

Gallery 1 | Gallery 2 | Gallery 3 | Gallery 4 | Gallery 5
  Gallery 6 | Gallery 7 | Gallery 8 | Gallery 9 | Gallery 10  | Gallery 11
Just Text Horse T-shirts | Just Text Mule T-shirts

Montana T-shirts and more | Clothes an' more with Robert Fuller

Design your own | Product Information

Equine Articles | Twin Wranglers | Ol' Bake

Equine Hangman | Product Order Form | Links
Our Privacy Policy
Send an E-greeting | order Greeting Cards



© Copyright 1998 Mirror KB. All Rights Reserved. Duplication of article and all photos or images, for any reason, without the expressed permission by us is strictly prohibited under the law.