Of all the equipment that we use for our equine-related endeavors each day, there’s none so valuable—while, at the same time, underappreciated—as the manure fork.
It’s an ingenious invention, one that modern horse owners cannot dream of surviving without.
When you clean multiple stalls, paddocks or run-in sheds each day—or, let’s face it, even if you clean only one stall—you tend to spend a lot of time with your manure fork in hand. Over weeks and months and years, that manure fork becomes almost an artificial extension of your arm, a useful appendage that you wield with dexterity and ease as you rhythmically glide from stall to stall.
Now the basic design of a manure fork may be uniform and predictable, but there are individual variances that are more important than you might think. Style, for instance. There are flat manure forks and there are large, more basket-like versions that hold more manure but make up for this advantage by being heavier. Some people like the strength and power of the basket-type forks, while others want the graceful daintiness of the flat types. (I’m all for the flat manure forks, by the way.)
Then there is color. This is important, folks. We stare at the tines of our manure forks every single day, and if you add up all those hours over the lifetime of a manure fork, you’ll think twice before selecting the color you’ll be looking at for 700 hours.
Red is a popular choice; it’s bright and invigorating, always good for boosting enthusiasm over stall cleaning. Then there’s green; peaceful, serene. If stall cleaning is your escape from the stresses of life, get a green manure fork. Blue? Purple? These colors represent a love of blue skies and pretty flowers, which are nice to think about when you don’t particularly want to think about manure.
Let’s talk about broken tines. These are the wrench in the works of stall cleaning. Broken tines happen, sometimes they just snap when you’re working and then (!!!) you’re left with a gaping gap in your tool, which is immediately where all the manure is going to gravitationally congregate, right back through to the floor. This means you’ll have to pick up the same pieces of manure multiple times before finally going crazy.
Don’t fight it! Broken tines? It’s time for a new fork—or at least a new replacement head. You have better things to do than struggle with stall cleaning. Just bite the bullet and get that baby back in business.
But be sure you pick a good color, because—remember, you’ll be staring at it for a loooong time. At least until the next tine breaks…
Samantha Johnson is a freelance writer and the author of several books, including The Field Guide to Horses, (Voyageur Press, 2009). She raises Welsh Mountain Ponies in northern Wisconsin and is a certified horse show judge. Follow her on Twitter: @miraclewelsh.