Farm Equipment for Large and Small Facilities

From tried and true to novel and exciting, these are the products, services, and techniques that our experts are recommending to facilitate equine management

The Horse visited with various horse people to see what they recommended to make life easier around farms large and small. They agreed to share their tips for saving you time and money, while keeping your horses healthier.

Small Farms (one to 10 horses)

Stall fans To provide adequate ventilation to stabled horses, each stall can be equipped with its own standard box fan (these run around $25.00 at hardware and general stores). The fans can be mounted to the top of the stall wall or door using an overhead stall fan holder ($39.95, to allow the air to move straight across the stall, or down into the stall, depending on the current conditions.

Flooring A multitude of flooring types are available, each associated with pros and cons. Rubber matting is presumably more comfortable for the horse than concrete and decreases bedding requirements, but mats trap dirt and debris underneath and can be cumbersome to move. Viable alternative products are seamless, permanent, durable flooring systems that are fixed to the stall walls (e.g., ComfortStall Equine Flooring System, These products are touted as nonslip and manufacturers claim the products provide increased comfort to the horse.

"Improved efficiency was noticed in dairy cows with similar flooring systems, so I installed it in my horse stalls to see if it made racehorses more comfortable or 'efficient,' " says Reade Baker, a Thoroughbred racehorse trainer based at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada. Baker was ranked among the top 40 trainers in North America in 2007, winning over $3.7 million in purses. "After installing a custom flooring system about a decade ago, I noticed my horses laid down to rest more frequently."

Baker explains that flooring systems decrease the amount of bedding required, minimize the cost of removing waste bedding, and can potentially decrease respiratory issues associated with the use of straw and shavings.

Mucking This is the pinnacle of the double-edged sword: do you use elbow grease to clean stalls economically or go with the flow and purchase a lawn and garden tractor (plus associated accessories) to save time and energy? One product on the market that could serve as a reasonable substitute to the mighty (and expensive) tractor is the Smart Cart ($285.00-$325.00,

Advantages of this product include its construction with high-quality materials that are resistant to wear from water, light, chemicals, and body fluids, and it can be hitched to a tractor or all-purpose vehicle ($455.00 with this option). One step up from manually powered wheelbarrows is the motorized wagon ($869.00-$1,200.00, These units have a wide range of uses and can come equipped with an electric start and a powered dump body, and they are an economical substitute for all-purpose vehicles.

Composting Composting is an easy, affordable, and environmentally smart way to manage horse waste. Composting requires less space than storing manure, is less expensive than having it collected, is less offensive to the olfactory system, and, if properly done, should not attract flies. While there are many composting systems, products, and accessories available, the general theory is similar in each.

"You will require three composting containers: one that is currently being added to, one that is full and composting, and one that is composted and ready to be spread on your fields or sold for profit," advises Cherry Hill of Horsekeeping LLC, author of 30 books and videos, including Equipping Your Horse Farm: Tractors, Trailers, Trucks and More.

According to Hill, additional equipment needed for composting is likely on the farm already: pitchforks, shovels, wheelbarrows or a tractor with a bucket (front-end loader), or a trailer or manure spreader. General information on composting is available in article #6631 at

For information on how to initiate a composting program, contact your local agriculture extension specialist (an example of an extension resource on composting: postinghorsemanure.pdf).

Insect Management Even with composting, picking paddocks, and rotating pastures, flies and other airborne pests can be a continual problem in the summer months. Sprays, sheets, and masks are aplenty, including "botanical" products that manufacturers claim to be natural and safe alternatives to traditional sprays. Fly prevention feed supplements can be added to a horse's feed to safely and effectively prevent the growth of stable and house flies from eggs in manure for up to six weeks.

In terms of fly masks, one interesting product that was introduced to the equine market in 2007 is the Cashel Fly Mask, which is available in pink with 70% UV protection. A portion of the proceeds from every pink fly mask will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation ($19.94,

Fencing A common concern for owners of small acreage farms is overgrazed paddocks and instituting a pasture rotation system. Many inexpensive fencing options are available to subdivide pastures, so, ultimately, the product of choice will be based on the consumer's preference. "Trail ride kits" are widely available that allow the user to create portable, temporary paddocks or corrals. Semipermanent fencing made of rope or wide tape can be used with fiberglass posts, which are economical and durable fencing products. Each of these options is less expensive than permanently modifying existing paddocks with wood or vinyl gates and board fences.

In addition, a solar-powered electric fencer suitable for small- and medium-sized pastures can be used ($206.28,

Large Farms (10-100 horses)

Barn Monitors A variety of monitors are currently available for a myriad of uses, including foaling, temperature, humidity, and fire monitoring, often in combination with a closed-circuit television. The recently redesigned Dickson Graph-at-a-Glance ($299.00-$300.00, is one such example. These products provide real-time or downloadable data to track barn conditions, and they allow facility mangers to optimize horses' environments.

Heavy Duty Machinery Making its debut at 2007's Agritechnica, the largest European exhibition for agricultural machinery and innovations, was the "electric tractor." This new technology engineered by John Deere is reportedly ideal for many farming needs. This tractor is more efficient than traditional tractors, its systems are unaffected by temperature, and its speeds are easy to adjust. The heating, air conditioning, and lights inside the cab have full power regardless of the engine revolutions per minute. The tractor has an AC outlet for hand tools, and this technology is expected to replace hydraulics.

"The electric tractor is scheduled to be introduced in Europe sometime in 2008, but will not be available in the U.S. until proven successful in the European market," says Barry Nelson, manager of public relations in the agriculture equipment division of John Deere.

Treadmills Treadmills have been employed in the equine industry for conditioning, training, strengthening, and rehabilitation. Underwater treadmill systems (aquatreds and aquacisers, or can be purchased, some of which combine a state-of-the-art digitally controlled treadmill with a swimming pool and whirlpool. These products range in price from approximately $50,000-$75,000.

A Day at the Spa! While facilities in this category are technically high-tech rehabilitation/sports medicine facilities rather than "spas," the horses cared for in these centers are definitely pampered. For example, KESMARC, the Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation Center, owned and operated by Kirsten Johnson and Hub Johnson, is a comprehensive facility designed to cater to each horse's recovery and fitness needs. Located in Versailles, Ky., this 6-year-old center boasts state-of-the-art equipment and services, including an underwater treadmill, swimming pool, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), solarium, and indoor walking and jogging track. Personalized services are available for horses in rehabilitation, training, conditioning, and sales preparation (

A variety of similar facilities are scattered throughout the United States in horse-rich regions, and some even offer services on an as-needed or appointment-only basis, such as Wood End Farms in Barrington, Ill. (

For home therapy, manufacturers have developed such systems as the ZUMAR Advanced Equine Cold/Hot Compression Therapy (see for a description), a new product marketed as a equine injury management system that provides continuous, programmable temperature-controlled therapy (heating and cooling) in combination with massage and compression. The system can be used on almost any body part: hooves, lower limbs, hocks, forearms and elbows, shoulders, stifles, necks, and backs.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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