Welcome to EN’s Product Review series! Who doesn’t love shopping… especially when the object of your search is new gear for yourself or your horse? As an enthusiast of all products equine, I LOVE trying out new gear. Which is why I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to try out products, so that I may share my many adventures with all of you! Please join me as I narrate my personal journey of trying out all of the products featured. While I will make no recommendations, I hope that you simply have fun and find entertainment while reading about my many adventures of trying new products, and that hearing about my personal experiences might help give you factors to consider when you are on your own quest for new gear!
If someone were to ask me what my favorite way to spend time around the barn, there are a few answers that immediately pop into my head. Riding one of my horses would be the most obvious. I’d also venture to say just hanging out with one of my geldings for a grooming session would rank in near the top of the list as well – and even socializing with other riders.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are those ominous tasks that no one wants to even think about. Personally, one of my least favorite tasks is cleaning out the tack room (where did all of the
crap stuff come from that has accumulated in there anyway?). Pulling manes is also no picnic in the park either, but I’ll certainly take that over tack room duty.
Mucking out stalls is an activity that I would classify as falling somewhere in the middle of the road, between ‘I love it, I love it, can I do this ALL OF THE TIME?’ and ‘You want me to do what…are you serious? No, really?’.
I’ve had a sort of love/hate relationship with mucking over the years. Honestly, I don’t mind the activity itself so much–I mean, after a day at the office, shoving horse poo out of a stall is quite therapeutic. It’s a quiet time when talking to anyone isn’t really necessary, and you have time to reflect on the happenings of the day.
Sometimes, putting on a little music in the background is relaxing (especially if it’s some feel good country music). And, I can actually feel the stress of the day start to slip away when I pause to watch the horses out grazing and frolicking on their pasture. Everything seems to be going so well, right? Well, it really is…until I turn to shovel a pile of manure, and then hear the basket tines go SNAP. And that in a nutshell would be the hate part of my relationship with mucking.
Suffice to say that I’ve tried my fair share of pick forks during my tenure as chief stall cleaner at my own barn. What I’ve found is that all of them seem to have a limited lifespan with me. Sure, some kinds last a good bit longer than others…but inevitably, I always end up with tine breakage.
We’ve come up with some creative ways to keep the forks going, even after tine breakage – it’s really pretty amazing how they can be patched up, so they can stay in use longer. But fixing the forks is really just delaying running out to the tack store to buy another.
A while back, I started to hear rumblings about the Flex’n Fork made by Equi-Tee Mfg. Well, not just rumblings–really what I was hearing were a lot of folks flat out raving about both the Flex’n Fork, and it’s relative the Shake’N Fork. So when I recently had the chance to try out a couple of Flex’N Forks here at the farm, let’s just say that I was really excited. To go outside and shovel horse poo. With the new manure forks. Come on, you just know that this is something that could only happen to horse people, right?
I’m dead serious here when I say that I was anxiously awaiting the arrival for the Flex’n Forks, so that I could start trying them out. Not so excited that I’d go to the extreme of keeping my horses in their stalls longer, just so I’d have more manure to pick up or anything.
When the box arrived, I hurried up and got it inside so that I could tear into it – which wasn’t as easy as expected, as everything was packaged together safely and really securely. The first thing that I did with the Flex’n Fork after it arrived, and was assembled was to check out the flexible motion of the basket. I faked like I was going to scoop something up in the basket, and I watched the back of the basket flex – it looked really encouraging, that’s for sure!
I also couldn’t believe just how darn light both of the Flex’N Forks were when I picked them up; I received both a Standard (5/8″ spacing) and Mini-Tine (5/16″ spacing) basket to try out, and see what really worked well for me.
The Flex’N Fork with the Standard basket mounted on it is slightly lighter then the Mini-Tine version, but both are quite lighter than my previous pick fork. The handle also has a very nice angled grip at the end of it, which appeared as though it would be helpful to use while mucking out stalls.
There are also sides to the basket – there aren’t overly tall, but they are there to assist with keeping manure from falling off the sides. And let’s not forget to focus in on one of my favorite features here – the COLORS! I really do like the bright yellow basket and handle, in combination with the blue pole. Important stuff here, folks.
Anyway, after getting the Flex’N Forks assembled, I was ready for a STALL CLEANING PARTY. This is the love part of my relationship with mucking. When I started in on my first stall, I immediately noticed the Flex’N Fork totally doing it’s thing…by flexing whenever I would go to pick up a pile of manure. And since I’m a cram-every-last-bit-of-manure-onto-a-single-scoop kinda gal, I think this is where part of my problem was with my old pick forks breaking. But that’s just a guess. Is it really so wrong to want every scoop to count?
One thing that I noticed was that I took a couple of days for me to adjust to the Flex’N Fork. My previous pick fork was one of the heavier duty ones, with tall sides to it–and so, I was used to being able to pick up a lot in the fork, and then shaking bedding out without losing too much else. I’m no longer to shake the manure forks, but I’ve adjusted to being able to ‘bounce’ them a little bit to remove excess bedding.
By the way, I just wanted to mention that I used pelleted pine bedding, for reference. So back to what I was saying, it did take me a couple of days to get used to the Flex’n Fork, but now that I’ve switched, I am really happy with the results.
I think the single biggest benefit that I’ve noticed is a relief of back and wrist pain. Thanks to my ‘make every scoop count’ mantra, I see now that I was picking up loads that were too heavy. With the Flex’n Fork, I must pick up smaller scoops, so that everything fits in the basket…and after I get finished picking 3 stalls with the Flex’n Fork, I notice that I feel fine. Previously, after picking 3 stalls with my old pick fork, my back would be hurt a little, and my wrist would be tired. So feeling better after picking is a huge plus for me! I also feel like in my case, that my wrist is being helped by the angled grip on the end of the handle – it allows my wrist to remain in a more comfortable position, rather than having to stay in an awkward angle while mucking.
With using pelleted pine bedding, I suspected that I might prefer the Mini-Tine for stall mucking–though honestly, both forks work well in with that particular bedding. I do notice that sometimes the pelleted bedding sometimes will hang up a little in the Mini-Tine basket, but bouncing it a little will help to remove the excess bedding. The Standard basket does do a really nice job, and I don’t really experience any bedding really hanging up in it.
I’m happy to report that Flex’n Forks are also MADE IN THE USA – you may recall me mentioning in the past that I do love to see products that are made in the USA. And one other thing that I am excited to see is that the Flex’n Forks actually come with a warranty against tine breakage – yes, you read correctly (you can go back and re-read if you need to though). All Flex’n Forks come with a 13-month warranty against tine breakage – I’ve been using the heck out of mine here (even going as far to try to scoop up gigantic piles of manure–thanks Mark–and the Flex’n Fork did not give me any problems).
For me, the Flex’n Fork by Equi-Tee Mfg has helped to transform my love/hate relationship with mucking into a ‘this is a total party’ relationship. Seriously. My old pick forks have been sitting in the tack room since I started using the Flex’n Forks, because I haven’t felt the need to go back to using them. The Flex’n Fork is a small investment–the Standard basket model sells for $54.95, while the Mini-Tine model sells for $59.95 from Equi-Tee Mfg.
For me, when I compare the longevity of other pick forks with what I am seeing with the Flex’n Fork manure forks, I feel like it is worth the investment. In fact, I am seriously considering adding a Shake’n Fork to my line-up of manure fighting tools. I’m personally very happy that I tried the Flex’n Forks though – I’m most excited about the fact that I can keep on mucking with a super-duper lightweight manure fork, while not worrying about back pain or a weak feeling in my wrist.
Go Manure Forks that stand up to Tine Breakage. Go Equi-Tee Mfg. Go Eventing.