One of the benefits of blogging for an equine architecture firm, besides having access to an architect for my barn and home (Equine Facility Design does both), is the access it also provides to new products they know about (and I don’t).
Such was the case recently when I was introduced to Chuck Baker of Eco-Terr Distributing Inc. who has created the Thunder-Groom arena groomer, a beautiful piece of design and innovation engineered to take arena grooming into the 21st century.
I already have an arena grooming device that I call a harrow, and that Chuck “politely” refers to as a “modified farm implement”, and while it has always done it’s job somewhat adequately, it hasn’t come easy without some travail and a lot of frustration. I use hog fuel in my arenas and it seems to bunch up the wood product in it’s tines, especially just when I think everything is looking beautiful and I am about ready to drive out of the arena – grrrr.
So when the opportunity arose to have Chuck stop by the farm with his innovative Thunder-Groom on his return trip from the Albany Horse Expo this spring, I, of course, saw a great opportunity for a new experience, so I jumped at his offer.
I always thought arena grooming should be “plug and play”: that I should just be able to hook up the harrow to my tractor and drive it around as I daydream about how wonderful the footing is going to feel the next time I actually have time to get on one of my horses. This, unfortunately, has never been the case. First I have to beg someone to come over and help me hook it onto the three point system that might as well be ten point for as hard it is to get it on, then I have to rake the footing that has built up against the arena walls (in the indoor) or off the track (in the outdoor) before I can actually start the grooming process. Finally, using the three point system, I elevate or lower the harrow to just the right height and start driving – but then I get a sore neck looking over my shoulder (constantly) to make sure the depth of the tines is the right depth, stays the right depth, and that the footing doesn’t bunch or ball up under the tines which results in a huge swath of hog fuel ending up under the harrow instead of on the arena floor where it belongs. It is an exhausting test of patience where even I consider using a bad word here and there.
Having Chuck over with his Thunder-Groom was so enlightening in so many ways. First, his arena groomer hooks up like a horse trailer to my tractor – easy. If you don’t have a tractor, it can hook up to anything that has a hitch. Also, it has a remarkable device built into it that can be adjusted to remove the footing that has been pushed up against the wall. The pictures below show you these two vitally significant improvements over the existing groomers currently on the market:
What was most helpful to me, however, was watching the adjustments Chuck made to his groomer to modify it to work with my type of footing. It helped me realize that with similar adjustments to my harrow, I can make mine work better for me. What I learned is that probably no arena groomer can ever truly be “plug and play”, that each footing has it’s own special requirements and that by removing tines, playing with the depth of the tines and understanding a bit better how arena groomers (fancy ones or plain ones like mine) are really designed to work, that perhaps, with some modifications in my understanding and in the way I use my harrow, I may be able to use some of that displaced energy and time in being so frustrated with it, in actually riding my horses.
Will I still need to beg someone to hook up my three point harrow? Yes. Will I still have to hand rake my arenas before I harrow them? Yes. Will there be a Thunder-Groom arena groomer in my future someday? Maybe, one can always dream. Until then, I will use this lesson to think outside the box when faced with my “farm implements”, knowing that “plug and play” is only an illusion in using any tool on my farm.
If you want to know more about the Thunder-Groom, contact Chuck at cabaker@ecoterr .com, or 425.657.7958.