You've probably seen the video by Evention “Dressage Skillz” that went viral. Sure, it would be nice to have dressage skillz, and be ‘born to shine on the centerline’. But, I’ve realized that I have skillz that transcend every equestrian discipline.
I have wheelbarrow skillz.
Advanced wheelbarrow handling takes practice, and I’d like to think a good dose of natural talent. After years of perfecting my art, I can competently negotiate bumpy terrain, narrow doors, inclines and declines, sharp corners and high loads. There are techniques for handling hay, straw, shavings and other loads. Here’s how you too, can develop you wheelbarrow skillz.
The Starting Position
There is no sense in pushing around an empty wheelbarrow, however satisfying that may be. There is, after all, work to be done. So to begin, you must park your wheelbarrow in an efficient starting position. If you are cleaning out a box stall, you should park your wheelbarrow so that the front is facing out the door. In a standing stall, back your wheelbarrow so that the front of it is facing out the back of the stall. This may sound nitpicky, but it’s much easier to push a wheelbarrow straight out of a stall, rather than turn it around inside. The thing that must be avoided at all cost is losing a part of the load, or even worse, tipping the whole thing over. So, set yourself up so the wheelbarrow is facing the direction you want to take to the manure pile.
Not Too Much, Not Too Little
The next thing you’ll want to do is fill it up. With the tool of your choice, and depending on whether the stall is bedded with straw or shavings, fill the wheelbarrow until it is filled level with the top. How you proceed will depend on three things: your strength, the width of the doorways you’ll have to go through, and what you are shoveling. Soiled straw bedding can be piled on the barrow so that it comes well over the sides. But shavings will spill if you try to pile them too close to the edge of the barrow, so keep piling them in the center and stop if they start to sift over the edge. If you’ve got narrow doors to go through, you don’t want the contents to stick too far over the edge either, as it will get dragged off.. And don’t over-fill the barrow. If it gets too heavy, you’ll be more likely to tip it. You never want to do a job twice, so keeping the contents in the barrow is essential.
Of course, you’re not always going to be moving manure and bedding. Sometimes you’ll move bags of grain, bales or clean bedding. Bags and bales are most efficiently moved by laying one rectangular bale or bag the length of the barrow, and up to three, depending, on the size and your strength, across it, arranging them from the handles to the front. You may find it best to keep the handles of the barrow low to keep your load from shifting forward. Over smooth ground I can handle up to four smallish bales this way.
Turns, Pivots and Spins
To avoid spills or tips, it’s best to avoid turning unless necessary. For a complete change of direction, a pivot may work better than a turn. This involves lifting the handles slightly, moving to your right or left, and perhaps taking a step backward before setting off in your desired direction. This takes practice and a good balance.
When simply turning your barrow, be sure to make a wide sweeping turn. That way the contents will be less likely to spill.
A really advanced skill is the reverse pivot. Done correctly, it will having you spinning elegantly as Diana Vishneva dancing in Swan Lake. Stand squarely behind your barrow, with a handle in each hand. Now, toss the handles of the barrow up slightly, reach around with your right hand, and grip the left handle as you pivot your feet so you have spun in the opposite direction. As the barrow handles descend, grab them so you are facing the opposite direction, with the barrow behind you. This move takes practice, but soon you’ll be finessing your way to the top of the pile.
When the Going Gets Tough
Sometimes, when the ground is muddy, very bumpy, or the manure pile is squishy, it’s easier to pull the wheelbarrow than push it. Simply pivot the barrow around so it’s pointed opposite the direction you want to go, put yourself between the handles like a horse in shafts and pull. I like this method for downhill and uphill grades as well.
Do you have wheelbarrow skillz? What’s your favorite maneuver?
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