So you’ve decided to buy a plow and put your horses to work. Good for you, but of course that’s just the first decision when you’re buying a plow. Now you have to decide whether you want to ride or walk, what kind of ground you’ll be plowing and how much of it. And then of course there’s the budget.
Fear not. We’ve got you covered. Here’s our Alberta Carriage Supply Guide to Buying a Plow
Using a walking plow is almost an art form and many enjoy the challenge of driving their horse(s) and running the plow at the same time but many begin by having a fellow teamster do the driving while they get the hang of operating the plow. Needless to say a walking plow would be the choice if you’re going to be doing a small piece of land. And it’s the most economical. Pioneer Equipment makes a walking plow that’s available with a 12 or 14 inch Oliver bottom. It’s a good plow and does a nice job but it is a heavy unit to be reckoned with so make sure you eat your Wheaties before heading out to the field.
If you’ve got a larger patch to scratch, then riding is the way to go. Pioneer makes four plows in this category. The first is a Homesteader, which is a multi-tool as it gives you the option of changing the attachments on the unit (plow, cultivator, harrow, disc, disc hiller & potato plow). Because of the number of tools in the Homesteader’s toolbox, we’ll talk about it by itself in a future article.
The next three plows are also ridden and we’ll start by talking about the frames.
First off is the Pioneer Sulky Plow. It’s raised and lowered by the use of a lever. In place of a rear wheel, it has a landside. The addition of a pole will help increase stability when using young or inexperienced horses but is not really necessary as there isn’t any steering on this plow. It’s all controlled with the hitch adjustments. The coulter is listed as an option and must be ordered separately. I can’t imagine anyone using this plow without one. This is a nice simple unit to use and it doesn’t take long to get used to raising and lowering the bottom with the lever.
Next is the Pioneer Footlift Plow and it is “the Cadillac” but don’t forget to order the coulter. The bottom is raised and lowered by foot pedal. It has a landside wheel that steers with the pole making it very agile. The nice thing about the footlift is there isn’t any line juggling going on at the start or the end of the row making it easier to concentrate on driving the plow. Two horses will pull both the Sulky and Footlift Plows but going three wide or four up will keep you in the field longer.
Finally there’s the Pioneer Gang Plow. This is quite the beast and although the word “gang” is used in the name because it’s a two-bottom plow, it’s also an indication of how many horses you’ll need to use it. Four will do it for short periods but we found that six is preferred for longer stints. It has a raised platform, which affords the driver a much better view ahead. It should be noted that there is an optional battery operated hydraulic lift offered. The addition of this lift makes the Gang Plow a much more user-friendly unit.
Now we’ll talk bottoms.
Pioneer offers four, the Oliver, John Deere, Keystone and Kverneland. The Oliver and John Deere have been around for a long time. There isn’t any real advantage of one over the other as it’s a matter of personal preference. They will plow any kind of ground but not all kinds well. They excel in stubble, but in sod? Not so much. The Kverneland does it all well. It has a long slow twist, which makes it exceptional in sod or heavy soil, and it goes without saying it, works great in stubble as well. The Keystone is an American made knock-off of the European made Kverneland. It’s a stepping stone that’s offered between the more economical Oliver or John Deere bottom and the premium Kvernleland but in the long run the lower cost does come at a price as the wear parts will not last a s long a the Kverneland’s and it’s performance is not quite as good due to the fact that Keystone hasn’t been able to totally replicate the contour of the Kverneland’s mold board. All the bottoms are available in 12, 14 and 16 inch sizes except the John Deere which comes in 14 inch only.
The last things to consider are options.
First a tool box. It’s just big enough to carry a couple of adjustable wrenches, and a scraper. Pioneer plows have a shear pin to protect the bottom and beam in case you hit a rock or big tree root so a couple of shear pins and a punch should be in the tool box as well. Hammer? Remember, you can always use a wrench for a hammer but not a hammer for a wrench. Plowing can be quite dusty at times so a cup holder will keep you from dropping your water bottle and plowing over it. It’s funny how many of these plastic pests are found in the field the following spring. An option that we like is a line holder. In the event you have to stop to adjust something it will ensure that your lines will be right where you left them. While underway, one of our customers puts the tails of his lines in it to keep them up out of harm’s way.
Another Pioneer innovation is a spring hitch that goes between your doubletree and the hitch point of the plow. It reduces the shock to your horses’ shoulders in the event you hit that rock or tree root. As soil densities change constantly you can actually hear it working while you’re underway.
It’s a good idea to talk to someone that actually uses the equipment so if you have any questions, feel free to give us a call.
We’ll answer your questions and give you a quote on a plow that best suits your needs. And if you want to SEE some good plowing action, bring yourself and your camera down to the Bar U Ranch NHS (National Historic Site) located 13 kilometers south of Longview on Highway 21 where the spring planting for Eau Claire Distillery will be underway May 20th to 23rd, 2016. There will be lots to see and plenty of teamsters to talk to so you’ll be able to get the scoop on plowing right from the horse’s mouth.