To simplify his small farming operation, Ken Gies switched from full-sized draft horses to five mini horses less than 40 inches tall. He modified his equipment so they could handle it.
“My motivation was that I saw so many mini horses doing nothing. These guys are strong. They can mow lawn or pull a small log arch or even a stone boat,” he says.
On his family’s 10-acre farm in Fort Plain, New York, his minis provide the power for a variety of jobs, including putting up hay. They mow, rake and load 6 acres of hay three times per summer.
• Mower: He modified a one-horse ground drive mower. “I put a steerable axle on the mower tongue, which eliminated side draft,” he says. With a team of three minis, he has had the best success using a 32-inch-long SCH EasyCut cutter-bar.
• Rake: The used rake Gies purchased online had been used to rake leaves at an estate. It weighs less than 200 pounds and works well for the second and third hay cuttings. The heavier first cutting is more of a struggle, as the long hay tends to wrap around the wheels when he doubles or triples up windrows.
• Tedder: Gies started with a 4-star Kuhn tedder. He removed the two outer wings and reversed the shaft direction. “I don’t want them to spin too fast,” he explains. “You want to sweep the hay and stand it up, not throw it. It spins slow, so it requires less power.”
• Hayrack: Gies built his hayrack for about $500, including a 5-by-8-foot running gear out of schedule 40 2-inch pipe and light-duty 12-inch trailer hubs and tires. The wheels have tapered bearings and bolt-on rims. With a pressure-treated lumber deck and sides made of cattle panels cut in half, he estimates the wagon hauls about 1,000 pounds of hay at a time.
• Hay loader: After trying and failing with a prototype made mostly with scrap materials, he invested in an 18-foot-long, 4-foot-wide hay inverter belt and about 500 nylon teeth. The first setup didn’t work, so Gies reversed the direction and put the hay loader in front of the wagon. He reversed the direction of the teeth and added tin to the top to hold the hay. The drive belts were twisted to reverse the driving direction, and Gies built the rollers out of 5-inch thin-wall pipe and cold-rolled 3⁄4-inch rod.
“I used one-way pulleys from old alternators,” he notes. “If I were to change anything, I would slow the belt down just a bit, maybe with 3-inch pulleys on the rollers. This would hopefully reduce the power needed to run the loader.”
After getting the hay off the field comes the best part, filling the haymow.
“I unload with my existing hayfork and trolley. A team of two minis can lift as much hay as the forks can hold. It is a real blast looking back and seeing a 6-foot-wide jag of hay rise off the wagon as the team moves forward,” Gies says.