After the hay is cut, it is left lying in the field until it is dried enough to be stored. Too green, and the hay will rot or sometimes even heat and catch fire spontaneously (this is particularly unfortunate if it happens in a barn) when stored. The first step is to collect the hay into windrows so it could be easily picked up. A hay rake is just what the name implies. The hay rake is a wide device with two high wheels pulled by a team of horses. Between the wheels is a bar holding closely spaced steel teeth. The teeth are bent in a semicircle about three feet across. The bar pivots, either holding the ends of the teeth dragging almost parallel to the ground to rake up the hay, or raising to dump the accumulated hay in a bunch. The operator rides on a seat on the rake guiding the horses, and pressing a foot pedal down to hold the rake teeth in contact with the ground. The teeth rise up when the pedal is released, and the operator completes raising the teeth by pushing a lever down to dump the hay. About twenty acres a day could be raked with a two-horse team.
The Museum has an example of a typical hay rake. It is older and built partially of wood. No information is available about the manufacturer as any manufacturer’s name has either rubbed off or faded.
Miller, Lynn R. Work Horse Handbook. Small Farmer’s Journal, Inc. 1981.
Telleen, Maurice. The Draft Horse Primer. Rodale Press. 1977.
By Don McCollor. October 2022
Photos by Linda Westrom