This year my family tried out the Troy-Bilt Pony Riding Lawn Tractor. Before I tell you what we thought of it, I thought I should explain what we’ve been used to cutting the grass with, so you know where we’re coming from. Since 2002 we’ve been mowing our lawn and fields with a 15hp DR Brush Mower, mowing the lawn with the 42″ mowing deck.But it started developing problems in 2008, which we didn’t resolve before the end of the season. We had hoped to get it running again properly in 2009, but as time went on with no resolution in sight, we broke down and bought a modest push mower to tide us over, a Troy-Bilt 540 Series. As we went through our various repair options for the DR Brush Mower, from doing the obvious maintenance, consulting with their technical service department, and bringing it to three different repair shops, it became clear that the lawn mowing days of the brush mower were over. It was too difficult for the average teenage boy to handle, so must be relegated to field mowing only, and that, only by the strongest members of our family. You know, the ones that bench press over two hundred pounds.
For the rest of last year, that modest little mower was the lawn mower. So when the Troy-Bilt representative contacted me to offer the chance to review their Pony Lawn Tractor, I said yes. It has a 42″ mowing deck, just like the lawn deck attachment for the brush mower. And it’s a tractor, so it should be able to mow the field, right?
Wrong. For the Pony, “tractor” is a misnomer. Sure, the manual refers to a PTO (power take-off), which all tractors have, but this machine doesn’t have enough power to cut six-inch high grass, which is how high we let it get inside the chicken yard and around the apple trees. We repeatedly expected too much of it and broke it. First, an old goldenrod stem got caught in the underbelly of the machine and completely jammed it up. Later on, the transmission belt broke. Of course that is the one thing you are not supposed to fix yourself.But we managed to replace it without air/impact tools or instructions. It helps being stubborn, independent, and frugal.
To be fair, when cutting the more typical lawn, it did the job. But it didn’t have the maneuverability of the little push mower, and often, after going around the shrubs with the push mower, the boys just kept on using it for the rest of the lawn. I guess it seemed easier than going back through the chicken yard to get the riding lawn mower out of the shed.All right, I’ll ‘fess up–the lawn mowing personnel in this family have a low opinion of this mower:
“You have to push it uphill.” The manual specifically states you should not mow it on a slope in excess of 15 degrees, but even for those kinder, gentler slopes, you should mow up and down hill. The complainant really meant that it went up slopes so slowly that it would be quicker to push it uphill. But the manual advises, “If machine stops going uphill, stop blades and back downhill slowly.”
“Every time I went over a bump, the engine shut off.” This was due to the safety feature that shuts off the engine if the operator leaves the seat without the brake being on. Except the operator was still in the seat.
“My knee sometimes hits the speed control lever and then I unexpectedly speed up.”
“The mowing deck doesn’t float and it scalps the lawn.” Of course, if you were mowing a bona fide lawn there wouldn’t be so many humps and bumps to scalp. We have many seeps and springs popping up during mud season, leaving the surface of the lawn uneven.
Bottom Line: this riding lawn mower was designed to cut lawn grass on a level surface. It was not designed to cut converted pasture on rough, sloping ground, especially if it was (ahem) past due for a mowing.
Thank you to Troy-Bilt for generously providing the mower for this review.