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My Dad made extra money for the family when I was a kid by doing small engine repair out of the garage, the upshot of which was that we almost always had whatever motorized lawn implements we needed/wanted.  They might not have been new-looking, but we had ’em, and they worked.  But there were two lawn/garden machines that we didn’t have, and he always talked about them as if they we magic: the Troy-Bilt roto-tiller and the Ditch Witch.

The Ditch Witch wasn’t part of our fleet mainly because it was tremendously expensive — and we didn’t really have any good reason to dig that many ditches anyway.  The roto-tiller, on the other hand, would’ve been extremely handy.  Instead of Troy-Bilt’s smooth-running, easy-to-use Horse, we had a crappy open-front-tine type which tore the living mess out of whatever got near it (including me) and was prone to climbing chainlink fences.  (Don’t ask.)

I remember when Dad did finally get hold of one.  He bought it used, but in great condition.  Of course it was in even better condition after he’d pulled it apart and renovated it.  The first time I saw him with it, he was tilling the garden out ‘back of his place, and he brought me over and had me put my hand on it and easily guide it single-handedly down a row.  It almost operated itself.  All that was required on my part was holding the kill-switch and gently guiding it a little every now and then.

Compare this to the start it up, wrangle it into position, then release the clutch and all-hell-breaks-loose experience you normally get with a ’tiller.

I could read you specs and so on, but let me just tell you this: These ’tillers — they make a couple of different models — rule the roost.  If you’ve got a sizeable garden, you should seriously consider one.  Take some time and visit a dealer.  They’re incredible.

Even though I currently live in a relatively urban area — and, consequently, I have a slightly-bigger-than-a-postage-stamp yard which certainly doesn’t require this type of serious machine, I still kept the one Dad had.  I’ve considered selling it a couple of times — they hold a lot of their original value and bring quite a bit on the used market — but I just can’t bring myself to.  It’s sitting patiently in a storage unit waiting for an opportunity to till a garden, or maybe the underlay for the new walkway I want to put in the (miniscule) backyard. 

I won’t tell you about street pricing because it’d depress you, but let’s just say that they cost a little more than my first car did.  Thankfully, my first car was purchased a pretty long time ago, and Dad certainly didn’t pay that much for his.  Your mileage may vary.

The “Horse” Roto-Tiller [Troy-Bilt]
Street Pricing [Froogle]


21 Responses to Finds: The Troy-Bilt Horse

  1. Myself says:

    Oh, let’s hear the fence-climbing story! That sounds like a doozey. When you’re trying to wrangle the thing away from the fence, your natural tendency is to grip the handles harder, not let go of the kill switch, right?

    Our front-tine Briggs has never done that, but Comcast likes to bury their Coax about an inch deep across the garden. We’ve offered to rebury it deeper if they’d simply flag it after installation, but neither their techs nor Miss Dig seemed interested in averting the obvious.

    This last time, we did finally convince Comcast to not bury the line at all. They replaced the whole segment from the house to the pedestal, and left it sitting on the grass for us. We buried the few feet from the house to the fence, then used plastic zipties to secure it along the fence rail where, unless we live next door to Chuck Cage, it should be safe from roto-tillers.

    At least they’re better than SBC (nee Ameritech), who “buried” my phone line so deep it got hit by the lawnmower.

  2. jeff says:

    My family has a troy-built from the early 80’s and it still runs like a champ. It is seriously the best piece of lawn/garden equipment I’ve ever used. It needed the head gasket replaced a few years ago but other than that it has been trouble free. It is true that it only takes a light touch to guide it.

  3. Roscoe says:

    If you’re looking at new models, stick with the Troy-Bilt Super Bronco CRT. CRT stands for counter-rotating tines and means that when the wheels go forward, the tines spin backwards. These are a lot smaller than the horse, but really do a great job. We’ve got hard Ohio clay, and use two of these all day long for seedbed prep for grass.

  4. Eli says:

    We had a Gravely, with brush hog, tiller, mower, and snow plow attachments. The attachments were heavy and unwieldy to switch, and it took half a can of ether and a lot of pull to get that thing to turn over. I didn’t really like it all that much. If the Troy-Bilt takes a light touch to steer, the Gravely takes the exact opposite. That thing used to throw me all over the place and drag me behind it. Luckily speed was not one of it’s strong points. My dad hung onto it forever, come to think of it, he may still have it. We ended up either getting other tools to do each job, or hiring people, or in the case of the white stuff, a Dodge Sno-Fighter w/ plow.

  5. SlowJoeCrow says:

    I used to work in a rental yard and we had something that made a Troy-Bilt look crude and wimpy. Barreto rear tine tillers have hydrostatic drive so no belts to slip and really precise control, plus hydrostatic drives are much harder to break which is why the rental guys love them. Their site is http://www.barretomfg.com/.

  6. Myself says:

    Oh yes, I forgot to comment earlier: One major disadvantage of the rear-tine models is that you can’t till up to the corner of the yard. Look at how far that sucker’s front bumper is from the tine axle! For a country garden with no nearby fences, this Troy-bilt is probably perfect. But here in fenced-in suburbia, I’ll take the superior reach of the front-tine beast.

  7. Steve Thompson says:

    Oooo. I don’t even have a yard to speak of, but I want one!

  8. R. A. Bishop says:

    I am curious regarding your statement as to the value of the Troy Bilt Horse model. Many years ago, I purchased a used model on a shared basis with another relative. He has since run it poorly and I’m wondering if fixing it would be financially worth while. We could still have use for it, but a smaller model would be more helpful. If you have an opinion, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

  9. Shayne says:

    I recently came by a troy built tiller.Cant find a model # but plenty of other part numbers and a serial # 21 9239 some of the other numbers are TH1003 and the like.Trying to find a owners manual.Thanks for any info.

  10. Iron Bar says:


    Don’t know if you’ll even see this, but there’s a Yahoo group strictly for Troy-Bilt tillers. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/troybilttillerclub

    There’s quite a bot of info for your tiller at that club. As for the tiller serial number, typically it is stamped into the metal somewhere on the gear box/transmission. This would be the area right above where the wheels are.

    I recently purchased an old 7hp Troy-Bilt Horse that I found (through the club) to be a 1976 model. The thing still runs like a champ. I’ve replaced the spark plug and gear oil, and now all I need to do is change the engine oil, air filter, and belts, and I’ll be in tiller heaven. The belts are obviously old and worn because I’m getting slippage when I encounter tough soil.

    As for the fellow who made the initial post, I’d sell that horse model tiller if you’re in such a tiny urban area. I know that things like are very sentimental to hand on to, but wouldn’t it be great to know that someone will buy it who can really use it like your dad did? Wouldn’t he have wanted that? Just a thought.

  11. Erik Ordway says:

    When I was a kid back in the late 70’s – early 80’s my mother had one of these that she bought used then tilled up a couple of football field’s worth of garden (2 big gardens for 6 years) that a lot of our food came from. Then she decided that the 3hp motor was to small and pop’ed on a 5hp B&S (she is the mechanically inclined one, She rebored the cylinders on the truck too) and kept going for another 3 years when we moved.

    I was back in the area with her visiting the old area last year and we found it still in weekly use by the people that bought the place. That thing has been in use for nearly 30 years and been rebuild twice and it still needs only one hand to guide it. I remember using it when the handle were at my chin height.

  12. Mel says:

    I have an 8hp HORSE model that I bought new about 1985 or so. If you live where the soil doesn’t have rocks, it’s great. Otherwise, not so great. BTW, Troy-Bilt (Gardenway Mfg) went bankrupt several years ago. The Troy-bilt name was bought by MTD, but they do NOT support the older Gardenway products, so parts are somewhat hard to find.

  13. maryannburton says:

    We have a 1992 8 hp Troy-Bilt Horse and we need a worm gear and a set of oil seals. Can you help us?

  14. You might look into the BCS tillers. TroyBuilt were made so that you would buy a belt ever year or 2 if you use the tiller at all. Very back woods tech! BCS has no belts and works much better in the ground! IMO

  15. Sheila says:

    My husband recently bought an 8hp B&S Troy Bilt Horse. We are having trouble getting parts and would appreciate any suggestions. Don’t know the age and there are a lot of #s on the machine. The model # is TH1003 and under that is 81-33. We have the manual and the part

  16. Sheila says:

    My husband recently bought an 8hp B&S Troy Bilt Horse. We are having trouble getting parts and would appreciate any suggestions. Don’t know the age and there are a lot of #s on the machine. The model # is TH1003 and under that is 81-33. We have the manual and the part

  17. Sheila says:

    Sorry, I must have hit the wrong button – continuing on….. we have the parts book, but MTD can’t help with getting the parts. We live in Newfoundland, Canada and if anyone has any idea where we can buy the belts and a reverse disc it would be greatly appreciated – my flower beds are waiting!!!

  18. Sterling says:

    I found this old tiller in my barn. So far the only info/numbers I have found (all in different locations) are the following:

    T H 1002

    T H – 1001 – 1
    1 F 4


    Where should I be looking? What am I missing?

  19. Dan Nathan says:

    The serial number on any Horse is on the right top side of the gearbox stright above the right axle. It is always dirty so grab a rag and scrub off the edge next to the tire. If the numbers start with 12, you can get all the parts from MTD. 0001- 360000 is old 2 speed model Gardenway and 360001 on up is a 4 speed model. I don’t know when they started with the detachable tiller section, but that is the current model.

    The TH1001/1002 and 1003 numbers are the casting numbers for the gearbox and covers. All Horse models have the same casting numbers.

    Axles, axle seals, tine seals and tines are readly available on Ebay. Most of the time you can find the 4 speed rubber reverse disc and belts for all years. Tine covers, handles, covers, gears and other internals are harder to find but show up fairly regularly. There is a place that has most parts that you need to run the machines, but not usually the beauty parts. It is

    If you go to MTD website and lookup parts, there are diagrams for all Horse tillers. If you have an early model and you don’t have a part number, just type in ‘Horse’ where it asks you and a list of all the Horse models will be shown to pick from. You can call MTD and ask them to help id your tiller, but you will need the serial number from the location described above for them to tell you.

    Just a reminder, if you have an old Horse and decide to change gear oil to help it out, remember to use only GL-4 spec or compatible 85W-140 gear oil. If you are purchasing it at the store and you can’t tell if you have GL-4 spec oil, call the manufacturer of the gear oil and ask if it is GL-4 compatible. Some new gear oils that are GL-5 rated are not compatible with the brass and bronze gears in the Horse and WILL DAMAGE THEM. Unlike motor oils that have better and better ratings as they newer oils come out, API GL-1 thru 6 ratings were set all at once and GL-5 gear oils can eat up bronze gears.

  20. furnace filters says:

    I love our Troy Bilt tiller My grandma used it for years and when she passed away we received it.

  21. Lon Martin says:

    Does any one know how to get the rims off the wheel shaft. I have a Horse tiller I need to change wheel seals and the wheels have never been off. I have been rebuilding the tillers for over a year and this the only problem I can’t find a answer to. I have had to cut off the rims and replaced with new, but they has to be a way to remove them. I have soak, heated and tried a home made pulley puller. Parts for the tillers can be found at custom parts in Limestone Tenn. cheaper than on Ebay.

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