CLOTH AND STONE: Perfect horse sense


KENSINGTON, Ohio – Last year at this time, horse trainer Sue Hines had two big problems.
One was a slippery, smeary, muddy pasture.
The other was what she called ‘the glacier,’ a thick sheet of ice that formed on the hillside behind her barn from water draining off a neighbor’s property. With every passing day, the glacier got thicker and wider.
She wasn’t happy, and neither were her 13 horses.
Hines worried about injuries, both for herself and the animals, every time she took a step outside the barn’s back door. She cringed to see the horses coming across the ice toward her and their feeders.
She fed in a place near the door where she’d dumped gravel. She didn’t dare venture any further, into ankle-deep mud or onto the ice-covered slope.
Feeding was a pain. There had to be something she could do to make life easier.
Local soil and water conservation technicians had her answer. Her fix: heavy use pads.
Easy process. Technicians and contractors surveyed the hillside to determine slopes and fill, then leveled and graded the area where Hines’ heavy use pads would sit.
They even helped her pay to build it through cost-share programs.
Gravel was hauled in, fencelines were rebuilt, and just five days later, her new 40-by-130 foot structure was ready to go. It extended her makeshift gravel pile from the barn’s back doors across the hillside pasture.
She liked the concept so much she immediately added another in a front pasture, 60-by-80, to feed hay.
It was the end of August 2004, shortly before downpours dumped 5 inches of rain in just six hours, she says.
“These pads have been field tested all right. I’d say they’ve been beyond tested this year,” she said. “I don’t know how I got along without them.”
Tennis shoes. Today Hines stands behind her barn in tennis shoes and looks across the paddock.
She’s just carted hay to the feeders. She never could have managed to push the wheelbarrow through the mudpile that once stood here.
The horses are standing on the pad with their heads buried in the hay feeders. It’s been raining for days now, but the horses aren’t mud-covered and their hooves are on solid ground.
Hines isn’t so worried now about hooves getting soft, twisted or broken legs, dermatitis, the things she worried about last winter.
“If you want your [pasture] trashed, go without one of these. With one, it’s easier for you and healthier and safer for the horses, too.”
“It was always my goal to be able to do all my chores in tennis shoes instead of muck boots. With this, now I can.”
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at


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