WOOSTER, Ohio – Some families spend their free time boating, fishing or playing golf, but for the Hines family of Wooster, their free time is spent feeding, watering, training and showing their Belgian draft horses.
Show season. During the show season, Steve Hines along with his daughter Kim, son-in-law Bryan and grandson Cole Sinnett, exhibit their horses at the Ohio Draft Horse Expo, the Ohio State Fair, the Michigan Great Lakes Draft Horse Show and the Wayne, Ashland and Stark county fairs.
While Bryan is still a neophyte when it comes to the draft horse business, having picked up the bug when he married into the family, Kim inherited her interest in the gentle giants from her father, who in turn inherited it from his late father, Clayton.
b> Started with dad.< “Dad always liked horses, so he had horses off and on,” Steve said. “I got interested in horses through him. There is a story that when he graduated from high school, he had a choice between a car and a horse. He chose the horse.”
Clayton Hines started showing horses at the Wayne County Fair in the 1930s for the research center. After he stopped milking cows in the early 1970s, he got back into showing Belgians.
At that point, according to Kim, the family started getting serious about the draft horse business.
Draft horses declined in popularity for a while as more farmers switched to tractors. But according to Steve, even though his father had five tractors on the family’s 280-acre farm that sits on the Wayne/Ashland county border, Clayton Hines did some of his farm work with horses.
Old-fashioned way. The family still chuckles when they recall that Clayton always planted the fields along the road with horses because he felt the rows in the fields planted by hay-fueled horses were straighter than the rows made by the gas powered tractors.
Hines added that they try to raise all of their own feed on the farm. Crops include corn, hay and oats.
Since a mature Belgian will tip the scales at 2,200 pounds, it takes about 1/2 a bale of hay per day, two gallons of sweet feed and 15-20 gallons of water to feed each horse every day.
Already popular in the area, with their dark sorrel color, white socks and blaze down their nose, Belgians have always been the breed of choice for the Hines family.
Plenty of Belgians. The Hines breed, raise, train, show and sell their Belgians. They currently have 23 horses, including foals on the farm. They also have Sinnett’s Masters Thunder standing at stud.
Thunder has done well for their breeding program. They placed fourth with one of his colts at the 2003 Ohio State Fair.
The family tries to breed their mares so that the ones they are going to show will have their foals on the ground earlier in the season to allow them time to have the mares ready for the show season.
Steve added that they probably sell as many horses as they raise, so they try to have the horses broke between 2 and 3 years of age.
When they select a horse for their hitch, they look at not only color and markings, but they also look at movement, conformation and size.
The size of the horse can determine where they end up in the hitch. Taller, stronger horses typically end up as the wheel horses (those that are closer to the wagon), so that they are able to stop the wagon easier.
A good lead horse is a heads-up, high-stepping animal with a lot of style.
“We like our horses to have good color and lots of action,” Steve said. “If they don’t match our hitch, then we may try to sell them. This is a good age for someone else to start them in their hitch.”
Hitch horses tend to hit their peak between 3 and 8 years of age, according to Hines. After that, they often aren’t at their peak for style and movement. Style and movement are important if they want to do well in the hitch classes during the season.
Fair memories. Brian and Kim agree that Kim’s fourth-place finish in the Ladies Cart Class at the Ohio State Fair, and taking home the top honors in the 3-year-old futurity at the Ohio State Fair rank among their best fairs.
“Grandpa was back in the barn when we won the futurity,” Kim said. “He threw all of his change at me and told me to go call grandma and tell her.”
But for Steve, his most memorable fair was the year he finished second in the men’s Belgian cart class at the Wayne County Fair.
That got him out of the ring in time to watch his father take a victory pass in front of the grandstand with his trophy and blue ribbon as the winner of the popular and competitive class.
The family now sponsors the trophy for the Wayne County Fair’s Men’s Belgian Cart Class in Clayton’s memory.
Taking the show on the road. The Hines show both halter and hitch classes when they attend the state fair, Wayne County Fair, Ohio Draft Horse Expo and Michigan Great Lakes Draft Horse Show.
They show hitch classes at the Stark and Ashland County fairs.
While showing both halter and hitch classes keeps them busy, they all agree that the hitch classes are a family favorite.
Kim shows in the Women’s Cart Class and the Women’s Team Class, while Steve and Brian show in the Men’s Cart Class, Team, Unicorn (two wheel horses and a lead horse in front) and the four horse hitch class.
Even though the family sponsors the trophy for the Belgian Team Hitch class at the Wayne County Fair, their favorite class is the four-horse hitch. The four-horse hitch is more of a challenge, according to Kim.
“You have more horses and hopefully they aren’t going in different directions,” Steve said.
Love at first sight. Brian added that even though he didn’t grow up with horses, he fell in love with the animals real fast.
“Each one is different,” he said. “I will take the power of a four horse hitch over a car any day.”
While showing horses is a lot of fun, it is also a lot of work. Whether they are going to a one-day show or spending a couple of days at the show, the horses need fed, watered, washed and exercised.
On show day, they groom the horses, polish the hooves, and make sure the harness, carts and wagons are clean and ready to go. If it is a one-day show, they load horses, show boxes, harness, carts, wagons, feed for both horses and humans on to a couple semis and horse trailers and hit the road.
In addition to making the decorations for the display, Kim also makes the flowers, tail bows, and mane rolls for the horses. She also braids the manes, tails and foretops for the hitch classes.
For halter classes, she does the manes on the stallions and geldings and the tails on all of the horses.
“Grandma (Anita) Hines used to make all of the decorations for the horses,” Kim said. “Now, she loves to go to the shows and watch us show. We count on her for moral support.”
Getting help. The trio also looks to their fellow exhibitors for help and encouragement as a typical hitch show day takes one person per horse, plus one person on the wagon.
“Belgian people work together; they are more cohesive,” Kim said. “If you need help, they will help you get your animals ready or if something breaks on your wagon or tack, they will loan you a piece of equipment.”
While their cart was made by Schrocks in Walnut Creek, the wagon they use for their team and four-horse hitch has special meaning for Steve. He explained that the wagon had belonged to the late Lloyd Jentes, a well-known Wayne County horseman.
“I remember as a kid riding in the back of the wagon when he was doing figure 8s,” Steve said. “As far as a teamster, Lloyd was one of the best.”
The wagon has been restored to natural oak with maroon wheels and a maroon stripe on the wagon. The patent leather harness was made by Miler’s Country Harness in Holmes County.
Steve added they try to use the horses, especially those used in their hitch around the farm as much as they can.
“We hitch them to a wagon and work with them to get them used to the harness and other horses,” Steve said.
Kim said that most of their Sunday afternoons are spent working with the horses, a nice break from their full-time jobs during the week.
Steve is vice president of Finance at Smith Dairy, Kim is an Occupational Therapist at Joel Pomerene Hospital in Millersburg and Bryan is the general manager at East Liberty Auto Parts.
Labor of love. “Do something you enjoy, and stick with it,” Steve said. “You are going to have good times and bad times, but don’t back out just because you’ve had a bad day.
“We enjoy the draft horses. I grew up with it and never got it out of my system, I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. We enjoy the people and we enjoy the competitiveness in the showring.”
Kim added that when she was growing up, she used to compete in barrel racing and pole bending events.
“Grandpa always told me to never look back, it will slow you down,” she said. “That applies to a lot of things.”
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