Horseshoe Hardship

Amish horseshoes damage roads, irk authorities

[Reprinted with permission from the Associated Press]

BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio -- Special studded horseshoes worn by horses that pull Amish buggies are putting cracks in roads, causing increased maintenance and cost. At least two dozen roads in Logan and Wayne counties have grooves or ruts in them. Wayne County spends $30,000 to $50,000 of its annual $6 million budget to repair the roads, said county engineer Roger Terrill.

Lorain County Engineer Harvey Grimes said he didn't know how much repairs had cost the county, but said the wear and tear requires workers to repair roads sooner than they would normally. He said the damage has happened for a long time around an Amish community near Belle Center but intensified a few years ago when another Amish group settled near DeGraff.

"I would say it's getting worse," he said Wednesday. Grimes said the Amish weld five-tip cleats to the horseshoes to give horses more traction so they won't slip as they pull buggies around the western Ohio county. The cleats focus a horse's weight on the tips instead of evenly distributing it over the horseshoe, making it more likely that the shoe cracks the pavement. Water penetrates the cracks, freezes in the winter and causes the pavement to break.

"It's not cheap to go out," Terrill said. "I wouldn't say it's a financial burden. It's more of a nuisance."

Terrill said he had tried to persuade the Amish to use rubber horseshoes to better protect the roads but didn't know of anyone who was doing that.

"I really don't know what the solution is," he said. "They're damaging roadways and they're using them and they're not really, in my opinion, paying their fair share."

The two counties' road repairs are funded primarily by gasoline taxes and license-plate fees. The Amish, who traditionally shun modern conveniences such as electricity, telephones and cars, don't buy gasoline and aren't required to buy license plates for their buggies.

"They're good people. I have every respect for their religion and way of life," Grimes said. "The fairest thing to do is to license the Amish buggies. Then I wouldn't have a problem with it. They would be contributing something to the repair of these roads."

In Illinois, a new law allowing townships to charge a fee for repairing roads damaged by horse-drawn carriages will go into effect in January. Under the law, townships can charge up to $50 a year for each horse and buggy.