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What You Might Not Know About Pitching Horseshoes

Pitching HorseshoesAs a kid in junior high, I pitched horseshoes during every lunch break. We had two pits set in the playground. Horseshoes were kept in a shop building and checked out when needed. The horseshoe pits were very popular with multiple teams waiting in line to take on the winners. The ultimate thrill was for a team to hold a pit through the entire lunch period. Time passed and horseshoes fell down the list of interests for a growing young man.

I renewed my interest later when active in bowling. At that time Walter Ray Williams Jr. was a PBA member and seven-time national horseshoe pitching champion–nine times now. I naturally tried to emulate his success, with equal results in both sports very good, but always somebody better. And finally, I land a job in a city with an active horseshoe pitching organization. Where have all the years gone? Here’s what you need to know about horseshoe pitching and maybe a few things you don’t know.

The object of horseshoe pitching is to throw a U-shaped “horseshoe” toward a metal stake and score a ringer. Sounds pretty simple and it is, but when you add rules, strategy, and competitive juices it can be rousing fun and highly competitive. There are state, national, and “world” events for men, women, juniors, and seniors. It’s good outdoor exercise and family fun. Scoring is three points for a ringer and one point for closest to the stake as long as the shoe is less than one shoe width from the stake. Leaners only count two in recreational play.

Basic rules and specifications are dictated by the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association (NHPA).

You can find all the rules here:

  • The pitching court size is 10 feet by 48 feet.
  • The pitching box is six feet by six feet–the stake at the center.
  • The stake pit can be no less than 31 by 43 inches nor more than 36 by 72 inches.
  • A pitching platform is to either side of the stake with a foul line at the front of the pit.
  • Stakes are 40 feet apart and extend no less than 14 inches and no more than 15 inches high.
  • Horseshoes are usually iron or steel, have minimum and maximum dimensions and must weigh 40 ounces or less.

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Male World Champions

Note that World is a little stretch here since few horseshoe pitchers come from beyond the U.S. or Canada. Certain champions dominate over a stretch of years.

  • Allen Francis is regarded as the best ever with 15 World Championships spanning a 20-year stretch ending in 2009.
  • Bryan Simmons has 4 Championships and is the current 2010 and 2011 champion.
  • Walter Ray Williams Jr. with six as an adult. Three Junior Championships.
  • Ted Allen with 10 from 1933 to 1959. Great versatility spanning a long time.
  • Fernando Isais with 7 spanning the years 1941 to 1952.

Female World Champions

  • Sue Snyder with seven.
  • Joan Elmore with five.
  • Phyllis Negaard with five.

“I’d wish you the best of luck but I believe luck is a concept created by the weak to explain their failures.” Ron Swanson

Interesting tidbits

  • Horseshoe pitching may have come from the game of Quoits played by Roman soldiers in the first century.
  • A pair of competition horseshoes costs from $60 to $100.
  • The first “World” Horseshoe Pitching competition held in 1909 in Bronson, Kansas, was won by Frank Jackson.
  • On March 6, 1930, in Hayward Minnesota, station agent J. C. Hanson and Post Master R. E. Dewey began a game that was to last for three days. Dewey won with 25 thousand points to Hanson’s 24,949.
  • In the early 20th Century horseshoe pitching was called barnyard golf.
  • Gerald is an outdoor sportsman and a former three-time regional amateur bowling champion. In his spare time, he designs and builds wood composite kayaks and competes in marathon paddling.

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