The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 3


Dad's Shoes

Dad's Shoes

This was the state of horseshoes in the late 30’s and early 40’s. Above, is a pair of horseshoes that belonged to my father. After dinner, he and the male neighbors would drop by for an evening of horseshoe pitching. My dad had wired up lights so they could pitch after dark. I swear I can still hear the clink of those shoes almost 70 years later. Unfortunately, this is a pair of left handed horseshoes and I’m right handed. Recently, I grabbed one of these shoes, stepped up to the 40 foot approach, and threw a ringer. Perhaps an omen?

Let’s talk about the nomenclature of the typical horseshoe. The NHPA has specific rules governing horseshoes, URL discusses those specifics. All horseshoes pitched in sanctioned tournaments must be approved by the NHPA and they maintain a list of those shoes. Most shoe suppliers and manufacturers maintain shoes in various weights. The weight limit is 2 lbs. 10 ozs. There is no minimum weight. You would be surprised at how many shoes end up considered non-conforming. Imagine showing up at a tournament with your favorite shoes only to find out your shoes are too heavy, too wide or long, or illegally repaired. Take solace, this only applies to national tournaments. Local tournaments are not so restrictive.

The state of horseshoes has come a long way since the 30’s. The White Distributors Horseshoe Company located in Erie, Pennsylvania, URL lists at least 19 a/o June 2016 horseshoes now available. The majority of my horseshoes came directly or indirectly from this company. I am fortunate that the Frederick Maryland Horseshoe Pitching Association stocks a large array of these shoes and saves the cost of shipping. Here is a typical array of horseshoes on sale by the FHPA. I strongly urge you to purchase horseshoes from your local association. Profits help to defray costs of operating a successful organization. You also save shipping costs and have the opportunity to touch and feel each shoe.

Wide array of horseshoes

Wide array of horseshoes

Horseshoe Web Pages

There are also online sellers who also stock. Here is a list of the ones I know of…

Kimmys Horseshoe Shop, URL

Walter Ray Williams, Jr. URL An excellent source of information about horseshoes and horseshoe pitching. He previously sold a limited supply of shoes, but, I didn’t see them listed this time.

The M&M Horseshoe Company, based in Canada URL

The Lucky Shoe Pro Shop is located in Michigan and has a full array of horseshoes and accessories. URL

Kay Keskinen’s Horseshoe Pitching Web Site URL This website also has many other links to horseshoes and supplies.

Ron and Polly’s Horseshoe Pitching Supplies URL

Hilfling Horseshoes home of the GrabIt Medium, GrabIt Lite, Patriot and as of August 2015, the Patriot2 and Warrior, and 91 page book entitled “Horseshoe Pitching With Precision” at URL

You can also check out Ebay. They usually have an array of horseshoes. Horseshoes are listed under Sports=>Backyard Games=>Horseshoes
I would suggest you check out the NHPA approved list at to verify any horseshoes of interest are listed and approved for NHPA sanctioned events.

Horseshoe Manufacturers

NOTE: I do not recommend 2 pair sets with stake and rules if you are interested in anything other than a backyard picnic. The horseshoes are typically very light, easily broken and probably not approved for NHPA events. The stake will be short, 7/8″ in diameter, hollow and easily bent or cracked.

There are 4 primary producers of horseshoes. Most horseshoes manufactured in North America are cast from ductile iron. Ductile iron is grey iron with additional alloys added to improve the ductility (the ability to absorb impact) of horseshoes. Some horseshoes have been tempered.

1. White Distributors is the largest manufacturer located in Erie, Pennsylvania. Their URL is

2. Omega Horseshoes producer of the Gordon Horseshoe, a drop forged horseshoe made in China. They also list other styles.

3. M&M Horseshoes manufactured in Canada and manufacturer of the popular M&M Special and A-Mac horseshoes, along with others.

4. Hilfling Horseshoes, designed in Maryland and cast in ductile iron at Marcellus-Metalcasters in Marcellus, Michigan. Supplier of the GrabIt Medium and Lite, Patriot, Patriot2 and Warrior. With the exception of the GrabIt, all other designs are perfectly balanced from top to bottom and side to side. Balanced horseshoes include a dimple on each shank to indicate the location of the Center of Gravity. Balanced horseshoes are not tip weighted. The design of the Viking (not in production) and the GrabIt are copyrighted. URL

This is just a moderate list of the sources of horseshoes, but, which shoe do you choose? I would suggest you read the descriptions for each shoe. Some are dedicated to the flipper, others to the turner. Some work for each. Some have all caulks on one side, others with thumb caulks on one side and hook caulks on the other. Some shoes have ringer breaks that are convex, others concave. Some shoes have a pronounced hook. So, what do you do? Go to a tournament or league event and watch what others are throwing. Ask questions — horseshoe pitchers love to talk about why they use what they do. Ask to try them out. Don’t be bashful. Try to locate a local distributor. One of the sellers in Delaware had shoes that you could try out. Some would even permit you to throw a shoe or two in the grass.

*Think of a horseshoe as the letter “U”. I consider the naming of caulks as confusing. I assume the naming derived from real horseshoes and how they were mounted. Presently, a caulk at the bottom is referred to as the toe caulk, while the two upper caulks as heel caulks. For the sake of this blog, I refer to the caulks as “thumb caulk” or “hook caulks.” The hook caulk is designed to grab the stake or direct the horseshoe to the inside on arrivals that are slightly left or right of the 3-1/2 inch opening. The thumb caulk is designed to add additional gripping control between finger and thumb for the flip pitcher. For the turn pitcher, the thumb caulk, when arriving downward, grabs the sand or clay as a typical three point landing.

My Horseshoes

As of late 2015, I pitch Patriots with the 1-1/2 flip. In 2016, using the technique described in my Table of Contents, I am using the single flip.

In 2008 I owned 11 sets of shoes of 9 different styles. I used the Vipers from 40 feet and the Snyder EZ Flips, Vipers or Hummers from 30 feet. Due to the short distance and squareness of the shoe flight, I needed shoes that had ringer breaks. Here was my list and a little about each. From 30 feet a “dead soft” rating is a plus. Carl F. Steinfeldt indicated that he would paint his shoes frequently, as many layers as he could and paint over the dirt. His shoes are the softest of all that I owned. Some shoes are cast, some forged. If you select a soft shoe, carry a metal file along in your equipment bag. You’ll get burrs on the shoe. CAUTION: Be very careful when rooting around in sand or clay as there will be shards of metal that can leave a nasty splinter.

Hummers — 2 lb. 8.2 oz. This shoe has a unique indentation at the thumb caulk. It is one of the newest shoes available and is very unique. It is manufactured by the Strohm’s Stained Glass company located in Springfield, MO. I don’t know what metal is used, but, it’s a very lively shoe. I switched back and forth between this shoe and Snyder EZ Flips from 30 feet.

Snyder EZ Flip — 2 lb. 9.1 oz. This is the shoe I threw from 30 feet, but, I don’t flip it. I used a 1/3 turn and hold the shoe at the right tine caulk with caulks up (I’ll show this grip when discussing releases). I throw the Hummer the same way. While experimenting with various releases, I discovered that both the Hummer and EZ Flip would fly flat without rotating or wobbling. A slight change in the grip allowed me to turn the shoe about 1/3 turn without any rotational effort.

Vipers — 2 lb. 7.5 oz. Two pair. I used the Vipers from 30 and 40 feet. I considered the Vipers the best shoes I’ve ever handled. Unfortunately, the Viper is no longer in production. They were unique in design, but, when held properly were perfectly balanced. The shape retards bounceback, unless you deliver them perfectly square to the stake. I held the shoe as if I was flipping and deliver the shoe with exactly 1 turn. I won my first class tournament with this shoe and turn. I used the Vipers from 40 feet in my league. I also developed a flip from 30 feet with the Vipers. I hold the left hook, caulks up with my thumb and index finger and flip the shoe 1-1/2 times. Even though I averaged 33% ringers with this release I was never confident that I was delivering the shoe down the target line. Thus, I switched to the Snyder EZ Flip from 30 feet.

Imperial Stinger — 2 lb. 7.6 oz. I purchased these shoes because they had a nice ringer break and hook caulks on each side. I think this shoe is more suited to flipping. I had just reasonable success from 40 feet, not enough to continue working with them.

Six Shooter — 2 lb. 8.7 oz. and 2 lb. 9.5 oz. I have small hands and purchased these shoes because of the increased size of the perimeter of the shoe. In addition, they both have a nice ringer break. I used the heavier shoe to qualify to pitch as an Elder. I qualified with a ringer average of 29%. I used the 1-1/2 flip from the left tine.

Imperial Steinfeldt — 2 lb. 8.0 oz. These are well balanced shoes. I liked the feel of these shoes when I first picked them up. They are not compatible with my 30 foot release as the edge of the hook is extremely sharp.

Bronco Pro Flip — 2 lb. 8.1 oz. I purchased these shoes to take advantage of the thumb caulk up and the tine caulks down. Even though they are tagged as flip shoes, they work equally well with the turn.

M&M Special — 2 lb. 7.7 oz. I purchased these shoes to help with bounce back. When the shoe hits left or right of center it bounces towards the hook, as I hoped. Unfortunately, the shoe is the thinnest of all of my shoes. I think I would use this shoe if it were thicker. This shoe is made in Canada. White Distributors has developed a recent version of this shoe. Last Saturday, at the tournament in Frederick, I saw these shoes from WD. They are called “Big Foot”, slightly thicker and with a better hook.

Sidewinders — 2 lb. 9.0 oz. This shoe is primarily a turn shoe. It feels good in my hands and the shanks are wide enough for my small hands. If I was a traditional turner I would certainly consider this as a shoe of choice.

Additional Stuff

Well, that’s it for my arsenal. My next door neighbor recently presented me with a tag along golf cart. It works beautifully when hauling my 11 pair of shoes back and forth to and from the shed to the pit.

Gloves — Gloves can save your hands and fingers.  Wear them on both hands. I’ve used several different kinds. Baseball gloves from your friendly sports store will not last very long ($13.00-$40.00).  The threading in the fingers will pull apart pretty quickly from the constant wear and tear.  Golf gloves for the right hand are difficult to find. I use cadet large, for small fingers and wide hand.  You’ll have to find those on-line or a large golf super store ($10.00-$30.00).  The best that I have found are motorcycle gloves made from leather.  They will eventually wear through, but, I save old gloves and cut off the fingers and slip them inside the gloves being used. Allows you to use them a bit longer.  Motorcycle gloves start at $15.00.    If you feel that you can get a better feel for the release, then, build up your hands and fingers over time by switching back and forth between gloves and bare hands.  Sand is much harder on hands and gloves.

There is one additional piece of equipment you’ll need. A shoe retriever. One hot Saturday morning, I was warming up for an impending tournament. When I bent over to pick up my shoes I felt light headed. Fortunately, the shoe table at the Frederick tournament site had a selection of retrievers. I choose the longest one available, 32″. Saves a lot of wear and tear on the back. Many pitchers have homemade retrievers, many made from golf club shafts. Another competitor used an extended paint roller shaft bent at the bottom. Consider one an essential part of your equipment.

Email me if you have any questions.

Next article we’ll start pitching some shoes.
Continue to Part 4
Table of Contents








The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 2

After my first night of pitching I decided I needed lots of practice. At first, I drove down to Post 7 and practiced in their pits. I took along a shovel and broom to tidy up the pits after use. It wasn’t long before I realized that having a pit in my backyard was a better solution.

The Pit

First, decide on the location and pit material. The pit location was easily determined, in the shade. Secondly, did I need to put in two pits? The location of my underground cabling, location of my park style bench and direction of the sun, simplified the choice. WARNING! If you have decided to put in a pit, contact your local “Miss Utility,” to locate your underground wiring. I decided that one pit would do.

The chosen pit location was slightly downhill, which was good. The pit would be mostly above ground and didn’t require a lot of digging. My main power cable ran fairly close to the front of the pit. The standard pit is 3 feet wide and 6 feet long with the stake smack in the middle. I decided I didn’t need a pit that large. I had a number of treated logs from a previous garden that would work fine. They were 48″, so, length became 48″, width almost 24″. I used a 7/8″ stake mounted in a piece of wood at a 12 degree angle and 15″ above the ground. I later changed this stake to 1″ because it started bending backwards from the constant hitting. More on that later.

The fact of the matter, you could simply drive a stake in the ground, measure off 40 feet and mark a foul line at 37 feet, and you’re in business. For Elders, Women or Juniors measure off 30 feet and put a foul line mark at 27 feet. If I was serious about this, I wanted the pit and approach to simulate tournament conditions. Therefore, I put in the pit.

I also included a backboard about 12″ above the pit and covered it with a thick rubber mat to muffle the sound and protect the wood from shoes going long. For a while, I covered the stake with heavy 1″ rubber tubing to muffle the sound of the shoe hitting the stake for the sake of the neighbors. It wasn’t too long before the rubber was badly gouged and subsequently discarded.

My Pit

My Pit

The Approach

Next, was the 40 foot approach(s). I put in both left and right side approaches, exactly 36″ apart, just as they would be on a regulation pit. I put in a marker for where the stake would be located, if a pit were there. I use this marker for foot positioning. Six 16×16″ concrete slabs from Lowes at $3.00 each took care of both approaches, 3 for each approach. Both approaches are perfectly level and properly lined up with the far pit. Two weeks ago, when I requalified as an Elder, I added a second approach at 30 feet.

The Pit Material

This became a fairly easy choice. I’ve never attended a sanctioned tournament that used sand. So, clay would be the choice. Finding suitable clay was almost impossible to find and too expensive. Artificial clay was also excluded. I chose “Kitty Litter.” Two 50 pound bags of Kitty Litter from my local BJ’s and one 40 pound bag of children’s play sand, took care of the pit material. Kitty Litter is white clay. Don’t use regular sand from your local building supply store. It is too grainy for the mix. WARNING! There has been some information about the silica in Kitty Litter in the dry state. So don’t breath in the dust as a precaution, when pouring.

To fill the pit, add a little Kitty Litter and a light topping of sand. Lightly water the mix until both sand and clay are wet and continue this formula until the pit is filled. Let it set until the next day giving the clay time to absorb the water. The next day, turn over the mixture and top off with a layer of sand. I use a 8″x8″ tamper, purchased from Lowe’s to tamp down the pit. You’ll know the pit is ready when the pit material does not stick to the tamper. Eventually, you will get the clay to a consistency that comes close to the clay in tournament pits. About every other night I slightly water down the pit, and cover it with a tarp. I also use a piece of PVC pipe with a cap to cover the stake for safety reasons.

The image above is my finished pit. Note: the ringers were not staged, but, I did wait until I made them to take the picture. After the photo was taken I replaced the stake with a 1″ diameter stake to conform to most tournament stakes. I placed a number of calls to various welders in the area and located an old horseshoe pitcher who agreed to weld a 22″ stake to two 16″x16″ steel plates with a 3″ lean (12 degrees) at 15″ above ground. Cost — $50. It is rock solid. The plates are buried 7″ below the level of the pit. The welder even painted all of the steel with rust inhibitor.

NOTE: In 2008 I switched from kitty litter to blue clay. See Part 16 for a description of the purchase and installation of blue clay which I have continued to use since.

Part 3 will discuss my variety of horseshoes, the importance of knowing the center of gravity, and links to the various sellers and manufacturers of the various horseshoes.

E-mail me with any questions
Continue to Part 3
Table of Contents


The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 1


Welcome to my blog. I will be updating this blog frequently, as I test, modify, adjust and finalize various aspects of my horseshoe pitching. I am also creating an Activity Record to reflect any changes made to this blog. The header above, reflects the flight of my horseshoe when released 25.50 feet from the stake at a height of 3.0 feet reaching a high point of 6.75 feet. The foul line was 27 feet for an Elder pitcher. The flight plot is broken down in 1/40th of a second increments. I’ve also tagged the various points on the plot that are meaningful. I will demonstrate an electronic glove that shows your exact release point which makes these plots possible. The vertical line indicates the highpoint of the arc of flight and the exact location downrange of that highpoint which is 10.72 feet. 


I am hoping that some of the information that has worked for me, may also work for you. “The Search for My Perfect Swing,” is a play on words based on the excellent book entitled, “The Search for the Perfect Swing,” by Alastair Cochran & John Stobbs. The book was written in 1968 that was an effort to determine the science of swinging a golf club and whether there was a perfect swing. Sir Aynsley Bridgland of the Golf Society of Great Britain gathered a variety of authorities in many disciplines, ballistics, anatomy, transport technology, medicine, biomechanics, physiology, etc. There were many conclusions that were developed by this group of professionals that applies today, i.e., coefficient of restitution, swing speed and mass, launch angle, spin rate, foot position, late release, etc.


As you read through, you will see the results of a computer program that calculated the flight of a horseshoe based on any release point, any maximum height or any distance, time of flight, initial angle of release and initial launch speed. I’ve also created a variety of teaching aids such as a special electrified pitching glove that shows the exact release point, an apparatus that controls the arm swing on the line of flight, a platform that monitors the foot position and stride, a test to determine the center of gravity of any shoe, and a “Pendulum Man” that displays how to determine the visual alignment to the stake, etc. I will also discuss how to use a metronome to control swing speed based on computed time of flight.
I am primarily directing this blog to the beginner, youth, women and Elders who are new to pitching horseshoes or are considering joining a league or pitching in tournaments. The NHPA indicates an “Elder” as anyone reaching the age of 70 in the current calendar year. I reached this milestone in 2008. This entitles me to pitch from 30 feet. I’ve decided to pitch from 40 feet on my league nights and 30 feet in tournaments. Perhaps you are just checking out this blog to see if there’s anything new.

The Beginning

In 2007 I joined American Legion Post 7 in Crownsville, Maryland, primarily because they were the only Post that had a horseshoe pitching league. The league coordinator at Post 7 was able to find an available partner and my horseshoe pitching was to begin. Prior to the first night, I stopped by my local darts/billiards/horseshoe store and purchased my first pair of horseshoes — Sidewinders. I was stunned by the number of horseshoes available. I don’t know why Sidewinders, they just felt good. I also ordered two videos — “Yes, Horseshoes!,” with Dan Kuchcinski and “How to Pitch More Ringers,” by the late Carl F. Steinfeldt. I read everything on the web I could find, unfortunately, there was not very much. I also tried to find some local pits where I could practice. Nothing found.

The first night arrived and I was both excited and nervous. I met my new partner, was introduced around and noticed 10 nicely groomed rows of sand pits. Problem number 1! My partner was a flipper and couldn’t use my Sidewinders because they didn’t have a place for his thumb. Bummer! I had to use his shoes — Snyder EZ Flips. This is not a cancellation league, it was also an 80% handicap league. All points counted. Ringers 3 points, a leaner and anything within a shoe width was 1 point. Each game was 36 shoes, 18 shoes in each direction, 3 games each night. I wasn’t expecting a lot, and that was good, I averaged 18 points per game without a single ringer in any game. I left that night with the determination that I would find some answers. So, this is a synopsis of my search and what I have learned along the way.

Continue to Part 2
Table of Contents