Let’s talk about the nomenclature of the typical horseshoe. The NHPA has specific rules governing horseshoes, URL http://www.horseshoepitching.com/rules/Specifications.html 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.
There are also online sellers who also stock. Here is a list of the ones I know of…
Kay Keskinen’s Horseshoe Pitching Web Site URL http://www.keskinen.org/horseshoes This website also has many other links to horseshoes and supplies.
Ron and Polly’s Horseshoe Pitching Supplies URL http://www.horseshoes4u.com/
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 http://www.hilflinghorseshoes.com/
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 http://www.horseshoepitching.com/products/sanctionedshoes.html to verify any horseshoes of interest are listed and approved for NHPA sanctioned events.
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 http://horseshoesonline.com/
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 http://www.hilflinghorseshoes.com
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.
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.
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.