The Search for My Perfect Swing — Contents

Table of Contents

Welcome to my horseshoe blog.

NOTE: Bold text is relatively new as to date indicated, while light face is older from an earlier date. If you read this blog periodically, you may be looking at a “cached” older copy. To make sure you are reading the latest, simply depress your “F5” key on the top row of your keyboard and the latest copy will be presented from the web host.

To help navigate the Table of Contents, I’ve added two new links. One here and one below the NEW narrative. If you’ve already read the “NEW” introductory narrative and want to go directly to the List of Parts select ==> List of Parts

Today is April 24th. I frequently monitor the searches shown on the WordPress stats page. It gives me some idea of what pitchers are interested in. One thing I want to call to your attention is the possible difference in the designs shown throughout the blog and what is actually produced. A case in point is the Warrior that appeared in 2011. It is not the Warrior design that went into production. When I decided to create a Tribute Series for the military services and the Vietnam Veterans, I chose the names first, before I had a design. There was also a learning curve as to the shapes that could withstand the constant impact with the stake. The Trident which went into production to honor our Navy was very popular, but, had a weak point. It was decided to discontinue production until a new design became available. So, be aware that some of the designs shown throughout the blog for the Aviator, Coastie, and Ranger were cast as prototypes, but, did not pass the usage test.

The Spring/Summer pitching season is either underway or will be shortly. I am no longer pitching for a variety of reasons, but, am happy to answer any questions that may be of interest to the pitching fraternity. Good Luck.

To skip over the old introductory narrative and go directly to the List of Parts select ==> List of Parts

Posted March 10th. As I mentioned below, I have been trying to come up with an aid that would help the flip pitcher keep the horseshoe oriented properly for the flip during the entire swing. This is specific to help with the flip of the GrabIt, although it works for any horseshoe. Get yourself a small box of paper drinking straws and tape one from tip to tip of the horseshoe. Practice swinging the horseshoe while keeping the straw parallel to the ground from setup to delivery. When you think it’s correct, release the horseshoe with your normal flip and see if the straw remains parallel to the ground throughout the end over end flip until it hits the ground. Try to monitor the action of your forearm and make sure there is absolutely no rotation at any point during the swing. Eventually you will get the hang of swinging your arm without rotation and watch the horseshoe flip end over end perfectly. Then you can concentrate on getting the shoe to arrive slightly open or closed to reduce the troublesome bounce backs. See image below. Good Luck.

GrabIt With Straw Attached

Posted February 20th. I periodically run through the 51 parts of this blog and verify that the links are still live. I note that the link to the Kenny Wolf website has changed. I’ve made the change in Part 4. His new link is http://kennywolf.accs.net/shoemath.htm . Secondly, I discovered that the links on my website at http://www.hilflinghorseshoes.com Design Tab were not showing the videos in Tours 1-3. Unfortunately, there has been a switch from HTML4 to HTML5 and the links to the videos are no longer valid. Efforts to resolve the problem with my template supplier has not worked thus far. So, I’ve listed all of the links covered in Tours 1-3 below found on Youtube. I’ve also included additional links to horseshoe videos also on Youtube. To my blog readers, if you find a link anywhere that is not working, please let me know.

Patriot (in production) https://youtu.be/MUAPYpqspcQ
Trident (discontinued) https://youtu.be/G7teXaqv_VY
Viking Part 1 (not sold) https://youtu.be/Iv7JVzsl9ZE
Viking Part 2 (not sold) https://youtu.be/O6rquLHSN3w
GrabIt Medium #1 (in production) https://youtu.be/v85v9H_0bkE
GrabIt Lite (in production) https://youtu.be/b2KHXLpfabA
GrabIt Medium #2 (in production) https://youtu.be/bK72zSl217Y

I continue to work to find an aid that will help flip pitchers swing their arms correctly to insure a proper end over end release. This is particularly important to flip the GrabIt Medium and Lite correctly.

Posted February 6th. Yesterday I discovered that the videos I have running on my website at http://www.hilflinghorseshoes.com had a problem. The Design Tab at the top of the page normally presented 5 different videos that are no longer working. It was discovered that the shift had been made from HTML 4 to HTML 5 and the use of the Windows Media Player would no longer work. After consulting with my ISP I discovered that I could link to Youtube for the same 5 videos. So, I’m in the process of moving copies of the 5 videos to Youtube and updating the website to call the videos from my website. This is important because I had presented a variety of grips for GrabIt Medium and Lite users to help to master the flip of each horseshoe. I am also working on a gadget/gizmo to help flip pitchers flip a horseshoe properly so that it lands flat at arrival with a little modified grip that would allow the horseshoe to arrive slight closed assisting with bounce backs.

The foundry I use for casting all of my horseshoes asked me to create a cradle to allow a horseshoe to rest precisely so that the in-house CNC could smooth out the perimeters of each horseshoe. A cradle is a negative image of 1/2 of a horseshoe so that the CNC can grind only excessive metal at the parting line and leave a nice smooth edge to the horseshoe. I’ve created 4 cradles for each of my designs. This is a cradle.

warriorcradle

Posted January 6th. A warning to cold weather pitchers. Don’t leave your horseshoes in the trunk of your car. Your horseshoes are most susceptible to breakage if you take them from a cold trunk into a warm facility. It takes time for iron to reach room temperature and it does not take place evenly from metal area to metal area within the horseshoe. The potential break points will be where thin metal meets thick area, for example the connection from shank to hook. Hairline cracks will not heal themselves once they occur. So, the actual break may take place at a later time, if not immediately. In the winter months, keep your horseshoes in your home, not in the trunk of your car.

Posted January 4th. Some great news for all future Hilfling horseshoe buyers. Effective January 1st the cost of all Hilfling horseshoes has been lowered. This is due to a reduction in shipping costs which will be passed on to the buyer. The Tribute Series horseshoes were already priced much lower than other NHPA sanctioned horseshoes, but, we continue to try to find ways to reduce pricing for all pitchers where possible. So, the lower prices reflected on the website for all horseshoes, will indicate free shipping.

Posted December 28th. I would like to wish all pitchers a Happy New Year and a successful 2017 at the pits. I am in the process of moving all of the comments up to the Table of Contents into Part 52 which I will clean up and index based on subject. I also plan to create a Part 53 that will include a pitching tip(s) regarding the pitching of the GrabIt. It will include a little gadget I have in mind that will help to insure the swing remains square from setup to release.

When I went through the testing phases of the 4 models I sent to the NHPA, I noted two mistakes made when flipping the Viking and GrabIt. First, was the tendency to put too much pressure on each horseshoe with the pad of the index finger at release. Secondly, was incorrectly rotating the forearm at some point during the delivery phase. The gizmo/gadget I have in mind will help with the monitoring of each tendency during practice.

Horseshoe pitching is only successful when supported by volunteers whether as members of the NHPA staff or individuals working at their local venues. There are many who unselfishly work without expectation of anything other than a “Thank You”. I have witnessed some of these individuals who have shown extraordinary love of the sport and sacrificed their time and energy to make horseshoe pitching a success. I would like to name a few.

Marcellus-Metalcasters, the foundry that I have used since 2008, to cast, clean, weight match, paint, wrap and box horseshoes ready for the buyer and ship out the orders. They kept my dream alive and agreed to continue sales through 2017.

To Vicki Kunde, our Maryland World Class pitcher, who is fighting a difficult battle and still planning future free clinics and attending the next NHPA World Tournament wherever it’s held. Vicki is the greatest ambassador to horseshoe pitching I’ve had the honor of working with. If you know Vicki and wish to pass on good well wishes, she can be reached via email at vlkunde at gmail dot com.

To Larry Bunn, the Maryland representative for the Baltimore NHPA facility. Larry works tirelessly to hold a first class event and makes sure that every pitcher showing up has an opportunity to pitch, even if he has to rework the entire schedule.

To Diana Ratliff of the Frederick Horseshoe Pitching Assn. Diana usually sits in a cramped, hot kitchen to set up the Frederick tournaments, complete all of the score sheets, enter and print the tournament results, and pass out the awards and trophies at the end of the day. She is generally the last to leave.

To Bob Stepp of American Legion Post 7 in Crownsville, Maryland, who has been the driving force in keeping horseshoe pitching active in the Summer and Fall since I started in 2007. He also has an incredible stat keeper.

To Dr. John Nay of Arizona who has always been my biggest supporter and horseshoe pitching booster. John was responsible for the Patriot 2, as he did not want to violate the NHPA rules by grinding off the Patriot ringer break. John was also responsible for my switch to the right foot stride which took care of my left side misses and my discussion of the square to square method. Thanks John.

Finally, to all of the volunteers who cut the grass, clean out the pit water, bring out the shovels, paint, water, and return everything after the event and in most cases, not pitching at all, while sticking around to keep score. Thanks to those that I have not mentioned that make horseshoe pitching a success.

I have decided to discontinue my effort to make all of the designs of my Tribute Series available and in production. It has become just too expensive to 3D print, cast prototypes and license them. I’ve never taken any money for the sale of my horseshoes and don’t have the funds available any longer. Sorry if you had expected the Aviator, Coastie, Ranger, Avenger and Trident remake, it’s just not feasible any longer. The existing horseshoes will continue to be produced and licensed for the foreseeable future and both the website and blog will continue.

For the majority of us, the pitching season is over until warmer weather returns. To get ready for the coming new pitching season, it is wise to keep yourself in pitching form. This includes keeping your legs, arms, shoulders and hands/fingers ready. A simple way to work the legs is by climbing steps at home. For your shoulders and arms, grab a gallon jug of water with handle and swing it back and forth 10-20 times periodically. For the hands, squeeze a tennis ball 10-20 times.

Ordinarily I don’t stray too far from horseshoe related topics, however, I feel that this is important for those of you suffering from eczema. Each winter I have a terrible time with dry skin and itching, sometimes waking me from sleep. I decided to go to a new dermatologist. He essentially said there was no cure for it, but, there were treatments. He said a cream and steroid shot would help. He indicated that the shot was good for 6 weeks. I took the shot in my hip. Two days later the itchy bumps and dry skin patches were gone. In addition, my dandruff was gone. So, if you’re suffering from this uncomfortable skin problem, ask about a cortisone shot. Hope it gives you some relief.

Posted November 7th. This has been a very busy 5 months for me, so I’ll cover what’s been happening during that time. However, I want to address a problem that I, and others have faced when moving up to 30 feet. I will preface this by referring to the November/December NHPA Newsline. The NHPA has passed a specification/requirement that by 2019, any pre-2007 venues previously sanctioned, must include at least 3 courts with 30 foot platforms whether separate, or as a continuation of the walkway between pits.

I started pitching in 2007 from 40 feet. I immediately fell in love with horseshoe pitching. A recurring knee problem and age qualified me to move up to 30 feet. I experimented with turning and flipping. It was apparent that the shorter distance made turning more difficult and flipping easier. I tried to find information on flipping. There was virtually nothing. All of the videos and writings discussed turning. There was a very limited selection of horseshoes dedicated to flipping while most were designed for turning.

The turning point for me was trying to find where to put a string over the court to designate the high point location. A vague reference was discovered that said it was 60% downrange. I was a member of the Physics forum at the time and posted an inquiry for a formula that would help me to determine the actual highpoint if I knew the actual release point. I designed a little electronic glove that turned off a bright light when I released the horseshoe. I then wrote a Perl language program that provided the results of the highpoint location when the release point was known. I was standing stationary at the time and my release point was 1-1/2 feet in front of the 27 foot foul line and 3 feet from the ground. The banner at the top of each of my parts shows the location of my highpoint. The result — no matter what distance you pitch from, the highpoint of flight of your horseshoe never reaches the halfway point from release to the stake. When I posted this information, I was immediately challenged. I needed to create a video, now on Youtube, that shows the highpoint as not reaching halfway. This is how this blog started in 2008.

Posted August 30th. It’s been a while since my last posting. This has been a very difficult pitching season for me as I was advised in February not too pitch during the hot summer months. Thus, I limited myself to my evening Legion sand league. I hope to pitch in the final NHPA tournament scheduled in October. It was during my sand league pitching that a horseshoe designed specifically for sand was in order. I was losing way too many ringers that were knocked off by the arriving shoe. The arriving shoe was spinning around to the backside and pushed backwards off as a ringer and sometimes off as a point. Below is a version of a horseshoe specifically for sand. If you look at the bottom or underside you will notice a rail that runs from the hook caulk towards the back of the horseshoe. The rail on the hooks will cut a groove in the sand that the shank rail should fill. The two plus signs on either side of the ringer break should help anchor the horseshoe more firmly in place. This is a preliminary design and may change as time passes.

Sand Shoe Top

Sand Shoe Top


Sand Shoe Bottom

Sand Shoe Bottom


Posted June 30th. Yesterday, I received some very disappointing news from the president of the Maryland Horseshoe Pitchers Assn., indicating there would be no Maryland State Doubles Tournament this year due to lack of volunteers. Frankly, I’m not surprised as I see the participation in sanctioned tournaments and informal leagues dropping significantly. I had not mentioned this before because it is a personal medical issue. However, I had to make the difficult decision to not pitch any tournaments during the hot summer months. Frankly, it is very stressful to pitch 6-8 cancellation matches during the hottest part of a hot summer day for an Elder pitcher. So, I’ve limited myself to my three evening count all Legion league matches (hopefully temporarily).

I received an inquiry about the determination of the high point of flight, so, I just decided to put out a list of all of my videos on Youtube. So, here they are.

High Point Downrange #1 https://youtu.be/S_Uq6q1YFQ8
Patriot (in production) https://youtu.be/MUAPYpqspcQ
Trident (discontinued) https://youtu.be/G7teXaqv_VY
Viking Part 1 (not sold) https://youtu.be/Iv7JVzsl9ZE
Viking Part 2 (not sold) https://youtu.be/O6rquLHSN3w
GrabIt Medium #1 (in production) https://youtu.be/v85v9H_0bkE
GrabIt Lite (in production) https://youtu.be/b2KHXLpfabA
GrabIt Medium #2 (in production) https://youtu.be/bK72zSl217Y
Warrior (in production) video to come.

Posted June 22nd. I have made a few changes in the blog for Part 3, regarding horseshoes. I provided a link to check the list of sanctioned horseshoes on the NHPA website. I also added a few minor additions.

I continue to pitch extremely well with the method described below for May 31st and June 2nd with matches of 57, 65 and 79 in my Monday night sand league. The method described almost eliminates the angle between your eyes and Line of Flight and virtually eliminates misses to the left of the stake. It is up to you, the pitcher, to find the proper placement and angles of your feet to allow you to rotate your shoulders counter-clockwise until they stop, with your non-pitching arm behind your back, so that the center of gravity of your horseshoe is directly over the Line of Flight, when resting against your leg. Depending on how your head is tilted, your Visual Alignment Point (VAP) should be the right edge of the distant stake at address and could be up to 2″ to the right of the stake.

When I’m pitching from the left approach my toes are along the right edge of the approach, my VAP is 2″ right. On the right approach with my heels along the left edge, my VAP is the left edge of the stake. It will be your feet, their placement and angle, that determines if your shoulders get aligned properly to place your horseshoes center of gravity over the Line of Flight. In either case, your stride forward should follow the edge of the approach to the foul line. The decision about which approach to pitch from has more to do with the quality of the approaches.

I know this sounds goofy to some, but, throughout this blog you will find many references about taming your shoulder rotation. We are almost programmed from birth to rotate our shoulders as we walk. Unfortunately, that tendency will creep into our stride and swing as we pitch horseshoes. It not only causes misses left, but, misses right depending on where you release the horseshoe when pitching with a tilted arc. Locking your shoulders into place will eliminate your inborn tendency. Practice this technique a little before you try it in competition. You will more than likely get a few questions.

Posted June 19th. With the high temperatures being reported in the mid west, I thought it was the best time to add to Part 38 “Emergency Pit 11”. If you’ve read this part, you will know that the emergency was mine. What I have discovered recently is that my situation was a life threatening one. I should have called 911 immediately. Why? What I didn’t mention at the time was that I threw up what appeared to me as coffee grounds. They were not coffee grounds, but, “blood clots”, a sure sign of heat stroke. So, don’t make the same stupid mistake that I made. If you ever see coffee grounds, call 911 immediately. It may save your life. I was lucky.

Posted on June 11th. Reference my posts for May 31st and June 2nd below. Since using the method described on those dates I have had some incredible results in my Monday night Legion league. One problem is, there are no permanent approaches for 30 foot pitchers and to make matters worse, the left approach on the assigned court has a huge root that occupies the entire approach on one pit. I needed to move to the right approach, probably both ends. I drove down to the courts this afternoon to find a solution. I decided to setup along the left edge of the right approach, right heel at 36″, left heel at 23″. I chose to use the single flip with my Visual Alignment Point with the left shank on the top of the stake. I threw 6 doubles before I bounced one back. I threw 4 more doubles, added some sand, smoothed the pit and went home. I’m looking forward to Monday night. If you’re having directional problems, give this technique a try.

Posted June 8th. For those not aware. When someone orders a pair of horseshoes through my website at http://www.hilflinghorseshoes.com I follow up with a Thank You email and a copy of my book “Horseshoe Pitching With Precision” in a linked Table of Contents and in color as a PDF file. I figure you’ve paid $27.00 for a pair of NHPA approved horseshoes and received a $20 bonus book. So, if you’ve been considering a pair of horseshoes and the book, order the horseshoes and you’ll get the book free.

Posted June 4th. I am now using the WordPress stats package to display the activity on this blog on a daily basis. I have noted an increased interest in Part 28 pertaining to the “Tribute Series”. I need to completely rewrite this Part to bring it up to date. Since I published this part in March of 2011 the design, 3D printing, foundry casting and NHPA licensing has changed. It has been a learning process. Before I am finished, I hope to have the Tribute Series finished and in production. Hindering this process is the cost of 3D printing (2 copies), web hosting fees and NHPA licensing. On average, it costs about $700 to get a horseshoe into production. Funds permitted, I hope to have all 6 horseshoes in production. However, their final design is still pending.

Posted on June 2nd. I am adding a bit of clarification to the comment for May 31st. The key to this technique is the ability to rotate your shoulders to a position that places your shoulders and horseshoe perpendicular to the Line of Flight (LOF) when it stops rotating, (note LOF cord in images below). This position must apply when you have fully rotated your shoulders and facing the stake. My left foot placed 23″ from the foul line and in front of my right foot satisfied this requirement. Moving your left foot forward or back will allow you to find this perpendicular position. So, 23″ may not be right for you. During practice yesterday, I switched to a lighter pair of Patriots to gain about 3″ at arrival. However, the technique continues to deliver the horseshoe directly at the stake.

Posted on May 31st. Throughout this blog I have discussed frequently, how your natural tendencies will creep into your pitching when you least expect it. The one most troublesome is the natural rotation of your shoulders towards our striding foot when stepping forward. The length of your stride determines just how much. Of course, it’s not troublesome when you’re walking as it helps to maintain your balance. I will describe a technique that you can use for both practice and competition. I intend to post some photos later today, when my camera charges.

This technique will work for you whether an angle or square to square pitcher. If you are an angle pitcher your angles are reduced the closer your shoulder gets to the adjacent stake. So, my feet are setup along the right edge of the left approach. My right toe is 36″ from the foul line and my left toe is 23″ from the foul line. My stride forward will take me along the edge of the approach to within 3″ of the foul line. See photos below.

Right Edge Setup

Right Edge Setup


Right Edge Stride

Right Edge Stride

After you have taken your stance place your left arm behind yourself and along the small of your back with or without horseshoe and/or pickup stick. Having the horseshoe behind your back should not interfere with your delivery. Next, rotate your shoulders around counter-clockwise until you can’t rotate further. You should be looking directly at the stake. You will notice a little tension in the small of your back and your right butt. Shift a little weight rightward so that your head is a bit closer to the adjacent stake. Rest the horseshoe against your right leg. Swing up to your address position so that your Visual Alignment Point is on the right edge of the stake. Swing straight back to your normal Back Swing Stop Point ticking your pant leg as it passes your leg. Begin your forward swing in sync with your stride forward. Make sure that your shoulders are locked into position throughout the stride and release. Fine tune your setup or stride until every horseshoe goes directly at the stake. Your arm should be fully extended from setup to delivery.

I have been practicing this method for the past week and every horseshoe goes directly at the stake when my stride follows the edge of the approach. Be careful if you have any back problems. Good Luck

Posted May 29th. As I have mentioned before, I monitor each days stats provided by WordPress to identify those parts most accessed. I have noticed a recurring interest in the 1-1/2 flip. There are 3 basic reasons I switched to the 1-1/2 flip. First, it keeps my arm closer to my body, thus, eliminating the angle between my shoulder and center of gravity of the horseshoe. Secondly, and just as important, is the elimination of the normal pinch grip of the single flip. Finally, it places the swing weight of the horseshoe further from your grip and pressure against the single index finger, thumb and middle finger of the grip. This feedback gives you a more accurate response for your release point.

If you want to try this style of grip and release, you must use a horseshoe that has the appropriate hook shape and is well balanced. The Snyder EZ Flip is a perfect candidate for this style of grip and release. The photos within this blog show my grip with this horseshoe. I personally use the Patriot as my choice for obvious reasons. I do add a little additional grip strength by rotating my horseshoe clockwise a little at address which rotates my right elbow closer to my body.

The key to this method is to keep the horseshoe perfectly square throughout the setup, address, swing and release. At address, the horseshoes rests against my leg and perpendicular to the Line of Flight and does not change through the release. Since the majority of the weight of the horseshoe is farther from your grip, you will need very little flip action to get the horseshoe to flip 1-1/2 times. From experience, your normal tendency is to over rotate multiple times. Use a nice gentle action by flipping with the wrist in the thumb up position. This is a different flip action. It is actually a more natural flip action with the thumb moving vertically upward. If you find your pinch grip is causing you to release too early on occasion, give the 1-1/2 flip a try. Make sure the horseshoe you’re using has the appropriate hook shape.

Posted May 26th. I have added a note to Part 2 referencing my switch to blue clay from kitty litter later described in Part 16. I personally find blue clay easier to work with over sand for several reasons. First, I do not turn my clay. When I quit for the day, I use a flat bladed shovel and level the surface by filling any depressions. Secondly, I punch 2-3″ holes over the needed locations with a pitchfork. I then sprinkle the surface making sure the holes are filled with water. I cover the clay with a damp rug. I cover the entire pit with a waterproof tarp. The whole process takes about 5 minutes. My clay surface is 4″ above ground which avoids rain from washing debris into the pit. When selecting my pit location, I wanted the ground to be slightly downhill to permit my approaches to be level with the clay surface which is 4″ above ground. For practice purposes, I only have a single pit.

Posted May 19th. I have received word from the foundry that they will be closed for vacation between June 4th through June 14th. Please factor that in should you contemplate ordering horseshoes from Hilfling Horseshoes prior to the Worlds in July. I will also post the same information on the Hilfling Horseshoes website http://www.hilflinghorseshoes.com later today.

Posted April 30th. I am posting a reference to a paper written sometime back that describes my current method as “My Better Way”, URL https://app.box.com/s/h84jw77pfb1zbour84yg . I have made a change to the method I use from my address position. I have oft stated the following — “Don’t move it unless you have to, but, if you have to, as little as necessary.” During my practice sessions this Spring, I became aware that I was swinging offline during my backswing. How? By placing my tamper on the Line of Flight cord behind me. I was swinging outside the line causing the horseshoe to arrive left of the stake. After experimenting a bit, I found I really didn’t need to swing all the way up to parallel to the ground at address.

I started using what I would refer to as a “forward press” in golf. Just a short movement to begin the process of swinging back. From my stationary stance position described in the paper referenced above from my setup position, I swing my arm/horseshoe 6″ forward (that’s right, 6 inches) down the Line of Flight. My eyes are locked on the stake. I immediately begin the backswing to my normal Backswing Stop Point. The results were immediate. The horseshoe headed at the stake, perfectly on line. At first, arriving a little short. A little more upright in my setup cured the problem. For me personally, it resolved a problem that causes me to become distracted during pitching, i.e., activity behind the distant pit. Give it a try. You may find that you’re using more arm swing than necessary.

Posted April 28th. One of the most important aspects of successful horseshoe pitching is “muscle memory”. This URL http://www.menshealth.co.uk/building-muscle/what-is-muscle-memory offers an excellent explanation of muscle memory and how long it takes to develop and rejuvenate. During the years 2000-2010 I was a “gym rat” and had the opportunity to workout at a gym owned by Kevin Levrone who placed second to Ronnie Coleman in the 2002 Mr. Olympia competition. Kevin was a strong believer in muscle memory. When not training for competition he had a walk around weight at about 185-200 pounds. When he began training for competition he would bulk up to 250-260 pounds of solid muscle in a couple of months with a body fat index of about 5%.

When we stop pitching horseshoes during the winter months, our muscle memory wanes. So, it is important that during your non-pitching time, you maintain your muscle memory so you’re ready to go, when the season begins. What muscles are we talking about? They are the 4 muscles that support your pitching shoulder and work with your rotator cuff. The best that I have found to maintain those muscles is a kettlebell. They are very inexpensive and come in multiple weights. Depending on your shoulder strength, I would recommend a 5-10 pound kettlebell with a nice grip to practice your turn or flip. Simply swing up and back with a fully extended arm and periodically stop in the up position and back position for a couple of seconds. Do what you can do comfortably, but pay attention to your normal form. It you are a turn pitcher, you might want to substitute a regular weightlifting plate that you can grip and rotate your forearms as you would for turning the horseshoe. During your normal practice sessions, swinging your kettlebell 15-20 times will warm up your shoulder muscles before starting. Come the pitching season you will be amazed at how quickly you’ll be back in the groove. Good Luck.

Posted April 15th. I frequently monitor the statistics showing the searches by each visitor and have noted a large number of visits to Part 3 which describes horseshoes and links to a number of sellers. I also mention Ebay as a source. I would like to call your attention to the fact that only horseshoes approved by the NHPA can be pitched in sanctioned NHPA tournaments. In addition to the list of approved horseshoes, there are over 100, the production status is also included. Once a horseshoe is licensed and approved for pitching you are entitled to continue to pitch shoes that are no longer in production. Please refer to the list of approved horseshoes at the following URL, http://www.horseshoepitching.com/products/sanctionedshoes.html . Even if you pitch a horseshoe on the approved list, they may be disqualified if the design has been altered over the original, whether through use or man made changes.

A horseshoe may be welded as long as the original design is not altered. For licensing purposes, the opening between hooks cannot exceed 3-1/2 inches when measured 3/4 inches from the tip of the horseshoe. Used shoes can measure 1/8″ wider. So, if you intend on pitching in sanctioned NHPA tournaments, make sure your horseshoes are licensed and sanctioned and conform to the original design of the horseshoe. Be careful when buying used horseshoes from others or online. We, as designers, must insure that the horseshoe correctly conforms to NHPA specifications regarding weight (<=2 pounds 10 ounces), width (<=7-1/4"), length (<=7-5/8"), thickness (<=1" laying flat), and opening (<=3-1/2" measured 3/4" from the tips). I see a lot of used horseshoes that would not conform to the maximum of an opening of <=3-5/8" permitted for used horseshoes. NOTE: the symbols "<=" means less than or equal too.

You certainly don’t want to show up at a tournament site and find out that your horseshoes do not qualify for sanctioned tournament pitching. If you have any questions about the rules and/or specifications of sanctioned horseshoes, please contact me or refer to the specifications provided by the NHPA at http://www.horseshoepitching.com/rules/Specifications.html .

As of April 7th. I would like to take a little time, as the Summer pitching season rapidly approaches, to discuss an important aspect of horseshoe pitching. It is what I call “Synchronized Impetus”. The dictionary provides an appropriate definition for “impetus” as “the force or energy with which a body moves”. It is very difficult to stand fixed and pitch a horseshoe from the approach to the stake with any hope of accuracy. Anyone trying to use the stationary stance realizes how much easier it is, when adding the impetus supplied by the body moving forward with the stride. However, to use the impetus effectively, it must be synchronized properly. I believe that the key to accuracy is to have the body in a stable and balanced position at the time of release. It is easiest when the stride and arm swing are timed properly. If you move too fast to the foul line, you will have to slow down you arm swing to keep from overthrowing the stake. Or, if you move to slowly, you’ll have to speed up the arm swing.

The better you synchronize your stride with your release the easier it is to cover the distance with the minimum of effort and under control. I suggest you try to first make your backswing equal to your forward swing and stride by using a little mental cadence. The slower the better. Try to get your foot planted a split second before you release the horseshoe. You may find that you synchronize easiest if you swing up and continue the downswing without stopping. Or, you may want to start your downswing with a slow bow at the waist at the speed you want to time your downswing, the slower the better. Or, you may want to start your stride forward and arm swing as soon as your arm swing stops on the backswing. Make sure you get your foot planted a split second before your release. You might want to add the ability to balance yourself on your striding foot at release.

Once you establish a smooth, fluid, synchronized swing and stride, the more accurate you will become.

Written on April 6th. What are two 2 most common reasons for missing? It is my belief that they are tendencies and angles.

On April 6th, I have added the image of the setup in the center of the court to demonstrate that the centered setup is identical to the rotated setup on the left approach. Even though the cords and body alignment are angled on the approach, they are still square to square relative to the Line of Flight. See below.

TENDENCIES — are those body movements you’ve incorporated during your lifetime. Virtually all of the throwing activities incorporate a rotation of the shoulders. Consider throwing a baseball, bowling ball, football, basketball, etc., all are movements that cause the shoulders to rotate clockwise and counter-clockwise. Even the act of walking causes a rotation of the shoulders toward the opposite leg. It is difficult to learn to quiet these normal tendencies and keep them quiet. Unfortunately, it’s when you least expect it, you’ll give the horseshoe a little extra effort and rotate your shoulders one way or the other. It usually results in a miss to one side or the other when released at the distant stake.

ANGLES — Unless you are a square to square pitcher, you will always deal with angles from either approach to the stake. To make matters worse, the angles change as you make your stride on either approach. Just as important is the angle between your eyes and pitching shoulder.

Last month I described the square to square method with a stride with the right foot. I know it’s difficult to make that change. However, it definitely upsets the normal tendency to rotate your shoulders toward the left foot. As a matter of fact, it causes the opposite rotation toward the right foot and reduces the added angle when striding.

During the next couple of nights I’ll describe a square to square method that utilizes a somewhat normal left foot stride for the right hand pitcher. To use this method, as with the previous square to square method, you’ll need to measure the distance from your nose or adam’s apple to the outside of your right shoulder. This method will use the pendulum swing with your hips and shoulders perpendicular to the Line of Flight (LOF) from setup to release. The LOF is a straight line below the Center of Gravity of the horseshoe to the stake.

There may be a little confusion about the images below and the obvious appearance of the cords running at a slight angle across the approach. It is really an optical illusion in the sense that it really is a square to square technique. The image below is the square alignment when moved into the center of the approach. I have simply rotated the entire centered setup to the left and over the approach. The key is that the shoulders are square to the eye line and the Line of Flight. Below is the square to square setup positioned in the center of the court. Note that the setup and alignment on the approach is identical to the centered setup.

Square To Square Centered in the Court

Square To Square Centered in the Court

The two diagrams below describe the differences in setup between the two square to square methods.

NOTE: Click any image or photo for a larger view, or to enlarge the photo to read the narrative embedded on each photo.

Square to Square Left Approach

Square to Square Left Approach


SqToSq Alternative Footwork

SqToSq Alternative Footwork

The following photos are photos of the method in process. The first two photos are of the method using a normal stride with my feet moving straight down the eye line which is 9.5″ to the left of the Line of Flight. The distance from my nose to shoulder is 9.5″.

SquareToSquareSetup#1

SquareToSquareSetup#1

SquareToSquareStride#2

SquareToSquareStride#2

The next photo is the use of the square to square method using the stationary stance. Note that the stride position and stationary position are virtually identical. This is a very stable stance for the stationary stance. My eyes are looking down the sight line throughout the entire swing and release.

Sq To Sq Stationary Stance

Sq To Sq Stationary Stance

The next two photos are what I see when using the square to square method either with a stride or stationary.

SquareToSquareEyeLine

Square To Square Secondary Stake

Square To Square Secondary Stake

Early in November I emailed the NHPA Secretary to get a preliminary review of the Avenger as a sanctioned horseshoe. Based upon the image provided (image below), the NHPA could see no reason not to approve the Avenger. So, what I wanted to make available for learning the various flips and turns, could become another sanctioned model. The notches shown on the Avenger below are spaced similar to a pistol grip at 1/2 inch increments. It is very easy to grip this shoe precisely each time. The horseshoe will be in the 2 pounds 8 ounce medium category and will be perfectly balanced as with all of the Hilfling horseshoes. It also incorporates symmetrical hooks for flip or turn from either side. So, for those pitchers interested in trying the turn or improving their turn, it provides lots of options.

As of October 25th. I have added two additional tips for Part 51. One deals with an easy way to monitor body alignment on the approach and the other suggests you consider reducing your backswing based on picking a shorter address alignment position based on my belief that extremely long back swings tend to pull the body out of alignment and result in missed ringers. I am considering production of a new horseshoe that I had created earlier that I referred to as my “Dial-A-Grip”. It is actually named the “Avenger”. It is a fantastic shoe for learning the turn. See below.

The Avenger

The Avenger

I realized recently that this blog chronicles my “Search” going into the 8th year. I monitor the hits on this blog with a product called “Statcounter”. It shows me statistics on searches, time looking, which parts, geographical location of searcher, etc. There is no personal information captured, so I don’t know anything about the searcher such as, style of pitching, i.e., flip or turn or variations, distance pitched, horseshoes used, etc. Knowing what I know now, I would have ordered the Table of Contents from current to past.

This blog covers thousands of hours of practice, testing, thinking I had found the answer and realizing I hadn’t. I am always afraid that the searcher will start with Part 1, when I want them to start where I ended up, rather than where I began. So, I’ve decided to write Part 52, which is where I am today and why. I will place Part 52 at the beginning of the Table of Contents, so that anyone researching, will know what ended up working for me and why. More important, is instant realization of why I missed, if I did, and the ability to fix it. Part 4, has always been my guiding goal and it is where I am today. Constants are the key. Using the stationary stance in the 2015 Maryland State Singles helped me win second place in the Elders Class A division.

For anyone interested there are a couple of free documents that may be of interest. The URL to the free PDF copy to everyone of “Down The Line” and “My Better Way” is https://app.box.com/s/h84jw77pfb1zbour84yg

This blog, The Search For My Perfect Swing, is directed to the new horseshoe pitcher, like me, who is interested in joining the large population of pitchers wanting to improve their technique. I guess I can state that I’m no longer new horseshoe pitcher. Here it is a few days from 2017 and I began this blog in 2008. Even though it is primarily directed at the Elder pitcher, those 70 and older, in addition to women, and youth who primarily flip the horseshoe, there should be some tidbits of information that might help any pitcher improve their ringer average. Golfers have a huge inventory of teaching aids available to help with their game. The horseshoe pitcher has very few. This blog covers my search to improve my game. Along the way I have tried to create aids that will help my technique.

List of Parts

Part 51
Practice Tips
Best Tip — Keep A Journal
Tip 1 — Improve Your Drop Angle
Tip 2 — Stand Tall
Tip 3 — Strike A Pose
Tip 4 — Monitor Your Footwork
Tip 5 — Tame Your Left Shoulder
Tip 6 — Swinging Offline
Tip 7 — Using Your Horseshoes Effective Width
Tip 8 — A Horseshoe Blocks Your Way
Tip 9 — Reading the Stake
Tip 10 — Marking the Approach
Tip 11 — Developing a Swing Cadence
Tip 12 — Using the non-dominant eye
Tip 13 — Consistent Body Alignment
Tip 14 — Is your back swing too long?

Part 1
Introduction
The Beginning

Part 2
The Pit
The Approach
The Pit Material

Part 3
Horseshoes
Horseshoe Web Pages
My Horseshoes
Additional Stuff

Part 4
Constants
  Constant 1 — The Pendulum Swing
  Constant 2 — Center of Gravity
  Constant 3 — Line of Flight
  Constant 4 — Continuation of the Line of Flight
  Constant 5 — Addressing the Stake
  Constant 6 — The Stride
  Constant 7 — Arm Rotation
  Constant 8 — Release Point
  Constant 9 — High Point of Flight

Part 5
Mechanical Teaching Aids
  Line of Flight
  The All Important Plumb
  The On-Plane Aid
  Correcting Your Stride
  The Electronic Glove
  Pendulum Man
  Release and Height Frame

Part 6
My First Doubles Tournament
It’s My Turn

Part 7
My Grip(s)
The Flip Grip
The Turn Grip
Warming Up for the Turn

Part 8
I Found My Grip!

Part 9
The Flight of My 1-1/2 Flip Horseshoe

Part 10
The Maryland State Tournament of Champions

Part 11
The Flight of My 1-1/2 Flip Horseshoe (Continued)
Table of Plot Results for 30 Foot Approach
The Plotted Rotation of My 1-1/2 Flip
Your Personal Plot

Part 12
Saturday’s Tournament and the Metronome
Horseshoe Flight Evaluation Form
Using a Metronome

Part 13
It’s Debug Time
Grip Changed
Stance Changed
Tightened Line of Flight
Pre-Release Rehearsal
It Looks Like My Search May Be Over
Future Plans

Part 14
A Few Random Comments
A Slight Stance Change
Making the Most of My Practice
Staying in Shape

Part 15
My Final Sanctioned Tournament for 2008
A Newly Found Secret

Part 16
Catching Up
An Unexpected Award
Testing New Shoes
New Pit Material — Blue Clay
A New Website to Swap/Sell/Trade Shoes
Pro Horseshoe League
Is This my Perfect Swing?

Part 17
80% and A New Horseshoe is Born
A Horseshoe is Born
How I Reached 80%
The Horseshoe
The Setup
The Address
The Backswing

Part 18 — The NHPA approves the Viking
The Parabola
The Wings
Gripping the Viking
Turning the Viking

Part 19
The 2009 Season — A Critique
Three New Horseshoe Designs Ready for Production
A Laser Based Pitching Aid

Part 20
My Current Pitching Method
The Setup
Starting Position
Left Foot at Release
Distance from Foul Line
Settling In
The Swing Cadence
Troubleshooting
Swing Change (Old/New Method)

Part 21
Singles Tournaments
My First Tournament
Subsequent Tournaments
Tournament Preliminaries
Score Keeping
Maintaining Your Pits
The Match Begins
Your Day Is Done
Doubles Tournaments

Part 22
The Hilfling GrabIt
The First Horseshoe in Production
Altering the Flight of a Horseshoe
A Mechanical Horseshoe Pitcher

Part 23
The Hilfling GrabIt Lite — A Reality
First Sale
Why The GrabIt Lite?
Hilfling Website Up and Running
Hilfling Horseshoes on Ebay

Part 24
The Hilfling GrabIt Medium
A New Design
My Search Is Over
Practice Tip

Part 25
My First Pro Tour Tournament
A New Horseshoe Design

Part 26
Some Exciting News for 2011
The 3D Software Search
Moment of Inspiration (MOI)
A New Design is Born
The Tribute Series

Part 27
The Center of Gravity
Determining the Center of Gravity
Designing a Perfectly Balanced Horseshoe
Perfect Balance — A New Area of Interest
Why is Perfect Balance Important

Part 28
The Tribute Series
Six New Designs
The Patriot
The Air Force Aviator
The Army Ranger
The Marine Warrior
The Navy BullFrog
The Coast Guard Coastie

Part 29
Highpoint Downrange Location Verified
A Little History
The Release Point

Part 30
Drop Angle
13 Inch Scoring Area
The Minimum Drop Angle
The Maximum Drop Angle

Part 31
My 30 Foot Method

Part 32
A Rewarding 2011
Three New Designs NHPA Approved
The Aviator
The Trident
The Eagle
Four New Designs
The Warrior
The Torque
The Patriot
The Gyro

Part 33
A New Season Has Arrived
A Stance Change
The Hilfling Aviator
The Hilfling Patriot

Part 34
Emergency Preparation
Testing is Done — Decision Time. The Trident is Chosen

Part 35
IF IT FITS — IT SHIPS
Effective Horseshoe Opening
Personal Tendencies
Square to Square
Pit Setup
Stance
Swing, Stride and Release
Hitting Higher on the Stake
New Grip Option

Part 36
Stationary Pitching in Pictures
Stationary Stance From 27 Feet (Long Version)
Exercises Specific to Horseshoe Pitching
Exercising at Home

Part 37
Accurate Alignment
Practice Pit Setup
Taking My Stance
Forward Swing
Odds and Ends

Part 38
2012 Maryland State Doubles Championship
Emergency! Pit 11

Part 39
Pitching From 30 Feet
The Patriot is Coming

Part 40
2012 — A Tournament Review
2012 — A Production Review
The Patriot is Coming
The Eagle is Coming

Part 41
The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 1
The Importance of Precision
NHPA Approach Specifications
Phase Images
The Three Steps of Phase 1

Part 42
The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 2
The Visual Alignment Point

Part 43
The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 3
Setup and Address — A Review
The Delivery

Part 44
The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Final Thoughts
NHPA Pit Specifications
Alternative Setup Locations — Important
Valuable Practice Aids

Part 45
Horseshoe Pitching With Precision
Front Cover
Table of Contents
Introduction
Back Cover
Dedication to the Volunteers

Part 46
Amazon Lead In
The Rest of the eReaders
Front Matter
Forward
Prolog — The “WHY”
Introduction
The Beginning — 2007
Goals
Geometry Development
Tips & Tricks

Part 47
Method 4
Goals for Method 4
Setting Up Your Practice Approach
The Setup
The Address
The Delivery
Final Thoughts

Part 48
Drop Angle
Proper Drop Angle Benefits
30 to 45 Degrees
Practice Aids

Part 49
Method 5 — “Down the Line”

Part 50
My Better Way
Some History
The Pendulum Swing
The Natural Grip
The 1-1/2 Flip and Grip
The Stance
The Setup and Delivery
The 30 Foot Pitcher

Part 51
Practice Tips
Best Tip — Keep A Journal
Tip 1 — Improve Your Drop Angle
Tip 2 — Stand Tall
Tip 3 — Strike A Pose
Tip 4 — Monitor Your Footwork
Tip 5 — Tame Your Left Shoulder
Tip 6 — Swinging Offline
Tip 7 — Using Your Horseshoes Effective Width
Tip 8 — A Horseshoe Blocks Your Way
Tip 9 — Reading the Stake
Tip 10 — Marking the Approach
Tip 11 — Developing a Swing Cadence
Tip 12 — Using the non-dominant eye
Tip 13 — Consistent Body Alignment
Tip 14 — Is your back swing too long?

Change Record
Stance
On-Plane Aid

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15 Comments

  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Tony Brown

    • Thanks Tony…appreciate the comment. I’ve just added Part 19.

  2. Just received a set of Trident Horseshoes, Can’t wait until the season opens. If you are not throwing a Trident or other Hifling Horseshoe you will probably be out scored by them. Marty

  3. The Coastie is another great looking shoe, as is the Aviator. The Aviator looks as though it’s on steroids. Thanks for continuing to be on the cutting edge of shoe design and innovation.

  4. Hello I’m 50. Just started with the turn… from a flip… and I’m so lost. But I just wanted to say thks for your research. Hope I pick it up soon

    • Dave,
      I started as a turn pitcher from 40 feet and switched to the flip when moving up to 30 feet. I now throw a 1-1/2 flip. The key to successfully turning the horseshoe is using the larger muscles of the forearm. The 1-1/4 and 1-3/4 are the most prevalent, however, a number of successful pitchers use the 3/4. I would suggest you find a comfortable turn grip with a turn style or neutral horseshoe style horseshoe. Start at 10 feet from the stake and address the stake with a horseshoe horizontal to the ground. Swing the horseshoe to your backswing stop point, but, rotate the horseshoe to perpendicular to the ground as you pass your leg. Swing forward and rotate the horseshoe to a horizontal position as you release and try to make the horseshoe land flat. Don’t worry about whether it is open or not, just flat at arrival. Use only the rotation of your forearm to cause the horseshoe to rotate. Don’t use your fingers or hand to rotate the horseshoe, only the forearm. After you feel comfortable with rotating the horseshoe on the backswing to perpendicular and rotating back to horizontal on the forward swing and landing the horseshoe flat at the stake, then move back 5 more feet and go again. Each time you move back you will notice less speed of forearm rotation to cover the distance. Finally, you will be throwing from the 37 foot foul line. Now that you’ve gotten the feeling of forearm rotation, experiment with the various grips on the left and right shanks until you find a comfortable and repeatable grip and turn. Hope that helps. The key here is to use your forearm rotation to generate the turn and not the small muscles of the fingers and hand. I would also suggest that your arm should be fully extended during the address, backswing, forward swing and release. Be patient, it will take a bit of time to develop the turn, but, it will be worth it in the long run. In 15 years (if NHPA rule changes), you can worry about what to do about the turn at 40 feet and the flip at 30 feet. :-} As they say, what goes around comes around.

  5. The Avenger (AKA, Dial-A-Grip) not only looks good because of the preciseness of grip placement, but appears to be amply supplied with ringer breaks. I apologize if I missed something somewhere, but are you still considering the production of this shoe? It sure would be a great shoe for experimenting with various grips, as well as turn and flip techniques.

    • Dr. Nay, thank you for your inquiry. I am still mulling over whether to offer this horseshoe as a single for practice purposes or a pair for sanctioned events. The costs from one to the other are quite significant. Typically, a 3D printed single copy from Shapeways costs $130 to supply the foundry mold. The cost to the customer would probably be in the range of $25 plus shipping. The cost to provide a pair that is NHPA sanctioned would be $260 for 3D printing a pair for the foundry mold and a $300 licensing fee to the NHPA assuming it was approved. I sent a JPG copy to the NHPA for their tentative review and they indicated they could see no reason to deny the design for sanctioning, assuming it met the normal horseshoe specifications. The pair would be priced at $47.50 per pair, plus $11.50 shipping for 1 to 3 pairs. It’s still up in the air. Incidentally, I do practice with it with every practice session. There aren’t too many bounce backs with this design. Thanks for inquiring.

      • My guess is that the majority of those that would use the shoe for practice would wish to pitch with it. I can understand the production costs, but the licensing fee for the NHPA seems somewhat exorbitant to me.

  6. Thank you for your untiring research into furthering the sport of pitching horseshoes. There is simply nothing out there that begins to compare with your site and the wealth of information you’ve made readily available.

    • Dr. Nay,
      Thank You, I appreciate your kind words. When I started pitching in 2007 I couldn’t find any information that targeted the flip pitcher. The only videos were available for turn pitchers from 40 feet. Having retired after 35 years of software development enticed me into looking at the art of horseshoe pitching in general. It started with a formula to calculate the launch angle and highpoint of a released horseshoe with the known distance and height of the release. I had to prove my results by developing a video, now on Youtube, proving the results. The list has now grown to 7 videos. I had been dabbling with 3D software and decided to try my luck at designing a perfectly balanced horseshoe. The results were copyrights for the Viking and GrabIt. This led to the desire to create a Tribute Series for all of the military services and the Vietnam Veterans. It progressed into pitching in general, using precision and repetition, a website for sales, and, a blog on WordPress. I’m working on my 52nd part. There always seems to be something new to try and pass on if workable. Best Regards, Bob

      • In reference to a “perfectly balanced horseshoe”: Although I’m not a real high percentage pitcher, there is no question in my mind relative to the stability of the Patriot 2. For me it seems noticeably more stable than other shoes I’ve tried. I owe this to the fact that it is “perfectly balanced.”

  7. Thank you again for making the perfect WARRIOR shoe,top 10 in Sr. Any other suggestion for practicing.

    • Thank You, Richard

      I know you’re one of the best Elder pitchers in the U.S. So, it’s difficult to suggest anything that would improve your pitching. However, one suggestion that might keep your method current is to keep a journal of your practice activities. When I was pitching my best, I would periodically fall into periods of difficulty. Two things helped me recover. I always kept notes on changes and results of those changes. That was done using the journal page at the back of my book, also shown in my blog. It was during this recording that I realized that I was more accurate with my first horseshoe over the second. I only had two choices. One was the effect of holding one horseshoe while pitching the other. Second was whether I was setting up differently after the first shoe was thrown. It proved to be the latter. From then on, I would always practice holding only one horseshoe at a time and before picking up and throwing the second horseshoe, I would step off of the approach, pickup the second horseshoe and go through my usual setup to throw the second horseshoe. This was all revealed by keeping the journal/log. It’s a little tedious at first, but, is worth every minute of the time you’re recording information. With this method you will find that you will be correcting mistakes, which you corrected before. We are creatures of our lifelong tendencies.

  8. Thanks for your reply. I’m so use to holding the shoes in the left & right hand,I think better balance for me. Ever since I moved up to 30ft I do write down if I do adjust even a little bit. Even to day, came down to recognizing my trimming I feel the better I get with the Warriors the better I get, thanks you for making them.


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