The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 5

Mechanical Teaching Aids

Part 5 will show you some of the teaching aids I’ve currently developed. Most are “works in progress”, however, I’ll explain their purpose and what I hope to add.

Line of Flight — This is a very simple aid, but, probably the most important. It shows the path that the center of gravity of each shoe should follow to the stake. All of the other aids work off of this very simple string that my pendulum swing should trace back and through.

Line of Flight

Line of Flight

Select the photo and double-click to see a larger version. Note, this is my right side approach for 30 feet. Since I do not stride, I only need this one 16×16″ block to simulate the foul line at 27 feet.

The All Important Plumb — Here are two photos of the plumb. It hangs down directly over the line of flight and permits me to address the stake by aligning the center of gravity of the shoe directly under the plumb. From this position I simply allow gravity to drop the shoe and continue on through the backswing. On the forward swing, I try to release the shoe and touch the plumb on the upswing.

Hanging Plumb

Hanging Plumb

Plumb and Center of Gravity

Plumb and Center of Gravity

The On-Plane Aid — This device took a little planning and about $100 worth of PVC pipe and connectors. The development started with tracing my swing arc. It turns out that my radius is 27 inches. So, this device started with a single arc with a 54 inch diameter. It works beautifully, but, I began to rely too heavily on touching the arc with my wrist back and through. It became apparent that I needed two arcs spaced apart that permitted me to swing back and through without touching either side of two arcs. So, I modified the first device by adding another arc that was adjustable in and out for wider or narrower spacing. Finally, I had to add adjustable feet to accommodate the unevenness of my approach area. Once I have verified my release point, I will be adding a little tickler at the appropriate spot on the upswing arc to synchronize my release point.

Single swing arc

Single swing arc

Double swing arc

Double swing arc

I am considering adding a little reminder that will touch my neck or head to remind me to keep it from moving back and forth. It will also remind me not to alter the vertical swinging of the pendulum (my arm). Moving my body in any direction will disrupt the accuracy of the swing.
NOTE: A LESSON LEARNED — When I first started using this aid I noticed that my shoes would consistently land right of the stake. I realized that when I was dangling my arm down through the arc, that it was in a relaxed state. In the process of swinging my arm forward my arm would straighten slightly. I realized that I needed to extend my arm to a fully extended position, i.e., no bend at the elbow to eliminate this problem. If you want to verify this, hold the shoe at your side in a relaxed manner, then straighten it slightly and note that the shoe moves rightward, off plane. I now concentrate on keeping my arm straight (not rigid) throughout the swing.

Correcting Your Stride — This aid is a simple board to assist in striding correctly to ensure that your hub moves along the line of flight. When I was pitching from 40 feet, I noticed that I had a tendancy to step too far to the right and not parallel the line of flight, forcing the shoes to miss right. This board consists of a divider that allows me to position my feet side by side (straddling the divider), stride forward along the divider on the forward swing and also step forward with my right foot so that both feet ended up even at the foul line. Note — the divider on the board is angled to run parallel to the line of flight. In the Pendulum Swing you do not want to stride toward the stake. You want your hub to follow the line of flight, not your feet, forcing the feet to end up pointed left of the stake but still parallel to the line of flight.

Proper Stride

Proper Stride

The Electronic Glove — This is a very simple teaching aid that contains a little circuit that will show you exactly where you are releasing the shoe. When you grip the shoe with finger and thumb, a circuit is formed that turns on a 12V LED. It stays on until you release the shoe. The concept is, to tell you where you are releasing the shoe, both vertically and horizontally. With this information I can plot the flight of my shoe from start to finish. I’ll discuss the program that calculates this plot a little later. A friend of mine, an electrical engineer, was kind enough to change the circuit so that the LED went ON when released, instead of OFF. I’m also wanting to add a little vibrator and sound generator to give me instant feedback. I am also considering adding a little circuit to my Swing Arc platform to alert me when the shoe reaches the proper release point. By setting this circuit at the correct release point, I can determine if I’m releasing early or late. Two photos below show the state of the glove while ON and OFF.

ON -- In Mid Swing

ON -- In Mid Swing

OFF -- Shoe Released

OFF -- Shoe Released

Pendulum Man — This is what started my search. I had noticed that when I addressed the stake, i.e., brought the shoe to eye level and sighted directly at the stake, it didn’t look like the shoe was over the “line of flight.” I wanted to visually ascertain what I should see when the shoe became part of the pendulum. So, I created what I referred to as “Pendulum Man,” for the sake of describing what I wanted it to represent. With a few pieces of PVC I built a representation of me. It was to represent my height, shoulder width, head location and arm length, with horseshoe attached. After I completed it, I set it down on my 40 foot approach with the arm at 90 degrees, directly over the line of flight, and, the center of gravity of the shoe pointing directly at the stake (first picture below). Note that the bottom of the photo shows the line of flight string, directly below the arm and the shoe aligned with an extension of the stake in the pit.
The second photo is photographed from where my head and eyes would be. To my amazement the visual alignment was way to the right. It was at this point that I decided I needed an indicator to show me where the shoe should be, when addressing the stake. Thus, the Plumb, pointing straight down at the line of flight and far enough forward to center the shoe at arms length, below the Plumb. I quickly realized that bringing the shoe up to eye level and aligning it with the stake could not possibly be part of the pendulum swing. As I mentioned before, that little piece of string was the genesis of the development of my swing and this blog. Below is a photo of “Pendulum Man” in the resting state.

Pendulum Man (resting)

Pendulum Man (resting)

Arm on line of flight

Arm on line of flight

Visual location of the shoe

Visual location of the shoe

Release and Height Frame— I decided I needed an accurate method of determining the release point, i.e., point downrange and height and the actual location of the highpoint and location downrange. I purchased enough PVC and multi-colored twine to create a checkerboard pattern in 3 inch increments in a 5 x 10 foot frame.

Location Frame

Location Frame

Email me if you have any questions or comments. 
Continue to Part 6
Table of Contents

The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 4

Constants

It is my belief that anyone using proper technique from 30 feet should be able to throw a ringer every time. The key, of course, is proper technique.  It has been my goal during the past year to try to determine exactly — “What is proper technique?”  I decided to see if my software development background could be used to review each aspect of the pitching of a horseshoe.  So, I began to break down each phase of the pitching of a horseshoe.  Any good programmer will try to convert every variable to a constant, where possible.  So, it is this guiding concept that dictates “Horseshoes My Way.” A constant is a position that can be taken accurately and reached repeatedly. Further, if you stray, you will be able to spot the error immediately.

Constant 1 — The Pendulum Swing.  I decided to base my swing on the pendulum.  It is a very simple concept, but, very accurate.  The simple definition of a Pendulum is “A rigid body free to swing on a horizontal axis under the influence of gravity.”  Unfortunately, gravity alone, in this case, will not launch a horseshoe far enough to get to the stake.  However, it was fairly easy to monitor the arm swing as if it were the “rigid body” and the shoulder as the hub.  Everything from this point on, is based on the shoulder as the hub, the arm as the shaft and the horseshoe as the weight. A pendulum has four constants; 1) an exact swing axis, 2) a constant swing speed, 3) a stop point on the forward swing, and 4) a stop point on the backswing. Visualize the pendulum in a grandfather clock as your goal. It is also possible to use a simple metronome to monitor the speed.

Constant 2Center of Gravity. Each horseshoe has only one “Center of Gravity.” Kenny Wolf has done an excellent job of describing how to determine the center of gravity.  See URL http://kennywolf.accs.net/shoemath.htm . It is the center of gravity that needs to be pitched at the stake. 

Constant 3Line of Flight. This is a line that is a continuation of the pendulum swing. To create this line of flight — tie a cord to the base of the stake and temporarily terminate the cord to the right and behind the approach.  Next, take your normal stance on the approach, take your normal grip on your horseshoe, extend the arm straight downward (no bend in the elbow) and drop the shoe.  Mark the location of where the center of gravity is, when the shoe hits the ground.  Pull the cord taut exactly over the spot.  Next mark the location of where the cord passes over the front of the pit. Place an eyelet, nail, etc. at that spot and move the cord from the stake to the nail.  Now, pull the cord taut behind the approach making sure the cord passes over the center of gravity spot.  Every horseshoe thrown should follow this “Line of Flight.”

Constant 4Continuation of the Line of Flight.  There are two points that insure the arm swing is following the line of flight.  A point at the end of the backswing and a point at the end of the forward swing. When you swing your arm back, there will be a point where it stops.  This is your backswing constant.  The endpoint of the forward swing is a little more difficult to find.  So, we’ll add a helping aid.  To create the forward swing endpoint.  Drop a plumb directly over the line of flight at a height of the top of your head or a few inches higher. Place the plumb so that some part of your hand in line with the center of gravity touches the plumb at the top of your forward swing.  To prove that this is a valid point — stand at the end of the approach and drop your arm straight down with the horseshoe directly over the line of flight cord. Simply swing your arm up and touch the plumb.  On the way up release the shoe.  The shoe should land directly over the line of flight cord downrange.  Try again and this time add additional effort, hit the plumb and make sure the shoe lands further down the line of flight cord.  Test this further by standing at the foul line, swing the shoe up and touch the plumb and hold it’s position.  Now, start your back swing to your backswing endpoint and swing forward, release the shoe and touch the plumb. Where did the shoe land?  If the shoe landed left of the line of flight, you swung your arm outside of the line of flight on the backswing.  If the shoe lands right, then you swung your arm too far inside.  If you have continual problems with the backswing, hang down something very light, such as a light washer, that will touch your arm/hand lightly to signal the correct backswing location and height.

Constant 5 — Addressing the Stake. This constant has to do with standardizing your shoe location at the start of your downswing. When you begin the swing, swing the shoe up, parallel to the ground (90 degrees). You will note that when your shoe is at eye level and directly below the plumb, visually the shoe is to the right of the stake.  Make note of where the shoe is pointing.   If you want your swing to swing along the line of flight (pendulum swing) the shoe must be pointing at this right location at the start of the swing. NOTE: You cannot, repeat, cannot swing along the line of flight if you bring the shoe in front of your face, sighting it to the stake.  The beginning of the backswing will be “OFF THE LINE OF FLIGHT.”  The only way to put it back on line is to make a simulated figure 8 movement.  To prove this point, take a stepladder and place it over the line of flight, bring the shoe up to the plumb and lay it down on one rung of the ladder.  Now step back and sight down the line of flight to verify that the center of gravity of the shoe is resting directly above the line of flight.  Now return to the approach and check where the shoe is visually pointing. To assist the starting of the backswing from the address position, you may find it helps if you simply allow the shoe to fall on it’s own, from there continue on to the backswing.

Constant 6The Stride.  None! If you are a 30 foot pitcher there should be no reason to stride. Striding adds an additional variable to factor in.  I place my right foot on the front edge and right corner of the foul line. I then position my left foot behind the right and raise my heel so that my body tilts slightly to the right. Change 3 It gives you more room to allow the shoe to pass the leg without interference and insures that your tricep is not bumping against the lat muscle. If you are trying to duplicate the pendulum swing, nothing moves except the arm.  Unfortunately, it is normal to try to add a little body to the pitch.  Keep in mind where the head goes, so goes the body. Try to keep the head perfectly still throughout the swing.  The late Carl F. Steinfeldt believed that 15% of misses were caused by approach problems. NOTE: I found it too difficult to maintain my balance when not striding. Therefore, I have chosen to add a single step forward along the target line. I cover this later on in this blog.

40 footers— it is unlikely that you will be able to throw a shoe 40 feet by standing at the foul line. So, take your normal starting position and when you stride forward make sure you step parallel to the line of flight.  Don’t make the mistake of striding at the stake.  You are trying to move your hub (shoulder) along the line of flight.  I created a board that forced me to stride properly.  At first I painted a stripe on the approach directly parallel to the line of flight, but, kept noticing that my left foot tended to move right.  So, I placed a board on the approach with a divider so my feet straddled the divider. The divider was parallel to the line of flight which meant that I was stepping to the left of the stake, but, my hub was in line with the stake. I stepped forward with my left foot during the backswing and followed my left foot with my right ending up with both feet side by side at the foul line.

Constant 7Arm Rotation. None!. Many lifetime horseshoe pitchers believe that the proper handling of the horseshoe during the backswing is to turn the shoe so that it is perpendicular to the ground when it passes the leg. You then begin to rotate the arm after the shoe passes the leg on the forward swing. Well, we don’t have a lifetime to develop this move.  So, when you address the stake over the line of flight, keep the shoe in exactly the same position until it is released. Let your grip on the shoe dictate the flight characteristics of the shoe.  You can flip a shoe without trying to rotate the arm.

Constant 8Release Point. As you practice you will discover that once in a while the shoe flies perfectly, right rotation, right release, right distance.  How can we determine that release point and mimic it each time? First thing is to find out where that point is.  To discover my correct release point I developed a glove that turns OFF a bright red LED when the shoe is released. It’s a fairly simple circuit and contains a 9V battery, 12V bright red LED and two bare wires mounted on the finger and thumb. When you grip the shoe with the finger and thumb the light goes ON and when released the light goes OFF.  Create a poster board with height and distance markings.  Video the release until you find the one that gives you a perfect ringer.  Note the height and distance from the foul line.  This will be your preferred release point.  We’ll use this information for plotting the shoe flight.

Constant 9High Point of Flight. When you are testing for your proper release point you should also be checking the highpoint of your perfect ringer.  This is easily monitored.  Purchase two 1″ x 10ft. PVC pipes or equivalent.  Put one PVC pipe close to the foul line and the other about 1/2 way downrange.  Stretch string from pole to pole about 6″ apart. As you video your release, be far enough back to get your release and highpoint.  The experts claim that your highpoint should be about 2 feet over your height.  I don’t necessarily agree with that generalization. Your optimum highpoint might be lower. Some advise putting a string across the flight path and try to throw over the string. Unfortunately, visually you cannot determine if the horseshoe was going up or coming down when going over the string. With the correct highpoint found you can then calculate the shoe flight which includes the time of flight, initial launch angle and initial launch speed.

Continue to Part 5
Table of Contents

The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 3

Horseshoes

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 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.

The state of horseshoes has come a long way since the 30’s. The White Distributors Horseshoe Company located in Erie, Pennsylvania, URL http://www.horseshoesonline.com/ 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…

Walter Ray Williams, Jr. URL http://www.walterray.com/answers2/horseshoes7.shtml 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 http://www.kent.net/horseshoes/

The Lucky Shoe Pro Shop is located in Michigan and has a full array of horseshoes and accessories. URL http://www.luckyshoeproshop.com/

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.

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 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.

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. 
 

Introduction

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