The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 16

Catching Up

It’s been over a month since the completion of Part 15. The weather here in Maryland is slowly getting colder, but, most days I can get in a couple of hours of practice. There has been a major change in my setup, grip and release during this month. I am extremely excited about the coming season. Below is a synopsis of the highlights of the past month.

An Unexpected Award. Shortly after the end of the pitching season, I was notified that I had won a Second Place award from the Maryland Horseshoe Pitching Association. This was an award that was based on points accumulated during sanctioned events held in Maryland. I received a very nice cash award. I will certainly keep this award in mind during next season.

Testing New Shoes. On a recent visit to Fenwick Island, Delaware, I was able to drive up to Dover to visit with Wayne of the Doowop Pro Horseshoe Shop. Wayne has a huge inventory of horseshoes, both used and new. Wayne does not have a website, but, can be reached by email at I was interested in testing and possibly purchasing some new Mr. D horseshoes. Unfortunately, he only had his personal pair, without ringer break. I was able to test a variety of shoes, both used and new on his side yard. I had been working on a 1/4 clockwise turn and wanted to find a shoe that was more balanced, i.e., not tip heavy. I ended up with a new pair of Big Foots. Before leaving, I was able to sell my pair of Steinfeldts and M&Ms. We pretty much broke even. Anyone interested in a new or used pair of shoes should contact Wayne at his email address above.

New Pit Material — Blue Clay. It became apparent that my Kitty Litter pit material was taking too much maintenance. I was having to add sand after each watering. So, I decided to try to find some Blue Clay in the Baltimore area. Thanks to the Frederick Horseshoe Pitching Assn., I was able to locate Harford Industrial Minerals in Joppa, Maryland. You can reach them at URL Their website does not mention Blue Clay, but, they have a fairly large supply. Price for 1/2 yard of Blue Clay was $15.00. I drove up, picked up 1/2 a yard and wobbled my way home. I emptied my pit, added layers of Blue Clay and water, until filled level. Within two days the pit was ready. A little water after each use and it’s ready to go the next day. I was also able to save about 6 small bags for future use. I have always been concerned with the noise of a shoe hitting the stake, for the sake of the neighbors. So, I added a length of 1″ ID rubber well pipe, a soft black material, and slipped it over the stake. Not only did it reduce the noise, but, it adds protection to the stake and saves the ringer break on each shoe. As an added bonus, as the sleeve wears it shows where the majority of the shoes hit the stake.

A New Website to Swap/Sell/Trade Shoes. NOTE: THIS SWAP/SELL/TRADE WEBSITE IS NO LONGER ACTIVE (Change entered 23 August 2009 — Please ignore this entry). I became aware of a fairly new website for the purpose of swapping, selling or trading horseshoes. The URL for Horseshoe S.S.T is: I posted a request to swap what I had for Snyder EZ Flips. I was able to successfully swap one pair of Six Shooters for a fairly new pair of Snyder EZ Flip IIs. I’ll be using this website again, to swap for Imperial Stingers, if available. More about that later.

Pro Horseshoe League. Today, I received an email from White Distributors discussing their new shoes. Also included was a reference to the 2009 season for the Professional Horseshoe League. URL I joined the forum and await the acceptance by the admin for my account. I have a couple of questions regarding membership in the league. Essentially, you need to have a 50% ringer average. My question is whether you can join the league if you have a 50% ringer average in the first sanctioned event of 2009? You can also qualify if you manage a 50% ringer average after pitching 300 shoes in front of a qualified official. My question is, who qualifies as an official? Does an officer of any of the Maryland organizations qualify?

The HP Pro Tour has added a second division. Division II permits membership if you’ve never achieved a 50% ringer average. The website mentioned above provides answers to questions regarding the new division and an application for joining.

Is this my Perfect Swing? Recently I viewed an interview with the great Alan Francis. He spoke about the importance of using the body during the delivery. I had wanted to eliminate this part of the delivery as a constant from 30 feet. As previously mentioned, the late great Carl Steinfeldt felt that 15% of misses was caused by a faulty approach. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to improve my ringer percentage with a short step on the approach. From 30 feet and a stationary stance, I was never able to flip the shoe just once. However, I was able to flip once with this short step. Unfortunately, I never felt I had the shoe securely in my grip with the normal thumb caulk. So, I went through my pile of shoes and found that the Imperial Stinger with it’s thumb notch felt like a perfect fit. Secondly, it has skid pads on both sides of the shoe. I have been practicing this week with this new grip, approach and release. Today, I threw 25 ringers in a row. I digress.

From the age of 5 to 16 I bowled duckpins at the Old Alexandria Bowling Lanes in Alexandria, Virginia. I was a pin bowler, which meant I threw the ball at the headpin with a slight clockwise rotation. I mention this because I decided to use my old bowling stance and approach with a single flip using the Imperial Stinger. It worked immediately. I also discovered that if I grip the shoe with my thumb slightly left of the thumb indentation, the shoe arrives at the stake slightly open. Held slightly right of the indentation, the shoe arrives at the stake slightly closed. This has become important when trying to retard bounceback.

A little mathematical evaluation, indicates that the standard horseshoe with an opening of 3-1/2 inches can be rotated at impact, up to 30 degrees to the left or right and only reduce the opening by 1/2 inch. If the shoe is thrown from the left approach and opens squarely at the stake, you run the risk of bouncing the shoe directly back off the stake. A tree root keeps me from using the right side approach.

My setup now is standing back about 2-1/2 feet, left foot pointing parallel to the line of flight, right foot touching the left. Tilt my body slightly rightward, to clear my arm from my lat, swing the shoe up with my arm extended and aligning the left shank on the stake, start the downswing and step forward as if I’m slideing to the foul line and release the shoe directly at the stake with a balanced finish. It feels just like throwing a duckpin ball directly at the headpin.

E-mail me with any questions

Table of Contents

Continue to Part 17