The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 35

IF IT FITS — IT SHIPS (Not Necessarily True)

Sorry for the delay in completing Part 35, but, have been having a problem with shipping horseshoes our usual way. We do not charge our customers for shipping and handling over the actual costs through the US Postal Service ($5.15) and a small amount charged by Paypal. Thus, we only charge $6.50 to ship anywhere in the U.S. Unfortunately, the Postal Service has taken exception to the fact that I add additional tape around the edges of the Priority Mail Flat Rate Mailing Envelope and recently charged the customer an additional $6.70 upon receipt. The USPS cited a small paragraph that reads in part “and the contents are entirely confined within the envelope with the adhesive provided as a means of closure.” Well, the contents were entirely confined, and, I did use the adhesive as a means of closure. I simply added regular heavy duty packing tape around the edges to keep the contents from falling out if the cardboard envelope were to tear, which unfortunately happens often. When I ship, I use an additional inner, bubble, tear proof envelope. When the foundry ships, they tightly wrap the shoes in multiple layers of plastic wrap. I simply will not charge the customer $13.20 to ship a pair of horseshoes. We’re looking for a different way and an explanation from the USPS, which I suspect will not be forthcoming, nor, will the customer be refunded the $6.70 by the USPS. Hilfling Horseshoes has refunded the fine.

UPDATE 8/17/2012 — The USPS has apparently notified their Post Offices that they are not to add “Postage Due” to any Flat Rate Envelope unless they are grossly distorted. Consequently, we will return to shipping to U.S. Zip Codes for a flat shipping charge of $6.50. That includes a fee of $5.15 for shipping and $1.35 to cover the PayPal fee. The new Flat Rate Shipping envelopes no longer mention the closure method.

Effective Horseshoe Opening

By specifications levied by the NHPA, the opening between hook calks when measured 3/4″ from the tips, cannot exceed 3-1/2″. There is a fudge factor of 1/8″ on used shoes. However, the Effective Opening should be considered to be about 5-3/4″. The image below will show how this is the case. This is the equivalent of a horseshoe with a much wider opening when factoring in opening to the left and right of the stake. As it turns out, this is important when deciding your aim point.

Personal Tendencies

As I walk, my left arm and shoulder rotate rightward as I step forward with my right leg and the opposite occurs when stepping with the left leg. Not only do my arms swing forward, but, they swing inward on an arc toward center. If I were to swing my arm up to perpendicular they would arrive in front of the center of my chest. So, why not take advantage of this natural tendency. Providing for this tendency is the basis for setting up and delivering Square to Square.

Square to Square

Square to Square is a technique that first requires setting up the pit and approach. Next, it defines my proper stance, body alignment, Visual Alignment Point, backswing and release. The purpose is to direct the horseshoe directly at the stake with proper distance control. The section on Effective Width is an important aspect of this approach.

Pit Setup

The pit setup requires two lines secured from the pit to the approach. Line 1 comes from the stake to the center front of the approach.

Line 2 takes a bit of explanation. The distance from my nose to my right shoulder is 10″. If I raised my right arm up in front of my eyes I would have moved it 10″ leftward. However, my little laser proves it actually gets there in more of an arc than a straight line. That is an important aspect of Square to Square. If you release a shoe during this upswing, you must provide for the actual location of the release point to determine how far inward your hand has moved. So, to provide for my Effective Width, I painted a second stake OSHA Yellow and drove it 3″ to the right of my primary stake, at the back of the approach. Line 2 is drawn from this Secondary Stake to my CofG location on the approach (right edge). That’s it for the setup. Pretty simple, two lines. Using this line from the Secondary Stake I found my Visual Alignment Point to be the right corner of the backboard (18″ right of the Primary Stake). See image below.

Primary and Secondary Stakes


This is the most important aspect of this technique. It’s a modified balanced martial arts stance. Most martial arts schools start with teaching the various stances. This would be known as a front stance. This is also a stance I learned when taking Aikido classes years earlier. The left foot is planted as a continuation of the line drawn from the stake to the front of the approach. The right foot is behind the left foot 12″ and at about a 35 degree angle. I rotate my shoulders so they are perfectly perpendicular to Line 1. It is imperative that I rotate my shoulders to the left to face the stake squarely. If I don’t square up to the stake, my stance is unbalanced and the results are unpredictable. Visually you can check this Square alignment by hanging your arms straight down and making sure they are perpendicular to Line 1. This places the head centered between the two feet. Next, and very important, a slight squat downward so that there is a bend in both knees. This is a well balanced solid stance and capable of handling the swing of the arm and release of the shoe. I also find that if I add a little more weight to the left foot by sliding my upper body slightly forward, my stride forward is much smoother. See the image below.

Left foot as a continuation of Line 1 to the stake

Swing, Stride and Release

My swing thought here is “QUIET”. From the time I swing up to my VAP and down past my right leg, I don’t want to move my head up or down or left or right. Perfectly still. The only thing moving is my arm. I lock in on the Secondary Stake. I take a small step forward, plant my left foot, still in perfect alignment with Line 1, keeping my right instep solidly connected to the approach and release the horseshoe toward the Secondary Stake. When I release the shoe my nose is directly over my left knee and instep of my left shoe. By using the Secondary Stake as my target, I am taking full advantage of the 5-3/4″ Effective Width. See Stride Position below. Note that the foot is still aligned with Line 1 to the stake. The feeling of this technique very much reminds me of my release of a duckpin ball thrown directly at the headpin, i.e., toe forward, bend in the knees, nose over the toe and smooth release of the ball at the foul line.

Stride forward with nose directly over instep

Higher on the Stake

Sometimes it is necessary to hit the stake a bit higher to clear a blocking shoe. This is easily done by rising up slightly prior to releasing the shoe. This effectively raises the hub of the arc and carries the shoe a bit higher with the same level of effort.

New Grip Option

I wanted to post this grip option without delay. I have always advocated an un-square arrival of the horseshoe to the stake. This includes, arriving un-flat, and slightly rotated left or right (open or closed), anything to disrupt the tendency to bounceback. I even designed a horseshoe that would turn clockwise or counter-clockwise slightly prior to arrival at the stake. I have been practicing lately with a new grip alignment that had an added benefit that was unexpected. Here it is — when I take my grip, and swing up to my Visual Alignment Point, I rotate the shoe so that the left shank is higher than the right. This does two things; 1) It forces the forearm and palm to face upward and swings the elbow in closer to the body and extends the arm more fully; 2) It allows the shoe to arrive with the right shank down and eliminates a flat arrival. It is important to keep this grip and arm alignment throughout the swing down, up and release. It also gives me a firmer grip on the shoe. Give it a try.

Shoe rotated rightward

Continue to Part 36 for a description of how to use a pitch by standing at the foul line and helpful Exercises.

E-mail me if you have questions.

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