A Different Way — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from Class A and lower pitchers. “I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong.” My question, “What are you doing right?” You simply cannot determine what to correct unless you can rule out what you’ve done correctly. Phase 1 will introduce a different way to reduce the confusion. By the time you are finished with all 3 Phases, you will know what caused your shoe to miss left or right. The Geometry described in all 3 phases will keep your horseshoe heading directly at the stake from beginning to end.
If you are not precise in your setup and delivery, you will never be able to determine what is causing a directional problem. There are basically 4 aspects of horseshoe pitching; direction, distance, shoe orientation, and of equal importance, drop angle. We will be dealing specifically with direction in the 3 Phases, although your distance and drop angle will also be helped.
If you were to throw your horseshoe left of the stake, would you know if the problem was your stride, arm swing, shoulder rotation, head movement, etc. Each aspect of the 3 phases will allow you to know precisely which one was the culprit.
The best example of precise setup is the professional bowler. The bowler has the added challenge of changing conditions. Each bowler carefully establishes their stance, alignment, grip and target. Most professional bowlers will setup a bit differently on the left and right side approaches. We will be doing the same. However, for the sake of the first 3 Phases, we will deal with the left side approach first. Bowlers are aided by markers on the approach and foul line and further out on the lane. There are also markers available for the horseshoe pitcher, not as apparent, but, they are there. Phase 1 will describe where they are and how to use them. Below is an image of Phase 1 which we’ll cover in great detail.
Phase 1 deals with the precise setup on the approach to include, location, stance, body alignment, weight shift and Line of Flight (LOF). In Phase 1, we will take advantage of the fixed locations of the stake or imaginary stake, the foul line and edges of the approach.
The NHPA has established maximum and minimum specifications for the Pitcher’s Box, Pit Size and Pitching Platforms. The pitcher’s box is fixed at 6 feet by 6 feet. Thus, the width of the pit and approach must equal 6 feet. However, the width of the pit varies between 31″ to 36″. Therefore, the width of the approach varies between 18″ to 20-1/2″. Most NHPA sanctioned tournament sites use pits that are 3′ x 6′ and approaches that are 18″. That is what I will use for each of the three Phases. NOTE: Refer to Part 44 (underway) to deal with setup and delivery if the pit is not 3′ wide or you prefer a different approach location. The stake is placed 3 feet behind the foul line. For 30 foot pitchers there is generally an imaginary stake marker on the approach. It will be located 3 feet behind the 27 foot foul line. 40 foot pitchers have the actual stake located 3 feet behind the 37 foot foul line.
Images for Phases 1, 2 & 3 are all scaled precisely to represent the actual foot positions and alignment, head locations, shoulder locations and alignment, including all lines leaving the pit. The dark area on each of the images represents the front 48″ of the approach, the top of which is the foul line. The imaginary 30 foot stake is shown 36″ behind the foul line and is represented by a horizontal line across the approach. The grid used represents 1 foot squares. There will be several lines leaving the approach area. Each will be fully explained in detail when describing each applicable Phase.
Establishing the Line of Flight (LOF) — Item #3 This is done only once and becomes permanent. In the image above item #3 pertains to the establishment of the Line of Flight. We will also cover item #3 a bit more below. You will need a cord long enough (up to 50 feet) to reach from the stake to behind the approach. If you’re working on a 30 foot approach, you may need to carry the cord behind the 40 foot approach. You will also need two anchors, i.e., large nails, tent anchor, etc. to hold the cord in place.
1. Place a mark next to the right edge of the approach 39″ from the foul line and 3-1/2″ to the right. In the image above it’s the location below the center of the horseshoe shown. Item #3 is also the Center of Gravity of the horseshoe.
2. Place one end of the cord around the stake and pull it over the mark made below the horseshoe and terminate the other end at least 2 feet behind the approach.
3. If you can, place an anchor in front of the pit where the cord on the stake passes in front of the pit. Move the cord from the stake to the anchor. Pull the cord taut behind the approach. If you can’t move the anchor front of the pit, move it just inside of the pit.
You have now established the Line of Flight (LOF) from the stake to the right edge of the approach and below the Center of Gravity of the horseshoe. Note that the left edge of the horseshoe is on the right edge of the approach.
Item #1 — Stance.
Note the horizontal line (HZ) 36″ below the foul line. This line is directly opposite the stake or imaginary stake. Begin by taking a horseshoe in hand. Place your Right Foot on the approach rotated clockwise about 40 degrees with the front of your foot at the corner of the Horizontal Line and the right edge of the approach. Place your left foot comfortably to the left of the right foot with the heel slightly behind the horizontal line and pointed at the right corner of the approach.
Item #2 — Alignment.
Comment added on January 15th — The easiest way to align your shoulders properly is as follows — Take your stance on the approach. Next, raise both arms up to parallel and bring them together palms facing and lock your arms against your chest. Rotate your shoulders until your right arm is directly over the Line of Flight. Your shoulders are now aligned properly. Place your left hand over your left knee. This alignment will place your shoulders at a 27 degree angle to the right (Item #2). The diagonal line represents your shoulder alignment. The small circles indicate the location of your shoulders and the large circle the location of your head.
Place the horseshoe against your right leg as shown in the image and shift the majority of your weight to the right foot. This will move the horseshoe 3″ to the right and should place the left shank directly above the edge of the right approach and your right shoulder over the LOF.
Item #3 — Line of Flight (LOF).
The Line of Flight is the most important aspect of this process. All references to setup and alignment feed off of the LOF. The Center of Gravity (#3) of the horseshoe should always be directly over the Line of Flight cord. In addition the delivered horseshoe should follow this LOF directly to the stake. Phases 2 and 3 will reinforce this concept.
Phase 1 is complete. We have accomplished the following.
The image above shows how the pitcher uses the stance (#1), alignment (#2) and Line of Flight (#3) as the initial setup on the approach. The line shown as the Line of Flight begins at the right side of the approach and terminates in line with the distant stake.
Part 42 to cover Phase 2 is underway. Below is an image of the consolidation of all 3 phases not labeled. Phase 2 will discuss the Visual Alignment Point and Phase 3 will discuss the stride forward.