The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 48

Drop Angle

The information that appears in this part has been discussed before, but, scattered throughout various parts. I am presenting the consolidation of the information in one place due to it’s importance in your enjoyment of horseshoe pitching. Nothing can be more frustrating than beating your opponent with ringers and losing because of lost single points. So, I’m cautioning you now, if you pitch against a turn pitcher and you’re a flip pitcher and you are of equal ringer averages, you will lose points to the turn pitcher, unless you pay attention to Drop Angle.

It is my opinion that, Drop Angle is the most important aspect of horseshoe pitching. Unfortunately, it’s the aspect most ignored. However, it will determine whether you are a successful horseshoe pitcher or not. Why? You will tend to develop bad habits that will be difficult to correct later. Advice to the new pitcher — work on Drop Angle first. Advice to the experienced pitcher — work to improve it.

Drop Angle can determine if you receive a point for closest to the stake, how softly the horseshoe arrives, whether your shoe is rejected at the stake, and how the pit material effects results. If you are a flip pitcher, the Drop Angle is even more important to save those all important single points. If you are a beginning horseshoe pitcher, this aspect of pitching should be the aspect of most importance, whether you’re flipping or turning.

It is my goal in this part to convince you that, proper Drop Angle, is the key to success whether flipping or turning. Once you have perfected your Drop Angle, you can make the necessary grip adjustments to have the shoe arrive open either as flipped or turned.

If you start out as a flipper and throw the shoe low and hard you will forever have problems with perfectly thrown ringers that are rejected and bounce back. If pitching in sand, you will constantly face shoes that slide all the way to the backstop.

What is Meant by Drop Angle?

It is the angle of arrival of a falling object during the last few feet of travel and is relative to the horizontal plane. If you Drop a horseshoe or any other object onto a horizontal surface, the Drop Angle would be 90 degrees. If you were to toss the horseshoe or object onto a horizontal surface, the Drop Angle would be less than 90 degrees. Keep in mind that the lower the angle of arrival, the more the horseshoe or object would want to slide, very little in clay and much more in sand/dirt.

Most beginning horseshoe pitchers will begin pitching in sand or dirt or even gravel. It is easy to develop the bad habit of sliding horseshoes in to the stake, pitching the horseshoe very low and with excessive speed. All bad habits and difficult to correct. You only need to pitch in your first NHPA sanctioned tournament with clay as pit material, to realize that your technique won’t work if you’ve not paid attention to Drop Angle. It is better to start out properly and develop a style that can be used in any pit material. That is why Drop Angle is so important.

The graph and banner at the top of this part, shows the flight of a horseshoe from release to landing. The plot points define the location of the center of gravity of the horseshoe. It represents a single example of a horseshoe released 25.5 feet from the stake and 3 feet off the ground and reaching a highpoint at 6.75 feet. The gaps between points represents the travel of the horseshoe every 1/100 of a second. Note that the gap is very close together as the horseshoe slows down as it reaches the top of it’s flight. Also note that as the horseshoe begins to Drop toward the stake, the gap widens as the horseshoe increases it’s speed as it drops.

Proper Drop Angle Benefits

Points — If you are pitching in a match where points are recorded, it is important to use a pitching technique that gives you the best opportunity to accumulate those single points. Keep in mind that a single point can determine a win or loss. Proper Drop Angle is the key. To secure a single point you must first keep your horseshoe in the scoring circle. See below. The scoring circle is a circle 13″ in diameter around the stake that is within the 6″ limit of a point. Any horseshoe touching or within the scoring circle is a potential point. The fact is, a horseshoe pitcher using the turn style of pitching will most often be within the scoring circle on every horseshoe pitched. For the flip pitcher, proper Drop Angle will determine if your horseshoe has the best chance of remaining in the scoring circle.

Consider this — If you are a 50% ringer average pitcher, that means half of your horseshoes thrown are ringers…what about the other 50% that weren’t? What if you pitched a 50 shoe match and threw 25 ringers, how many of the remaining 25 shoes were winning points? If you decide you want to be a flip pitcher, you better spend equal time working on single points as you do on ringers.

13 Inch Scoring Circle

13 Inch Scoring Circle

Soft Landing — A horseshoe that comes in from the proper height and Drop Angle tends to arrive more softly at the stake. When a shoe arrives at the stake properly it actually has a different sound when it lands. It is very odd, but, you’ll recognize the difference in sound immediately. I can only assume it is the sound of the shoe sliding down the stake at impact as opposed to the sound of a lower arriving shoe and more direct impact. You will experience the added benefit of fewer rejections or bounce back when the shoe arrives.

Scoring Points — As previously mentioned. A shoe that arrives from the proper Drop Angle has the best chance of staying in the scoring circle and picking up points.

30 to 45 Degrees

The proper Drop Angle is a shoe arriving between 30 and 45 degrees. The calculation is based on a location no higher than 6″ on the stake. The two images below represent the value of shoes arriving at a minimum of 30 degrees and a maximum of 45 degrees. It is a fact that a shoe thrown at a 45 degree launch angle will carry the farthest with the least amount of effort. If you want to prove this fact, test it with your garden hose next time you’re watering. The force of the water in the hose will not change, but, the maximum distance the water will travel is when the hose is aimed up at a 45 degree angle. 45 degrees is the maximum. If you increase the launch angle the water will fall shorter than at a 45 degree launch angle. IT is accepted that no matter what you throw, it will travel it’s maximum distance if launched at 45 degrees.

NOTE: — The previous paragraph provides a clue to situations where you or your opponent has left a horseshoe braced against the front of the stake. One way to clear that horseshoe is to increase your launch angle by simply releasing the shoe just a little later in your release. You don’t have to increase your effort to carry the shoe a bit further, just increase your launch angle by releasing the shoe later. It is a fact that you can throw your shoe further by applying the same effort as normal, but, releasing later. The tendency is to throw the shoe harder to carry it further. This is not necessary, simply releasing a little later will accomplish the same results without increasing your effort, or, raise the hub (shoulder) of your swing to do the same thing.

The two images below represent the value of shoes arriving with a Drop Angle of 30 degrees and 45 degrees. To see larger images of each, select the image and double click. The image immediately below shows the horseshoe arriving at a Drop Angle of 30 degrees and the horseshoe remaining within the scoring circle if arriving 6″ up the stake.


The image below represents the Drop Angle of 45 degrees. Compared to the 30 Degree Drop image, the horseshoe lands closer to the stake and can hit the stake much higher and still remain in the scoring circle.


Practice Aids

Below are two excellent teaching aids that will help develop the proper Drop Angle while practicing. The first is a 15″ used tire that can be placed around the stake. The goal is to drop the shoe into the tire without hitting the sidewall as it arrives. I also removed the sidewall on the bottom of the tire to keep from collecting water and cut a notch large enough to see the base of the stake from the approach.

15" Used Tire

15″ Used Tire

Also below is an image of a tamper which has a 8″x8″ base and is 44″ high. Positioning the tamper as indicated, relative to the stake is an excellent aid to be placed on your Line of Flight at the distance indicated to practice direction and Drop Angle control. You can keep the tire in the pit as an additional aid.

Tamper Positioning for 30 and 45 Degree Drop Angle

Tamper Positioning for 30 and 45 Degree Drop Angle

Using either or both of these aids will help get the feel for developing the proper Drop Angle to salvage those all important single points, promote a soft landing and reduce those perfect ringers that bounce back off the stake.

I hope that I have convinced you that Drop Angle is an important part of a successful match when pitching horseshoes. Single points can easily cost you a tournament. Unless you are planning on pitching exclusively in HP Pro Tour events where ringers only count, you will need to get your share of single points in cancellation or count all tournaments. Good Luck

E-mail me if you have questions.

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