The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 43

The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 3

Setup and Address — A Review

At this point you have previously established your setup (Phase 1) and determined your Visual Alignment Point (Phase 2). Phase 3 begins with the back swing from the address position using the VAP.

To review, we have started with the horseshoe resting on our right leg with the Center of Gravity directly over the Line of Flight, 3-1/2″ to the right of the right edge of the approach, and, the left shank directly above the right edge of the approach. From this position, we swing the horseshoe up the address position with the left shank aligned with our Visual Alignment Point. So far, you have only moved your fully extended arm and horseshoe to the VAP. Nothing else has moved. As you start the horseshoe downward with the fully extended arm, your goal will be to pass the horseshoe as close to your right leg as possible. This continues to maintain your marriage to the Line of Flight. To this point you have only moved your fully extended arm. In other words, you have not moved anything except your arm from your right leg to your VAP back as close as possible to your right leg to your back swing stop point. The forward delivery now begins.

The Delivery

The delivery, Phase 3, begins when your back swing reaches it’s stop point.

As a reminder — your left hand is firmly planted on your left leg above the knee and will remain there throughout the stride forward. Your left foot is pointing directly at the right corner of the approach. Your upper body is still rotated clockwise at 27 degrees. Your right foot is still planted at the right edge of the approach adjacent to the imaginary stake.

Phase 3 Delivery

Phase 3 Delivery

Your arm swing starts forward simultaneously as your left leg begins it’s stride forward towards the right corner of the approach, and your right leg slides forward about 12″, items #1. Your head moves in a direct line at the stake, indicated by the Magenta line on the image above, item #3. Do not dip your body downward. Your body will automatically begin to rotate under your head as your left leg moves forward controlled by your left hand on your leg and should finish at an angle of 40 degrees, items #2. This rotation will insure that your right shoulder remains on the Line of Flight. Your timing should allow your left foot to plant slightly before you release the horseshoe.

Below is an image that shows the termination points of each of the lines. The Black line (LOF) and Magenta line (Visual Stride Direction) terminate at the stake, while the Blue line (VAP) terminates at a point to the right of the stake shown with a pipe ~32″ to the right of the stake at the adjacent approach. NOTE: The termination point of the VAP is a personal one, based on the pitchers height, angle established by the weight shift rightward and/or angle of the head.

Termination points of lines

Termination points of lines

If all has been done correctly, your pendulum swing will continue on a direct line to the stake. CAUTION: If you allow your left hand to leave your left leg/thigh, your shoulders will not rotate around clockwise correctly, by the 13 degrees they need to, in order to keep your right shoulder over the Line of Flight. Typically, you will miss to the left of the stake. In addition, if your left foot does not reach the right corner of the approach, this same rotation may not take place. Again, you’ll miss to the left.

All aspects of this setup and delivery will provide the feedback necessary to determine why you miss. They are all easily monitored. You will miss left if —

  • Your left hand does not maintain contact with your left leg.
  • Your left foot does not stride properly to the right corner of the approach.
  • Your arm swing took your horseshoe off the Line of Flight.

    You will miss right if —

  • You have over rotated your shoulders.
  • Your right arm was not fully extended and straightened prior to release.

    Using the Plumb — As you practice this rotation of your body from the shoulders down, you might want to test your alignment with the plumb. Simply go through the same process of attaching the string and plumb as in Phase 2. As you stride forward and swing your arm up toward the stake, complete your stride and stop somewhere on your upswing and make sure the plumb is still directly over the Line of Flight. See image below.

    Maintaining the Line of Flight

    Maintaining the Line of Flight

    This completes the 3 phases of the setup, alignment and delivery. The geometry required to keep your shoulder moving down the Line of Flight, the geometry necessary to keep your head moving directly at the stake during the delivery and the geometry necessary to align your eyes to a fixed point over the Line of Flight is complete.

    The stride forward and delivery

    The stride forward and delivery

    In the image above the pitcher has reached the end of his forward stride and delivery. His left toe is at the right corner of the approach and his nose continues to move directly at the distant stake (magenta line) and the Center of Gravity of the horseshoe is still over the Line of Flight. The pitcher started his alignment with his shoulders rotated 27 degrees clockwise and finished with his should rotated 40 degrees clockwise. His shoulders have rotated under his head while his head continues a straight line at the stake. This 13 degree rotation accomplished by the stride insures that the right shoulder continues to follow the LOF. You will note that the Line of Flight and Visual Stride Direction are slightly different. They are not parallel. They do converge at the stake, but, the difference is due to the distance between the center of the head and the pitching shoulder.

    TROUBLESHOOTING — If you miss, why? Did you miss left or right? What did you do right? Assuming that your left hand remained on your left leg and you passed the shoe close to your right leg ticking the pant leg as it passed and your left foot is at the corner of the approach and your head moved directly at the stake — you swung off the Line of Flight somewhere during your backswing or forward swing. If your hand comes off of your thigh during your forward swing or your stride took you to the left, you’ll miss left. If your shoe goes to the right you’ve taken the shoe inside of the Line of Flight or you have swung your arm with a bend at the elbow which when straightened during the forward swing will cause the shoe to go right. It is important to keep your arm fully extended, without tension. However, if you allow it to get too soft, Centrifugal Force will straighten your arm and throw the shoe to the right.

    Good Luck to anyone trying this approach. The geometry described in the 3 Phases will define the LOF, VAP, and the Visual Stride forward. Any change in stance, alignment or delivery will defeat the angles relative to this method. You can move left on the left approach or pitch from the right approach as long as you adjust the angles relative to your stance on either side.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the email address below. Once you are confident in the delivery direction you can then concentrate on distance, an open shoe and drop angle.

    40 Foot Pitchers — All of the geometry that applies here to the 30 foot pitcher also applies to the 40 foot pitcher, with very slight differences. The angle away from the approach is slightly less.

    Continue to Part 44 for a description of The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Final Thoughts

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

  • The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 42

    The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 2

    The Visual Alignment Point (VAP)

    The establishment of the Visual Alignment Point is an absolutely necessary part of this method. It insures that your arm swing follows the Line of Flight directly at the stake. The images below explain how to establish this VAP and why it’s so important. As important as it is, it’s established one time and used on every swing and release at the stake until you decide to change it.

    Approach Phase 2 -- VAP

    Approach Phase 2 — VAP

    The image above is a representation of Phase 2. Phase 2 begins with the assumption that you are using the pendulum swing indicated by #1 in the image above. This means that your pitching arm is fully extended, in a relaxed state throughout the entire setup and swing. There should be no break at the elbow at anytime. When the shoe is resting on your right leg in Phase 1, it should be fully extended and remains fully extended as it raises up to eye height.

    Attaching a Plumb — To establish your VAP you will need to temporarily attach a plumb to your horseshoe. The plumb is a string about 6 feet long with a weight attached to one end. This weight can be a sinker, clock weight, vise grip pliers, large washer, etc. The other end of the string needs to be attached to the center of the thumb calk area of the shoe.

    Address Position — From the extended arm against the right leg in Phase 1, the arm is swung up to eye height with the center of gravity, determined by the plumb, directly over the Line of Flight. The image below shows what this looks like.

    Determining the VAP — With the horseshoe raised to eye height and the plumb directly over the Line of Flight, use the left edge of the hook calk as a sight and find a target at the distant pit area. The #2 on the blue line in the image above represents sighting from your head through the left edge of the horseshoe (#2).

    The continuation of the blue line determines that my VAP is directly above the right corner of the backboard behind the distant pit. That is a point 18″ to the right of the distant stake. Your location may vary, but, it should be within the 15″ to 36″ right of the distant stake. Until you change your address, you will always swing up to eye height* as your address position and place the left corner of your horseshoe aligned to the VAP. This insures that at that very moment, your horseshoe is still centered over the Line of Flight (LOF) approximately 24″ downrange.

    From now on, you will use your VAP as the target for your eye height address position. *NOTE: You may decide to use a different address position, height wise, perhaps a little lower than eye height. Make sure you adjust your VAP for the lower address position. However, pick a height that provides a VAP that is common to every pit setup. We are not quite finished with the plumb and we’ll use it again in Phase 3.

    Approach Phase 2 -- 3D VAP

    Approach Phase 2 — 3D VAP

    Visual Stride Direction — The Magenta colored line #3 in the top image defines the Visual Stride Direction. This is the line that your head follows as you stride forward and will be more fully explained in Phase 3. Phase 3 also begins with the beginning of the back swing from the VAP.

    Establishing the Visual Alignment Point

    Establishing the Visual Alignment Point

    The image above represents the pitcher establishing the Visual Alignment Point (VAP). In this case it’s from the right eye as the right eye is dominant for this pitcher. Here the pitcher swings up to eye level with the Center of Gravity of the horseshoe directly over the Line of Flight cord (black line). He uses the left corner of the horseshoe to find a point in the distance to be used as his Visual Alignment Point (blue line). This VAP is established just one time from this stance. It will be used on every address position until he changes his stance or alignment. His head is aligned with the distant stake shown from the pitcher’s nose (magenta line). From this position, the pitcher is ready to begin his downswing. The pitchers stance does not change until the shoe passes as close as possible to he right leg and continues to his Backswing Stop Point (BSP). Passing the shoe as close to the leg as possible re-establishes the starting point from Phase 1 with the shoe against the leg. As soon as the BSP is reached the forward swing begins.

    Continue to Part 43 for a description of The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 3 Delivery

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

    The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 41

    The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 1

    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.

    The Importance of Precision

    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.

    NHPA Approach Specifications

    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.

    Phase Images

    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.


    The Three Steps of Phase 1

    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.

  • Taken a stance that is relative to the right edge and stake and is repeatable (constant)
  • Automatically rotated the shoulders clockwise by 27 degrees (constant)
  • Placed our left hand over our left knee and our right hand holding the shoe against our right leg and directly over the LOF (both constants)
  • The left foot is pointing directly at our stride forward location (constant).

    Utilizing the 3 Steps of Phase 1

    Utilizing the 3 Steps of Phase 1

    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.

    All 3 Phases Consolidated

    All 3 Phases Consolidated

    Continue to Part 42 for a description of The Geometry of Precise Setup and Delivery — Phase 2 VAP

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

  • The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 40

    2012 — A Tournament Review

    2012 had it’s share of ups and downs. The Pro Tour announced that their final tournament was to be held in York, Pennsylvania on November 2nd thru 4th. That would be my target for the year. I joined the HP Pro Tour for another year, ultimately paid my entry fee and cleared my calendar. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy had other plans, so, I had to pull out at the last minute to help out a friend in Delaware.

    Overall, I had a great year. First place in the Maryland State Doubles, second place in the Maryland State Singles and first place in the Maryland State Senior Olympics for my age group. A few tournament wins in Baltimore and Frederick and ended my weekly Post 7 doubles league with a second place and 66 point average. With the exception of the weekly league, I was able to pitch a prototype pair of Tridents with great success.

    2012 — A Production Review

    2012 was extremely frustrating for production and 3D printing. My 3D printing company had an equipment failure on their ZCorp printer and was unable to fix the problem. I sent out RFQs to a multitude of companies with a variety of printers, most of them printing in ABS plastic. I had been paying $85 for printing my singles and splits. I actually received quotes for over $1,000 for a single horseshoe printed in FDM ABS M30 plastic. I decided to test the output from a $2,000 desktop printer and was pleasantly surprised with the results. Unfortunately, the MakerBot printing platform forced me to cut the horseshoe into 4 pieces, so, I just requested 1/4th printed for a quality test for $25.00. See photos below. I had also had a single printed in FDM ABS M30 plastic from a California company for $165.00. So far, the layer thicknesses, i.e., the thickness of each slice from FDM plastic is too prominent. It requires too much filling and sanding to end up with a nice smooth finish for prototype casting. My original 3D printing company is now seeking to replace their ZCorp printer with another style printer. In the meantime, I will be taking a class at Catonsville Community College which will give me access to a UPrint 3D printer and ShopBot CNC.

    Double click any photo to see an enlarged view.

    Thumb Calk from MakerBot

    Frustration continued after the foundry notified me that they would not be casting ductile iron until February 2013. Although I had paid the NHPA licensing fee in June for the 2012 pitching season, I was the only one pitching the Trident, using an original pair of prototypes. I am hopeful that the foundry will gear up for ductile iron casting before then. I continue to submit RFQs for prototype casting of my singles and splits without much success. Unfortunately, there are very few small foundries left in the U.S., leaving only the larger firms not interested in casting 1 to 3 horseshoes.

    The Patriot is Coming

    If the foundry can handle it, I will be going into production for 2013 with the “Patriot.” I am dedicating the Patriot to the Vietnam Veteran. I had discussed the Patriot before, but, was finally able to get a 3D printed version from a small firm in California. I was also able to receive 4 copies from the foundry which I am presently testing. The thumb calk design works exactly as I had hoped. By creating the thumb calk as an arc, it now permits the pitcher to slide the thumb around to the left or right to alter the arrival of the horseshoe at the stake. The thumb placed on the left side of the thumb calk results in a shoe that arrives with the right shank first when flipped. Placing the thumb on the right side of the thumb calk causes the shoe to left shank to arrive first. Either way, it causes the shoe to arrive un-square and reducing the problem of bounceback. (see photo below)

    Arc shaped thumb calk

    Below is an image of the Patriot showing “POW” engraved on the left shank. “MIA” on the right shank. (see Patriot below)

    Patriot with POW and MIA on shank.

    Below is an image of one shank on the bottom of the horseshoe, opposite the thumb calk side with raised lettering in reverse so that the text will show “POW” and “MIA” in the clay when the shoe arrives thumb caulk down. (see photo below)

    POW raised and reversed

    NOTE: Added August 3rd, 2016 This rendition of the Patriot was rejected after prototype casting and testing. It was determined that the area of bend was too narrow and susceptible to breakage. The Eagle shown below ultimately became the Patriot.

    The Eagle is Coming

    The NHPA had previously approved the Eagle for production, but, I wasn’t sure about it, so, I went with the Trident. I’ve had so many requests for the Eagle, that I’ve decided to add a second shoe to the production schedule for 2013. Seems that everyone who has tried the Eagle wants to buy a pair. The Eagle is a flip or turn shoe. The ringer break is just enough to direct the shoe to the left or right when hitting the stake. My league night partner is a reverse flipper and loves this horseshoe. (see Eagle below)

    The Eagle (NHPA approved)

    Continue to Part 41 for a description of The Geometry of Perfect Setup and Delivery — Phase 1

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

    The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 39

    Pitching From 30 Feet

    I direct this part to the pitchers who are considering moving up to 30 feet. Perhaps you’re 69 and will reach your 70th birthday in the pitching year? Or, an injury of some kind is forcing your decision? There are a number of issues that should be considered before you decide to register as an Elder for the pitching season. I would like to cover a few of these issues that might sway your decision. I will not spend any time writing about the issue of 40 foot pitchers against 30 foot pitchers. However, you need to know that there are some pitching venues that do not permit 30 foot pitchers, male or female.

    The Approach

    The NHPA allows a 30 foot pitcher to start his approach anywhere from the back of the 40 foot approach to the 30 foot foul line at 27 feet.

    Turn versus Flip

    If you are a traditional turn pitcher, more than likely, you will not be able to turn from the 30 foot platform. Most 30 foot turners stand just in front of the 40 foot foul line. It’s a matter of needing to speed up the rotation of a turning shoe due to the shorter distance. The closer to the 27 foot foul line the faster the rotation needs to be. 3/4 turners can manage the change, while 1-1/4 and 1-3/4 turners have a more difficult time dealing with the faster arm rotation. Most flippers have just the opposite problem, i.e., slowing down the flip rotation. I felt it was a distinct advantage to be able to move as close to the stake as I could. You can tell by my early parts that I experimented with a number of flips and turns. It was not until I reduced the number of bouncebacks by altering my grip or selection of horseshoes, that I settled on the single flip.

    Point Scoring and Pit Material

    Two things that should be considered. In general the turning shoe will generate more single points than the flipping shoe. The pit material should also be an important consideration. Not all, but most NHPA pits use clay as pit material. Non-NHPA sites use sand or combinations of sand and dirt. Flippers will lose more points when non-clay is used as the flipped shoe slides beyond the stake. This also applies if you don’t keep the clay soft and pliable. This factor can be reduced if you drop the shoe in from at least 30 degrees in clay or non-clay. During hot, sunny days, clay can dry out very quickly and should be tended to after each match. By tradition, each competitor is responsible for raking the sand or turning the clay in one pit, before each match. Try to keep the material around the stake as flat as possible.

    Be Flexible

    If you pitch primarily at NHPA sanctioned venues, you will have a stationary platform to pitch from, with a designated foul line and in some cases, a marker indicating the position of the 30 foot stake. However, if you pitch in leagues or tournaments held at American Legions, VFWs, Elks, Moose, et al, you will frequently have to pitch from grass, dirt, roots, holes, etc. Sometimes there will not be a foul line indicator of any kind. Simply make the best of it. However, it is important to learn how to pitch from either side or even standing at the foul line. If you use the flip or flip-turn, with a little practice, you will be able to compete by just standing at the foul line without a stride.

    Below is typical of what you might find at a non-sanctioned event. The photo shows a board approximately 10 feet in front of the 40 foot pit, unfortunately, it only spans the width of the pit and does not include the perceived left or right approach. It will be up to you to find your setup position. As a general rule, three steps from the 40 foot foul line should get you somewhere close to your 30 foot position. Or, you can take your normal stance on the 40 foot platform and stride forward 3 normal steps and one long step, or, stand at the 30 foot foul line and take one long step into the 30 foot approach. If you find your normal stance puts you on a root, hole, mud, etc., consider moving to the other approach.

    Remember — You can change your stance or approach at any time as long as you throw both shoes from the same approach. There are some occasions where I have to pitch from the left approach in one direction and the right approach in the other. Take the time to practice to find your best setup and approach.

    30 foot foul line spanning the width of the pit. Does not extend in front of each approach.

    The approach in the image above is actually to the left of the tape. Where the tape meets the board is the actual location of the right corner of the left approach. You might notice that the location of the board is a little short of 10 feet in front of the 40 foot foul line.

    Be Considerate

    If you happen to be pitching with 30 and 40 foot pitchers, be considerate. Do not step in front of someone to your left or right who is a 40 foot pitcher and is ready to pitch. Wait until both shoes are thrown before you step to the 30 foot approach. Your fellow competitors will appreciate your thoughtfulness. The same applies to throwing your shadow into their line of sight.

    Shoe Change

    One ramification of the move to 30 feet is the possibility of a shoe change. You may have to switch from a turn shoe to a flip shoe. If you decide to go to a flip from a turn, give yourself a bit of time to develop the confidence in your new style of pitching.

    The Patriot is Coming

    The Patriot is a member of my Tribute Series and is dedicated to the Vietnam Veteran. I have included on each shank POW or MIA. The Patriot below is a remake of one previously designed. However, I was not happy with it and needed to modify the design. I wanted to build in as many features as I could. Rather than use my 3D software to design and then print a 3D version for evaluation, I would create a working model from scratch from beechwood. This would allow me to get hands on before I produced the 3D version.

    My goal was to design a shoe that had no location on the back of the shoe that would produce a bounceback. Further, I wanted to create the back end so that I had a place for all fingers. I was specifically targeting the flip pitcher, but, use the hook calks that would allow the turner to turn with thumb calk up or down with the Hilfling hooks, i.e., identical on both sides. I wanted to move the center of gravity closer to the hook calks for easier flip rotation. The thumb calk has been specifically designed to allow the flipper a flat thumb position even if the thumb is rotated slightly left or right of center. This was accomplished by shaping the thumb calk as an arc. Finally, the entire back end of the shoe will force the shoe to flop down towards the stake no matter where it hits the back end.

    A mockup of the top portion of the shoe was created to verify that all required features would be accommodated.

    Final mockup of Patriot in beechwood

    Verifying finger positions on Patriot

    Below is a series of images of the Patriot with all features described above. Ready for 3D printing.

    Patriot topside with unique thumb calk and inner perimeter

    Patriot with symmetrical hook calks

    Patriot Top View Left

    Patriot Top View Right

    Patriot Bottom View

    I had to find a 3D printing replacement for my SLA rendering. I was able to find a 3D printer commonly referred to as FDM printing in ABS M30 plastic. It is a much stronger material and will allow multiple castings from the foundry without worrying about breakage. It is a bit more expensive, but, may allow the foundry to create multiple casting on demand. A photo of the Patriot in ABS plastic is shown below. The ABS plastic version is now going through the ductile iron casting process for 1 pair for testing and a single to be sent to the NHPA for specification approval.

    Patriot printed in ABS M30 plastic

    Continue to Part 40 for a description of trials and tribulations of 2012 and the announcement of the production of the Patriot and Eagle.

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

    The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 38

    2012 Maryland State Doubles

    Last Saturday arrived as a beautiful day in Maryland, warm, a bit muggy and sunny. A perfect day for the Maryland State Doubles Championship in Essex, Maryland. I awoke early as usual before a tournament. Pitching was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. An easy ride to Essex and found the pits in excellent shape, grass cut and crew busy removing the overnight rain from each pit. Had great practice session, knees felt great and felt I was ready to go. At 10:00 a.m., a few moments of silence for our troops and pledge to the flag and we settled in to pitch.

    Just before we started, I checked all of the clipboards for emergency instructions, hoping of course, they would not be needed. My partner is the best 30 foot Elder pitcher in Maryland and we started our first match. I felt great, threw 22 ringers of 30 shoes for a 73.33% ringer average, for our first win. Second game, another win, threw 19 of 30 for a 63.3% average. It looked like a good day. Little did I know what was about to unfold.

    Emergency! Pit 11

    Shortly after beginning game 3, talk began to circulate about an Elder pitcher with a possible problem on Pit 11. The pitcher had been experiencing dry lips and mouth and was beginning to develop a stomach ache. I decided to monitor the situation and reviewed my emergency information and what I should do, since I’m the guy with CPR certification. By the end of the third game the pitcher was feeling nauseated and headed to the restroom. He made it just in time before losing his breakfast. He returned looking pale, but, insisted on continuing his match. A female pitcher gave him a cold compress and he continued pitching. One of the pitchers during the 5th match, said that he was looking pale and ought to sit down, which he did. He sat for a couple of minutes and returned. It was obvious that the guy was badly dehydrated, a potentially dangerous condition. He had tried to replace his fluid with a quart of Gatorade, a couple of Cokes to settle his stomach and bottles of water. Nothing seemed to work. Lips still dry and mouth full of cotton. This guy was not using his head, but, it was for the Maryland Doubles Championship. He couldn’t pull out on his partner. Each game a little worse than the previous one, but, he finished the tournament with a 50% ringer average and headed to his truck to cool off. He and his partner had won 1st Place, Elders Class. The tournament director gave him his trophy and he left.

    Well, the guy with all of these problems was me! What in the world had happened? A meal the night before had not agreed with me. I gulped down a little antacid and was good as new, so I thought. A fretful night, up and down several times. Nerves, I thought. Well, it caught up with me the next day and I’m still feeling the after effects 4 days later.

    What, if anything, did I learn from this experience? Tell someone you’re having a problem. Don’t make a big deal of it, just to make sure someone knows you may be having a concern. You might want to mention something to the tournament director. If you’re one of the league officers, you might want to make sure there are emergency instructions handy and someone knows the actual address of the facility. Don’t be foolish. If you drop on the court without anyone having a clue about a potential problem they won’t know what to tell the EMT’s when they arrive. At least I was smart about that. It was a rough ride home and kept my eyes for convenient pull off spot. Thankfully, not needed, but a rough night to come. I’m on the mend and looking forward to the Maryland State Singles and the Maryland Senior Olympics in September.

    Added June 19th, 2016. With the high temperatures being reported in the mid west, I thought it was the best time to add to Part 38 “Emergency Pit 11”. If you’ve read this part, you will know that the emergency was mine. What I have discovered recently is that my situation was a life threatening one. I should have called 911 immediately. Why? What I didn’t mention at the time was that I threw up what appeared to me as coffee grounds. They were not coffee grounds, but, “blood clots”, a sure sign of heat stroke. So, don’t make the same stupid mistake that I made. If you ever see coffee grounds, call 911 immediately. It may save your life. I was lucky.

    Continue to Part 39 for a discussion of what to expect when pitching from 30 feet.

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

    The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 37

    Accurate Alignment

    My target is 27 feet away and I have 4 degrees to work with. How can I possibly hope to hit a 1 inch target that far away, consistently? I prepare properly! Watch a professional bowler set his feet on the approach, take his grip, align his body, start his swing and release the ball with their dialed up rotation and throw at their target. Absolutely nothing left to chance. However, he will need to deal with the oiling pattern applied on the lane and how it changes.

    The horseshoe pitcher has an advantage at any given NHPA sanctioned site. They don’t have to worry about changes in lane conditions. The NHPA provides some latitude in the shape and material of the pit, as well as the approach width. However, 40 feet from stake to stake, and a 37 and 27 foot foul line is required and the pits are level. In general, most NHPA sanctioned horseshoe pits are clay, some with sand, 3 feet wide and 6 feet long, stake angled properly, 15″ high and approaches 18 inches wide. The backstop is usually 36 inches wide and 12 inches high at the back of the pit. So, where possible, we’ll use these constants to our advantage.

    Practice Pit Setup

    Here are the constants we’ll work with from the left approach.

    1. Foul line on the approach you are standing on is 27 feet from the distant stake.

    2. Somehow mark the location of where the 30 foot stake would be located relative to the left approach. Some NHPA sanctioned sites will have a locator placed on the approach to show the 30 foot stake location. In the photos below I’ve placed a stake at the 30 foot location for reference purposes. The right edge of the left approach I am standing on is 18″ to the left of the 30 foot stake.

    3. The 30 foot stake adjacent to the left approach is 36″ behind the 27 foot foul line.

    4. Looking at the distant stake. The left edge of the distant approach to the right of the stake, is 18″ to the right.

    5. Looking at the distant stake. The right edge of the distant approach to the right of the stake, is 36″ to the right. This is important, as the far right edge of the distance approach has become my Visual Alignment Point, located 33 inches horizontally and at eye level vertically from the distant stake, when I swing the shoe up to eye level.

    This location is not arbitrary. The Visual Alignment Point (VAP) is automatically determined for me when I swing the shoe up to eye level while the center of gravity of the shoe is vertically directly over the Line of Flight cord. It is where the left shank of the shoe points. I determine this location while a plumb is directly over the LOF cord. This location is determined after you take your stance on the approach. I only had to do this one time. After that, it is my VAP constant and I swing up to this point for every shoe thrown. Previous parts of this blog show how to personally determine your VAP.

    6. The Line of Flight (LofF) cord stretches from the distant stake to a position 3-1/2″ to the right of the left approach adjacent to my right leg. So, when the left shank of the horseshoes is directly over the edge of the approach, the center of gravity of the horseshoe is directly over the Line of Flight cord.

    7. Place a piece of PVC pipe or old stake directly behind the primary stake or whatever you can find to make sure your head does not move to the left or right. As you stride forward make sure the relationship between the primary and secondary stake does not change. In other words, make sure your head moves directly at the primary stake during your stride forward.

    The photo below shows the location of the 30 foot stake relative to the right edge of the left approach 18″ to the right and 36″ from the foul line.

    Right edge 18″ from 30 foot stake

    The photo below shows the location of the 30 foot stake from the 27 foot foul line.

    Foul line 36″ from 30 foot stake

    Taking My Stance

    The photo below shows my stance relative to the right edge of the approach. My right foot is rotated approximately 35 degrees rightward and my left foot is rotated about 10 degrees and pointing directly at the right corner of the approach. From this position, I have already taken my grip, verified that the left shank of the shoe is aligned with the edge of the approach and the center of the shoe is directly over the LofF cord. I have also placed my left hand on the front of my left thigh (see below). Using this setup establishes my repeatable pitching posture. From this position I am ready to begin my swing upward to my Visual Alignment Point (VAP).

    Here is a tip I have found useful for aligning my body correctly. I pitch with a sports shirt that has a centered vertical line that I use to align my shoulders properly relative to my left foot and my VAP.

    Stance relative to the right edge

    Forward Swing

    From the stationary stance position, I swing my arm up to my Visual Align Point (VAP). I have covered the VAP in many previous parts, but, in a nutshell, it is the location of the left shank of the horseshoe when horizontal to the ground while the center of gravity of the horseshoe is still directly over the LofF cord. My personal VAP is at the right corner of the distant approach 36″ to the right of the stake, one of the constants mentioned above. I make sure that my right arm is fully extended without any break at the elbow.

    From the VAP, I smoothly swing back as close as possible past my right leg, trying to return the shoe to it’s original setup location and to my Backswing Stop Point (BSP). I’ve also covered the BSP in previous parts. In brief, it is the location of where your arm stops moving backwards naturally. It is imperative that you hit this spot every time on the backswing. For some reason, I feel that hitting this location on the backswing sometimes puts me back on the LofF if I’m slightly off. From the time you start your forward swing to your VAP all the way to the BSP you have only moved your arm and nothing more.

    When you hit your BSP, you start the forward swing and stride forward simultaneously, keeping your left hand firmly planted on your left leg and your right toes firmly planted on the approach. Make sure your head and eyes move directly at the distant stake. I will explain all three below.

    Stride forward. Right foot remains planted.

    You must move your body in a straight line to the stake, your shoulders don’t rotate and your body remains balanced.

    As you stride forward keep your head and eyes directly at the stake and don’t allow your head, which controls the rest of your body, to move to the left or right. The secondary stake is your monitor.

    Keeping your left hand on your left thigh is an important aspect of this method. When we stride forward with the left foot our normal tendency as humans is to rotate the shoulders counter-clockwise. This is what we do as we normally walk, right arm and left foot and left arm and right foot. Keeping your left hand on your left leg restricts the normal tendency to rotate the right shoulder leftward, throwing the horseshoe offline to the left.

    Keeping the right toes planted does a number of important things. It controls the length of your stride forward. It acts as a rudder to maintain your stride direction, and; it maintains your balance when releasing the shoe. Don’t try to keep your right foot flat on the approach, allow your heel to rise up. If you have done this correctly, I can simply return to my stance and my right foot does not need to be reset, ready to throw the second shoe.

    Left hand resting on left leg. With or without shoe.

    In the photo below I have placed the shoe on the ground to define the relationship with the left shank and the center of gravity over the Line of Flight cord. Naturally, you would be holding the shoe in this position when taking your stance.

    Horseshoes left shank on edge of approach, center over LofF cord.

    Odds and Ends

    I don’t believe in the old adage “close only counts in horseshoes”. My goal is a ringer every time. However, if I miss, I want to try to salvage a point. I’ve covered that topic which describes “Drop Angle” in a previous part. If you want to add an additional pitching aid, simply find a 15″ used tire and place it over the stake while practicing.

    Good Luck to anyone using these tips. Your goal is to “Pitch Like a Machine”. Eliminate the variables and concentrate on the constants. My belief is… “If I don’t move it, I don’t have to un-move it”

    Continue to Part 38 for a description of the Maryland State Doubles and an Emergency on Pit 11

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

    The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 36

    Stationary Pitching in Pictures

    For those not interested in all of the technical aspects of Stationary Pitching from 27 feet I am providing the technique with the information in pictures.

    Standard 1 — A strong balanced stance. Both feet on the foul line will not handle the impetus of the forward and rearward arm swing. Note Line of Flight cord drawn directly from the stake to a location directly below the CofG of the dangling horseshoe. NOTE: Once you have established your stance and upper body alignment, your head, upper body, chest and shoulders MUST NOT CHANGE!

    Tip 1: Once you have devised a method to make sure you are square to your Visual Alignment Point, you will need to repeat the process on every swing. I have a vertical line on my pitching shirt that I align with the edge of the inside of my left shoe.

    Tip 2: As with any method of pitching, you must control the tendency to rotate the shoulders counter-clockwise. Once I align my shoulders (See Tip 1), I place my middle finger on my left thigh directly on my front seam. I then lock my left elbow into my body. This will control the left/right rotation.

    Balanced stance with Line of Flight and VAP cords.

    Standard 2 — Visual Alignment Point. This is a point to the right of the stake that you personally use to align the horseshoe at address to keep it over the Line of Flight. A good starting point is the right corner of the backstop (typically 18″ to the right of the stake). My personal VAP is at the right rear corner of the distant right approach placing my horseshoes left shank 33″ to the right of the stake and 33″ above the corner. My left foot, chest and shoulders are square and facing this spot (I have a cord drawn from the front of the approach up to this point). When I swing the shoe up to this visual location I concentrate on not moving my head or shoulders during the entire swing. It is important that your left foot, chest and shoulders square up to this point and not change during the entire swing. The reason I pick a point so far right is to make sure that I get the shoe over the LofF on the backswing when I reach my Backswing Stop Point. It has been my tendency to swing outside the LofF if I try swing up and back along the LofF. So, in truth, even though I try to use the pendulum swing up and back, down the same LofF. I consider the backswing a pendulum swing and the forward a pendulum swing, they are not on the same LofF.

    Standard 3 — Backswing Stop Point. The tamper is positioned directly over the LofF cord and is positioned so that it is touched at the Backswing Stop Point. This technique requires a full backswing.

    Tamper centered over Line of Flight cord at Backswing Stop Point

    Photo showing the CofG of the horseshoe reaching the tamper at the Backswing Stop Point (where your normal arm swing stops).

    CofG of horseshoe reaching the tamper at the Backswing Stop Point.

    From the Backswing Stop Point simply swing the shoe down the Line of Flight. If you don’t reach your Backswing Stop Point your distance control may suffer. It may be necessary to fine tune your stance to accurately position the LofF cord and the Backswing Stop Point.

    Stationary Stance From 27 Feet (Long Version)

    This part will describe a technique to stand at the foul line and throw ringers. It will also cover the exercises that make it possible to utilize this technique. In a nutshell, this is the method. I swing up to a distant target that I will call the Visual Alignment Point (VAP). I swing back to my Backswing Stop Point (BSP) and swing down the Line of Flight (LOF) and release the horseshoe at the stake. A very simple address, backswing and forward swing with release.

    Lets find a Balanced Stance, Visual Alignment Point and Line of Flight. The only thing that moves throughout this process is my arm…up, back, up.

    Step 1 — Balanced Stance — Lets take a temporary stance which may change depending on the location of your VAP. This is my chosen setup. My left toe is just slightly short of the foul line and turned clockwise about 10 degrees and pointing at a distant point 33 inches to the right of the stake…my VAP. This places my horseshoes CofG pointing at the right rear corner of the distant approach. My right foot is about 12 inches behind the left and turned 30-35 degrees clockwise. See image below.

    Stationary Stance with left foot aligned at the Visual Alignment Point

    Step 2 — The Visual Alignment Point (VAP) — This is a location somewhere to the right of the target stake that would be common with most NHPA sanctioned pits. I have chosen the right rear corner of the distant approach. This is a pretty consistent location when pits are 3′ x 6′ and with 18″ approaches. This point is the most important aspect of this method. When you swing back from this point, it must return the CofG of the horseshoe to your Backswing Stop Point (BSP) as well as a point directly over the Line of Flight location. In the image below, I have placed a tamper behind me on the approach. I swing up to my VAP and swing back to my Backswing Stop Point and move the tamper to the CofG of the horseshoe. See image.

    Return from the VAP. Center of Gravity at the Backswing Stop Point.

    Step 3 — Establish the Line of Flight (LOF) — Now draw a cord/string from the stake to the base of the tamper and if all is aligned properly you simply swing the shoe toward the stake down the line of flight cord. At this point you may need to fine tune the your stance relative so that the CofG of the horseshoe is directly over the LofF cord when the shoe is dangling next to the leg. I wanted this point to be on the right edge of the approach. See image below.

    Line of Flight cord below tamper.

    The purpose of this process is to make sure that the horseshoe reaches a point that is on the LofF. It is very difficult to swing the shoe back from the address position and pass it close enough to the leg to remain on the LofF.

    The Fine Tuning — After you have established your Visual Alignment Point and your Backswing Stop Point and your Line of Flight cord, you will need to take your stance so that your left foot is pointing directly at the VAP and your upper body is perfectly square to this point.

    Exercises Specific to Horseshoe Pitching

    Over the past 15 years I have included visits to my local World Gym two to three times per week and have incorporated a variety of exercises designed to strengthen muscles, tendons and ligaments specific to horseshoe pitching. Thus, I have included exercises that target the shoulders, hands and fingers. The one below is the best I’ve found for strengthening the shoulder area and simulating horseshoe pitching as well. All of the equipment in the right background are designed to work the various muscles of the shoulder. See image below.

    Cable deck with pulley at Backswing Stop Point height.

    The image below is my stance facing the opposite end of the rack. I want to simulate as much as possible my stance and arm swing to strengthen the muscles of the shoulder.

    My stationary stance in front of the opposite end of the rack. With rope in hand my target is the vertical bar shown.

    In the image below the rope has rubber stops on both ends. I grab the end of the rope, step to the other end, take my pitching stance and pull the cable forward to the metal bar at the other end. See image below.

    Pulling cable to far end.

    Below is an image of the weight stack adjustable in increments from 5 to 95 pounds. If you have access to this equipment, start with 5 pounds and perform as many repetitions as is comfortable. Continue adding weight in 5 pound increments until you cannot do 10 reps. Make sure you allow our arm to reach it’s Backswing Stop Point. Stop if you have any pain during this exercise.

    Weight stack from 5 to 95 pounds.

    This exercise strengthens the deltoid muscle and connecting tendons and ligaments used to raise and lower the arm. However, don’t ignore the other shoulder muscles. Mix in shoulder presses to strengthen the other muscles of the shoulder. Front and rear flys are also beneficial.

    Exercising at Home

    There are a variety of inexpensive products that can be used effectively at home. The photo below shows two different Surgical Tubes (Surgical in the sense they are normally made from surgical hose). This equipment can be purchased at most sporting good stores as well as fishing supply stores. If you opt to purchase raw surgical hose make sure it is the stretchable kind. Further, start with the weakest strength and work up. The best way to use this tubing is to attach it in some way at the height of your individual Backswing Stop Point. You then simply step forward with tube in hand, and pull against the tension of the tubing from the BSP in a straight line to the front.

    Two examples of stretchable tubing of various strengths.

    Below are two of my favorite exercisers for improving hand and finger strength. The two shown in the photo come from a company called IronMind at They have a very wide array of equipment and books pertaining to all aspects of improving strength. A catalog is also available. The small gripper below is the Level 1 (IMTUG) and is specifically to improve finger strength (pinch grip). The large gripper is the Trainer (COC) and is specific for improving hand strength. Each would be the starting point to improve your grip and finger strength. There are more levels available. Each one harder to close and chosen, if you desire to continue with improvement.

    Hand and Finger Grippers

    Either of these grippers can be used at any time. You can also purchase these grippers through Amazon. Give them a try, I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll notice an improvement in your ability to grip your horseshoe and release on time.

    Continue to Part 37 for a description of how to develop a consistent setup, swing and release directly at the stake.

    E-mail me if you have questions.

    Table of Contents

    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.

    Table of Contents

    The Search For My Perfect Swing — Part 34

    Emergency Preparation

    Recently, at our annual Maryland Horseshoe Pitchers Assn. meeting, the issue of emergency preparation was discussed. The concern was expressed about our lack of procedures to deal with on-site emergencies. It was decided to append to each score keeping clipboard, a 4 line description of our exact location, including GPS coordinates, to assist the caller and 911 operator in defining our exact location. Secondly, we would request at any tournament, the identification of anyone having CPR training. It was also suggested that one or more officers receive CPR certification.

    The issue of AED (Automated External Defibrillator) availability was discussed. The cost in excess of $1K, precludes most small groups from purchasing one. However, a couple of options were presented. Summer time rental for 3 months. Or, contact with local fire departments about donation of unused or replaced AED’s to non-profit organizations.

    Testing is Done — Decision Time

    NOTE: The Trident, part of the Tribute series, is sanctioned for pitching in sanctioned tournaments by the NHPA. The foundry in Marcellus, Michigan is gearing up for production. I am hoping that the Trident will be available by the end of May.

    The weather in Maryland has been beautiful this Winter and Spring. It has given me and various testers the opportunity to test a variety of my prototypes. A request to design a shoe similar to the Ted Allen gave me an opportunity to work on a turn shoe. Most of my shoes have been designed for the flip pitcher. However, a change in the design of my hook calk allows any of those shoes to be flipped or turned from either side. So, I decided to put a bit more emphasis on shoes that could be flipped or turned by concentrating on the shank design. The result was the Aviator, Eagle, Trident and Coastie.

    Last week, two pitchers from my Legion Post 7 league wanted to test my prototypes. One was a 40 foot reverse flipper like my partner and the other was a 40 foot 1-1/4 turner. The flipper chose the Eagle and the turner chose the Trident. Both improved their ringer averages by 7%. Recently, I have been testing the Trident exclusively to determine if it was a candidate for NHPA licensing. It had already been approved by the NHPA based on conformance to their specifications. The only thing left was the $300 licensing fee. Last night, my partner, also a 40 foot reverse flipper was able to flip the Trident perfectly end over end after a dozen practice throws. So, my decision is made. It will be the Trident for the NHPA and Pro Tour tournaments this year, after I’ve sent the $300 of course. Whether to go into production or not is another issue. The description of the Trident is below. Click the image for a larger view.

    Trident (USN)

    The design of the Trident considered the role of a double purpose horseshoe. Most horseshoes are designed to target one method of throwing a horseshoe, either for turning or flipping. However, there is one aspect of horseshoe pitching that is often overlooked … the scoring of points. The facts are, a turner will frequently defeat a flipper of equal ringer average, relative to points. It’s simply a matter of the arrival of the shoe.

    The Trident was designed to be considered a dual purpose horseshoe.

    For the TURNER, the shanks were designed to provide the correct shape and width for turning. A shank notch was provided to show the exact location of the center of gravity. The thumb calk was designed to be at the same height as the hook calks, thus providing for a three-point landing.

    For the FLIPPER, the ringer break was designed to deflect the shoe left or right, while not providing a location square to the line of flight. The shape of each side of the ringer break allowed the flipper the option of gripping the shoe for a slight rotation left or right when arriving at the stake. The location of the index and middle finger dictates which will occur. The thumb calk was designed to provide a firm, but, not tight grip pressure on the shoe. The width of the thumb calk was designed to allow the thumb to encourage a slight rotation if chosen. The overall shape of the shoe is more rectangular, thus, providing more opportunity to score points. I have always felt that a flipping shoe benefits from arriving over-flipped slightly. That is, the back of the shoe hits the ground before anything else. However, a rounded back end encourages a deflection left or right. Therefore, the back end of the Trident was designed to encourage a square forward thrust when it hits the ground. This feature is important whenever a shoe or shoes are already in front of the stake and allows the Trident to skip over the blocking shoe(s). A shoe that is under-flipped, that is, points down at arrival has little chance of moving forward.

    Finally, the shoe is perfectly balanced. The top and bottom of the shoe are equal at the center of gravity location. Further, the shoe is designed to be perimeter weighted. The outer edges are thicker than the inner. The hook calks are symmetrical, allowing the shoe to be flipped or turned from either side. The hook calk is blunted at the front end for safety purposes.

    Having said all of that, I may not go into production on this shoe. It is very expensive for an individual to produce horseshoes. It is also very difficult to find a foundry casting ductile iron or forging and willing to handle the production, not to mention the cleaning, painting, weight matching, boxing and shipping horseshoes. Finally, I don’t make any money from the sale of my horseshoes. All funds go directly to the foundry.

    Continue to Part 35 for a description of a technique called Square to Square.

    E-mail me if you have questions.

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