The following are a few tips which I have used over the years which you might find useful in your quest to improve your game. To give you an idea of my personal pitching ability, my top pitching highlights over the last 30 plus years are highest tournament average 79.8 %, best finish in the Champioship group at the World Tournament 8th , most consecutive ringers 28 (1993 world Tournament) pitched back to back 90+ games and have pitched tournaments over 70% average with both the 1 3/4 & 1 1/4 turns.
If you need help on any of the tips I have listed feel free to send me an e-mail or give me a call and I would be more than happy to discuss them.
All grips are described as if the pitcher was right handed. (if left handed reverse)
One of the keys to pitching horseshoes is to have a good grip. Below are a few grips and locations I have used and the type of reaction your horseshoe might have if you used this location. All these grips are what is referred to as finger tip grips. Which is the most common grip used.
This is the basic flip grip. Thumb flat on top with index finger right of ringer breaker and middle and ring finger on the other side. Baby finger acts as support underneath to stabilize everything. I have seen many variations of this grip one of the more popular variations is to put the ringer breaker between your middle and ring finger which allows your index finger to run along the underside of the blade of the horseshoe adding more support. The goal is to pitch the horseshoe so it flips once in the air then lands open at the stake. Always pitch your flip shoe with the lugs down.
This view is to show how the baby finger supports the horseshoe for almost all grips. On occasion to garner extra support some people use the ring finger along with the baby finger which leaves only two fingers wrapped around the horseshoe and two underneath. If you are just learning it will take you a little while for your baby finger to gain enough strength to support the horseshoe so be patient it will come.
This is the typical grip for a 3/4 & 1 3/4 turn. The rotation of the horseshoe is clockwise. When gripping here your horseshoe will have a slight wobble with a smooth flight. To get more wobble in the turn you would move towards the closed end of the horseshoe while moving towards the open end will give you a flatter rotation and quicker turning action. A wobble (fluttering) in the air is a good thing. Most all world class pitchers have a wobble in their 1 3/4 or 1 1/4 turns.
This is the 1 1/4 turn grip. The rotation of the horseshoe in flight will be a smooth flat rotating turn with a very slight wobble. To get more wobble and a slower turn move down to the open end of the horseshoe resting your baby finger against the lug while moving more to the closed end will cause you turn to be even flatter and quicker but the horseshoe will have a tendency to nose dive (stand up) because you will be gripping the horseshoe in an out of balance position. In the picture to the left my thumb is almost right on the center of balance of this horseshoe which is good starting point.
By changing your thumb position on the 3/4 and 1 3/4 side the rotation will be quicker. Try this if your turn is just a tad to slow. For me when I use this grip the horseshoe will wobble allot more. I recommend using the thumb position as a fine tuner. Every varying degree of movement from straight across from the index finger like the pictures above to this extreme move will have a slightly different reaction.
By changing your thumb position on the 1 1/4 side you can slow your turn down and give it a little wobble at the same time. I currently use this grip for my 1 1/4 turn. Since over the last 30 years most of the time I pitched a 1 3/4 turn I had to find a way to slow my 1 1/4 down otherwise it also seemed to want to overturn. This seems to have solved the problem and I am very happy with how the horseshoe rotates in the air. For me I look for two things in a horseshoes reaction, first is how it rotates open to the stake and secondly how it hooks. If you pitch the horseshoe correctly almost every horseshoe that touches the stake will hook and become a ringer.
1) Learning the turn shoe- When learning to pitch a turn try a number of different grips on either the 1 3/4 side or the 1 1/4 side. After some time you will be able to determine which is best suited for you. Personally I believe the 1 1/4 is an easier shoe to learn and will give the user quicker results. Once you determine your grip focus only on landing the horseshoe open in the pit for the first while. Don't worry about ringers because without an open shoe hitting the peg is pointless. You should practice just trying to land the shoe open until you can do it 50% of the time. Then and only then are you ready to focus on hitting the peg and scoring ringers by the dozens. Even if you are not learning a turn but are gong to flip the horseshoe you need to first get the horseshoe to either flip once or twice in the air then land open at the stake so the same applies. Train your wrist to land that horseshoe open then worry about hitting the stake
2) The Swing- to achieve the best and quickest results you need a good smooth straight swing. When taking the horseshoe back into the back swing try to keep your shoulders square to your target and take the horseshoe straight back . Don't get the horseshoe tied up behind you back or let it drift out away from you body at the top of the back swing either case will make it difficult to have a straight follow through to the stake.
3) weight does matter - Picking the right weight of horseshoe is very important. The weight of your horseshoe affects a number of factors. A lighter horseshoe will be easier to pitch for young people or those that fatigue quickly. A light horseshoe will also turn or flip more easily. The down side of a light horseshoe is it more easily blown off line in the wind, bounces off more easily and is less durable than the heavier versions of the same model. By contrast a heavy horseshoe tends to be slower in the turn (for me about 1/8 turn for my 1 3/4 turn) but is also more stable which makes it more predicable. It is also less likely to bounce off and because to make a heavy version of a horseshoe it would be about 10-15% thicker it is stronger and more durable. Typically we recommend medium weight for anyone who does not know which weight they prefer it is a good starting point but the advantages of a heavy horseshoe should not be ignored. The NHPA (National Horseshoe Pitchers Assoc.) has a weight limit on how heavy a horseshoe can be which is 2lb10oz but there is no weight minimum. This should be an indicator that the heavier a horseshoe is the better the potential average. In the past a substantial amount of the best horseshoe pitchers in the World used heavy weight horseshoes. So did you find a horseshoe that feels really good but the turn or flip is not quite right. Try switching weights you will be surprised how the same horseshoe works so much differently in a heavier or lighter weight
5) practice with purpose - A practice session should be broke down into 3 or 4 sections. The warm-up period which is as stated time to get loose, for me about 10 minutes. Then comes the tune in phase which is where I might try to adjust something I have thought are issues like the my turn or alignment etc. (but very important only work on one at a time) After I am done experimenting I will pitch groups of 40 shoes at a time keeping track in my head. My goal is to push myself to pitch games which are equal to or exceed my typical performance when I was at my best that would be 28 ringers plus . In a normal practice session I would pitch 2 or 3 games in this manner then shut down. Another good way to practice is depending on your average place one spare horseshoe around one stake and one spare horseshoes around the stake at the other. Now take your horseshoes and try to beat that imaginary person who always has one ringer on (50%) If you beat him you just pitched over 50% and if you don't but the final score is 42-36 you know by quick calculation you are playing at about 45 to 48%. Since it is harder to keep ringers on top of other horseshoes you will also get some good feedback how your horseshoe is performing around the stake and whether bounce-offs are an issue.
6) Know your weakness- Everyone has one whether it be pitching short shoes, missing right, over-turning, etc your horseshoes are always telling you a story. If you don't know your weakness go out and pitch 40 shoes and mark down where each miss is. Review the results. Chances are the one which shows up most on your sheet is also the one that plagues you during tournament play. The idea is to first identify it then work solely on eliminating that thing which is holding you back. For example for me all the way up to when I got to 50% I always struggled with pitching short horseshoes. I knew if I wanted to make the next jump in average I needed to fix this so I worked hard at getting my height to be more consistent and I can honestly say that distance is probably my biggest strength now and has been for a long time. It will take some patience possibly some adjustments but once you have fixed your weaknesses your percentage will go up leaps and bounds.
7) Expand the strike zone- just like in bowling where the goal is to find an angle into the pocket which gives you the biggest margin of area and still strike, horseshoes is the same. Every time we line up a horseshoe and pitch it we are generally aiming for the middle of the stake. But reality is sometimes the horseshoe drifts a little right but is still a ringer and sometimes it drifts a little left and is still a ringer. All is good but most people including myself have this habit of either getting a ringer or missing more on the right side of the stake,in essence I am only using half of my horseshoes potential. Which greatly reduces my chances for a ringer. The ultimate goal is to get your alignment down to a point where half of your misses are on the left side of the stake and half on the right. Which will in turn mean more around the stake. For me to correct my problems I moved as far left on my pitching platform. For a couple of years I even switched sides which gave me a completely different look at the stake. Open up the strike zone use the whole horseshoe and get more ringers.
8) Consistency is the Key- Unlike most sports which there is typically a defined right way and wrong way to achieve results. Horseshoes is a game where any number of different techniques such as swings, grips, heights, speeds can all still achieve the same ultimate response, the perfect ringer. Now I am not saying some styles are better than others and some people should go back to the drawing board but the main key to pitching ringers is to be able to repeat the same motion time after time. My experience with this in the past is the times in my career where I accepted my style for what it was and only worked on perfecting that delivery time after time I had good results but any time I tinkered too much and tried to change things too much my consistency and average suffered. Find a swing/ style that works for you then just keep practicing it until it becomes as natural as walking.
9) Set-up As you practice you should come up with a routine. Once you develop this routine you should always follow the same routine be it in practice or in a tournament. This way it becomes natural and reliable. Under the pressure of a tournament sometimes it is difficult to think but you can still draw some level of confidence knowing that if you go through your normal routine a ringer will be the result. When setting up a routine don't make it so long it becomes annoying and cumbersome. Under practice conditions you are not likely to follow it if it is too long, so it won't help you. Something simple but relevant is best.10) Paint your Horseshoes I learned this tip from reading an article about Dean McLauglin a long time ago. Whenever things were not going well he would paint his horseshoes. It accomplished two things. When a horseshoe is panted it gives it a different feel which might help you get out of the slump, but more importantly it will allow you to follow your horseshoe in the air and possibly determine what is going wrong. I will add one other benefit for painting your horseshoes the paint acts like a shock absorber when hitting the stake. You will have less bounce-offs and your horseshoes will most likely last longer if always kept with a nice layer of paint on them. (spray can no, brush yes) Oh and if you live in town the neighbors might appreciate the reduced noise from your painted pair of horseshoes
I11) Write it down This may seem insignificant but I strongly suggest that after you just finished having a good practice session write down any tweeking you did to your style which proved benificial. It may be something simple like if I hold the horseshoe a little flatter it turns better, anything you found that helped. You would be surprised how quick you forget. If it's on paper you can always reference it. I used this one alot when my game was on the up swing.
Welcome to our video archives section of our web page. Here we will be adding videos that we hope you find entertaining and useful in your quest for the perfect pitch. Some people featured are true champions of our sport while others have championship aspirations. Check back soon as we will be adding and removing videos on a regular basis.
This video contains footage of Elmer Hohl regarded as the greatest horseshoe pitcher of all time. Elmer first shows up at the 52 second mark throwing the low hard 1 3/4 turn (brownish shirt). Also contained in this video are many other world Champions. It is interesting to see the varying styles while knowing almost everyone of these pitchers averaged over 80% ringers. I do not know all the names of the pitchers here so maybe you can help by filling in names, time seen in the video and comment on their style. Eg Paul Focht 1:50sec High wobbly 1 3/4 turn . Hopefully in time every one of these pitchers will have a name.
This video is from the 1971 World tournament. It contains some of the best footage of that era that I have seen. Many of the great pitchers including Elmer Hohl, Ray Martin, Ted Allen, Dan Kuchinski and Harold Reno plus many more can be seen pitching so look, learn and enjoy.
This video is of me Kevin McLachlin pitching in the men's championship division for the first time in 1990 at Stone Mtn Georgia . My first game I drew as an opponent Jim Knisley from Ohio. I have always believed from the people I have played over the years Jim had the best 1 1/4 turn. It was not a hard shoe but just seemed to float in air. Jim would go on to become champion this year. As for me it was a great experience.
This video features some action from the 1990 world tournament in Stone Mtn Georgia. The pitchers in the main video are Art Tyson & Kevin McLachlin. Art was the master of the high pitch. Over the years he pitched around the 80% mark with both the 1 3/4 and the 1 1/4 turns. Although never winning the Men's title there were a few years where if not for a few bad breaks could have won the title. He was that good.