Pitching Horseshoes: The "grip" and the "turn" (and the "flip"):

I taught myself to pitch a horseshoe and didn't know better, so the "grip" I use is for a single flip (aka "flop"), which also works for a double or multiple flip. I hold the shoe at the rear thumb cleat and give it an even, underhanded toss to the opposite stake. Not much has been written about how to flip a horseshoe, so I wrote "How to Throw a Flip Horseshoe" (PDF) from my experience. I am not a "Joan Elmore" or a "Sue Snyder," but my ringer percentage is around 50%, so maybe my information will help others.

But, that is NOT the way most championship (male) pitchers grip and toss horseshoes. They use a version of the 1/4 or the 3/4 grip which is best explained by Roy W. Smith in his book "Science at the Stake" (1946), starting at Page 14, "Pitching Grips and Differences in Turns." (The text of this book used to be fully available on the NHPA web site, but it no longer is; sorry.) It likely holds more information about horseshoe pitching than you'll ever need. I'll keep looking for its text.

Instead of "Science at the Stake," I'll offer this informational link from the Wisconsin HPA "How to Pitch Horseshoes". It also includes links to information offered by Elmer Hohl, Walter Ray Williams, Jr., and Ted Allen.

I also highly recommend the blog about horseshoe pitching called "The Search for My Perfect Swing." Part 30 on the "13 Inch Scoring Area" is interesting. With a stake of 1" in diameter and a 6" radius around the stake for points, one now has a 13-inch scoring circle. The author put an old 15" (?) car tire around the stake to make the 13" circle. Very clever. Other parts describe the "drop angle," "release point," "perfect balance," and more. Part 31 is on the "30 Foot Method," which has lots about flipping a shoe, facts, and observations; much better information than I have.

I found "How to: Throw a Ringer" at the ESPN.com magazine web site. It has pictures of the grips for four turns and a video of International Champion Alan Francis demonstrating these three turns: flip, 1 1/4 turn, and 3/4 reverse turn. Great video!

The NHPA has a "How to Pitch Horseshoes" web site, and I also have Roy W. Smith's "How to Pitch Horseshoes" as a PDF.

The EHOW web site has "How to Pitch a Horseshoe" and "How to Learn to Pitch a Horseshoe."

Or, if you enjoy the Physics and Math of Horseshoe Pitching, Kenny Wolf wrote "The Theory of the Physics and Mathematics of Horseshoe Pitching."

The choice of a grip and a turn is an important step in beginning to pitch horseshoes. Most pitchers throw a "turn" shoe, about a fourth of us throw a "flip" shoe. The most common grip is a 1-1/4 which can be used for either the reverse 3/4 or the reverse 1-1/4 turn. The second most popular grip is the 1-3/4 which can be used for the 3/4 or the reverse 1-3/4. The third most common turn is a flip of one revolution, though multiple revolutions can be done. The "flip" turn usually has a centered grip.

My Take on "Turns:"

Most of the information about a "turn" shoe is based on pitching at the 40 foot distance. There is some discussion that a "turn" shoe works best for the 40 foot distance; at shorter distances there may not be enough "air time" to get the "turn" shoe to turn as intended and result in a ringer.

I found this comment on the YouTube video of Joan Elmore (Four Time National Champion) pitching a "flip" shoe:
"Generally speaking, if you are a woman pitching from 30 ft, the flip is a great pitch to use. Pitching from the 40 ft distance, a turn shoe is considered the best. Flipping from 40 ft. you lose a lot of ringers because the shoe bounces back and off when you hit the stake."

And that's been my experience observing people pitching a "turn" shoe. In a tournament I pitched against a man over 70 years old (he's eligible for the 27 foot foul line at that age) who pitched a "turn" shoe but not at the 30 foot distance, he was at about the 35 foot distance. I asked him about his "turn" shoe, and he said he could not move to the 30 foot distance because his shoe would not turn properly that close to the stake.

My "take" is that whatever works for you at the distance you may pitch at is fine. Whether you are a woman (at any age) or a man over 70, when the foul line is at 27 feet, you can pitch anywhere that you choose up to that foul line. You just cannot cross the foul line.

Another page discusses the various types of horseshoes.