The Theory of the Physics and Mathematics of Horseshoe Pitching
The physics of the turning shoe and the mathematics of the alignment
Part 1 Essential Basics
How to pitch horseshoes with nearly a 100% ringer average . . . in your mind
---Written by Kenny Wolf (12-16-04)
(revised quite often--see end of introduction)

Introduction
The author of this piece searched the internet for inside information on how to make a horseshoe go on the stake.  What I found was:  “Throw the shoe far enough, …throw the shoe open, …and throw the shoe at the stake.”  I could always hear a “HA! HA!” after reading lines of this effect.  I could not find much that discussed the physics of throwing ringers or the mathematics of throwing ringers.  So I sat down, engaged my mind along with a few props and came up with the following writing.  Maybe nobody in the world has really thought about the things I’ve written here or put them to print.  Maybe no great horseshoe pitcher has really understood these things consciously; but through practice, memory and natural instincts, has just been able to apply them in a natural way sub-consciously.

Maybe some of it is written in error; . . . or much of it is written in error?  My challenge is for those who read it and dispute parts of it to enlighten me as to what parts of this writing I need to change to make it all correct, if they have a better understanding of horseshoe pitching, physics and mathematics!  I was not a physics major or math major in college.  I can only apply simple logic, common sense, and some of my own instincts for expressing my own thoughts, along with some humor thrown in to keep it a little on the light side.  But by golly, with this writing, I’ve started the dialogue and anyone willing to engage in it with me, will be a part of the dialogue and will help me create a more perfect writing that may just get a lot more people interested in our sport, who found the idea of figuring something out in the mind first and then applying that knowledge in practice exciting; before feeling total frustration in finding that they have no clue when only engaging in trial and error on the horseshoe courts.  How many times does the average pitcher go from hitting ringers to missing and then in error change the wrong thing in trying to tune their pitching.

I have numbered the paragraphs for easy reference so other horseshoe pitchers or physics students or mathematics students can refer to portions when commenting.  Let the writing begin and may only those who wish to find enlightenment actually find it!  PS:  This last summer, I pitched in the 25% range, but had no clue what I was doing wrong.  Like other pitchers, I got into rhythms where I would hit up to 6 ringers in a row or throw 14 ringers out of 24 shoes at 58%, but still didn’t know what I was doing right and soon started doing too many things wrong.  This writing represents winter thought to prepare for the next summer season.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
In August 2008, I received an address link for another web site blog dedicated to finding the perfect horseshoe swing delivery.  Bob Rasmussen writes in detail about many of the things discussed on these pages, plus he takes it a step further by explaining the equipment he has developed to assist in training the muscles to duplicate the same motion over and over.  His blog web site is located at: http://tinyurl.com/MyWay1"Horseshoes My Way ... the Search for My Perfect Swing" (in 7 parts).  This blog reads very well and fluent.  Bob has done a lot of thinking and planning for this presentation and I think it will be very beneficial for all who visit.

Readers' responses and comments will be listed at the end of this writing and printed in red font.  On July 9, 2005, I added a comment by Walter Ray "Deadeye" Williams, Jr. about this page, when he responded to a question from one of his Q&A writers on his own web site; which is followed by my open letter response to Walter Ray Williams, Jr.

The contents of this study grew too large to be contained on only one page, so on 10/05/05 it was broken up into two separate pages:  "Part 1 Essential Basics" and "Part 2 Deeper Speculation".  At the bottom of this page is a section labeled "Sections of Part 1 page". Highlighted in red print are sections that have been added or revised since the original writing was put up on the Internet.

HORSESHOES FUN TO HOLD
1  It is fun to hold horseshoes, but horseshoes are designed to be released by the hand and it makes for a more interesting activity if they are released.

A DROPPED SHOE AND THE DISCOVERY OF GRAVITY
2  If a horseshoe is held in front of the pitcher and dropped, it will likely fall straight down and hit the pitcher’s foot.  Gravity keeps a horseshoe from being suspended in air after it is released.

FORWARD MOTION OF THE HORSESHOE
3  It takes a forward motion on the shoe, while holding it in the hand, to get it away from the pitcher before it lands; thus making it much safer for the foot.

STRAIGHT TOWARDS THE STAKE FOR RINGERS
4  To have a better chance of going around the stake at the end of the court 37 feet away, (which by the way is the object of horseshoe pitching), it would be preferable for the forward motion to be straight towards the stake at the opposite end of the court.  That is the only direction that gives the shoe a chance of being a ringer (at least on the court the pitcher is pitching on).  Optimistic note here:  A two and a half pounds hunk of metal goes exactly where you throw it without wandering off on its own.  (note:  the maximum weight of a shoe is two pounds and ten ounces.)

IMPORTANCE OF THE BACK SWING
5  It is much easier to put forward motion on the shoe (while holding it) if the pitcher swings the attached pitching arm and hand straight back behind to a point where it feels comfortable to let it swing back forward with gravity on the shoe bringing it back to the side of the pitcher.  It will be only natural at this point for the shoe, with momentum to swing on up, to continue its forward motion up to about waist level (or a little above or a little below waist level (3 times world champion Dan Kuchcinski has said between the knee and the waist)--some pitchers may prefer closer to chest level), at which point the pitcher will want to release the shoe if it is to have a chance to go straight for the stake that is 37 feet away (from the foul line) on the same court the pitcher is pitching on.

GREETING THE STAKE AND STARTING THE BACK SWING
6  It is much easier to put back motion on a horseshoe, if the pitcher first holds the shoe up out in front of the pitcher’s face or at least out in front.  While it is out in front of the pitcher’s face, the pitcher might as well take advantage of the position of the shoe and do what is called greeting the stake and that means a point on the shoe or maybe inside the shoe should be aimed somewhere in the direction of the stake in question (or the stake that the pitcher would like to see the shoe go on as a ringer).  Now that the shoe is being held in front of the pitcher and out away from the pitcher’s body (this does take a level of strength with a shoe that weighs around two and a half pounds), the relaxing of some of the muscles in the arm a little allows the shoe to naturally start into a downward back swing motion (again due to gravity), which we know from above will result in the shoe reaching a point somewhere behind the pitcher where it feels more comfortable and natural to let the shoe begin to move into a forward motion.

RELEASING THE SHOE INTO FLIGHT
7  Once the shoe reaches that position out in front of the pitcher around waist level, where it only seems natural to let go of it before it goes on around and pulls an arm out of its socket or causes the pitcher to fall backwards; it is a good idea to release the shoe.  Once the shoe is released, it is in flight.  A shoe in flight can be a beautiful thing to behold, but then it is not always such a beautiful thing to behold (it all depends on the motion or the lack of motion the pitcher applies to the shoe during the forward swing).  It is either going directly straight at the opposite stake, in which case it must have been released at about knee level and must be traveling very fast in order to hit a ringer before gravity lands it somewhere between the pitcher and the stake; or hopefully the pitcher released it at about waist level, giving the shoe a thing called “arch”, in which case the upward motion from the knee on up will cause the shoe to head for a point over the pitcher’s head and safely out in front of the pitcher and not directly over the pitcher’s head (in which case something was not done quite properly).  The shoe should reach peak height somewhere short of halfway down the court or about 20 feet from the stake (according to one source the shoe peaks in height at about 30 feet down the court or 10 feet from the stake, but a study of "trajectory" using Google on the Internet would seem to contradict this assertion).  (Another source said the shoe should be thrown at a height that makes it come in at a 45 degree angle and throwing it 10 feet high causes that to happen.  But if my calculations are correct with a shoe release at about 2-1/2 feet just above the knee, it would have to reach a peak height of 19 feet going up at a 45 degree angle in order to come down to a point a few inches above the ground on the stake.  So I'm not sure how they calculated this, unless they were going with the 10 feet high at 30 feet down the court theory, which doesn't sound like good physics.)STUDIES IN TRAJECTORY SEEM TO INDICATE THAT GRAVITY ONLY AFFECTS THE VERTICAL MOTION, BUT NOT THE HORIZONTAL MOTION OF A PROJECTILE!  (Albert Einstein had some things to say about this with his examples of two people playing catch with a baseball on top of a moving train and how it appeared relative to observers on the ground versus observers on top of the train).If it reaches peak height much farther than halfway (remember, the shoe is released at about waist level from the ground and will land about 3 inches from the ground), it will likely either go over the stake or clear the fence and hit a spectator.  It was stated by 3 times world champion Dan Kuchcinski on his excellent instructional video on horseshoe pitching titled "Yes, Horseshoes" that a shoe should be thrown at a peak height of at least a foot over the pitcher's head (I'm 5 feet-7 inches tall, so I would want to throw for a minimum height of at least 6 feet- 7 inches) and possibly another foot or two above that (or 7 feet-7 inches or so for me).  He also states that 10 feet is generally regarded as the maximum height for any pitcher to reach in flight.  Above that height the shoe is said to be harder to control.

PEAK HIGH POINT OF THE SHOE
8  The peak high point is where the shoe quits going up as it is going forward and begins a descent (again due to the pull of gravity) while it is still going forward.  If the proper turn rotation motion was put on the shoe, then it will look pretty during its flight.  If the pitcher had no clue where the center of gravity is on his shoe, didn’t know the shoe had a center of gravity, doesn’t know what he would do differently if he knew a shoe had a center of gravity and did not pivot his turn rotation motion around this center of gravity, then we could either have a shoe that is trying to reach a state of balance (not a pretty sight) or a shoe that is in total free fall and will never reach a state of balance during its short flight (May Day, May Day, . . . flight to ground control).

WHERE IS THE CENTER OF GRAVITY OF A HORSESHOE
9A  A shoe is designed so that when you draw a straight line down the middle of the shoe from the center of the closed end to the center of the open end, both halves of the shoe weigh the same.  There is additional weight in the heel calks of the shoe to make up for the lack of metal in the open end so that there is a place somewhere in the middle of one blade such that if you draw a line to the same place in the middle of the other blade, there is the same amount of weight of metal on the part of the shoe with the closed end as there is of metal making up the open end of the shoe.  (Note:  extremely heavy calks, as with some shoes designed for flip throwers, would move the center of gravity lower towards the open end of the shoe).  Where these two lines cross is the center of gravity of the shoe.  All other lines drawn through this center point will evenly divide the balance of the weight of the shoe on either side of the lines. (Horseshoes with less weight in the heel calks than other horseshoes either have less weight in the closed end of the shoe or the center of gravity of the shoe is higher up towards the closed end of the shoe).  These lined divisions separating the balance of the weight of the shoe on either side can be determined by finding the balancing point of the horseshoe by setting the shoe up on the edge of a three sided ruler or on the edge of a yardstick.  Where the shoe balances, lines can be chalked on the shoe and painted in some color scheme, for easy reference while pitching.

9B  ALL OTHER LINES THROUGH THE CENTER POINT WILL EVENLY DIVIDE THE BALANCE OF THE WEIGHT OF THE SHOE ON EITHER SIDE OF THE LINES

Section 9B on Part 2 page "Deeper Speculation"

IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING WHERE THE CENTER OF GRAVITY IS
10  It is important to know where the center of the shoe is, because it is the center of the shoe that all good horseshoe pitchers throw straight at the stake at the opposite end that gives them such a high percentage of ringers.  They greet the stake, lining up the center of gravity of the shoe with the stake when they aim (note:  When aiming, the center of gravity of the shoe will generally be to the right of a right handed pitcher or to the left of a left handed pitcher, if the shoe is being held at the same position at which the pitcher plans to release the shoe at the end of the forward swing).  The pitcher will swing straight back with the center of the shoe during their back swing and they come straight forward in their forward swing with the center of the shoe constantly dead on an imaginary line between the center of the shoe and the stake (remember we are discussing the good pitchers here!).  At all times, a good pitcher is consciously or sub-consciously aware of the path that the center of the shoe is taking in the back swing and during the forward swing, but most critically during the forward swing.

THROWING AN OPEN SHOE AT THE STAKE DOES NOT HAVE TO DEPEND ON LUCK
11  Whether or not the shoe is open (note it is only open on one of the four sides of the average legal shoe) or closed when it arrives at the stake can greatly depend on whether or not the pitcher gets lucky or is unlucky.  Or better yet, it will depend on whether or not the pitcher put the proper turn rotation on the shoe during his forward swing and properly pivoted his rotation turn around the center of gravity of the shoe. (note:  a shoe may not exceed 7-1/4 inches in width and may not exceed 7-5/8 inches in length (the maximum length is the reason the heel calks have to be heavier to make up for the open end of the shoe, rather than make the shoe longer).  The thickness may not exceed 1 inch and the open side may not be open more than 3-1/2 inches, with 3-5/8 inches allowed on used shoes with worn points from hitting too many ringers).

BACK SWINGS MAY VARY
12  It is not necessary that a pitcher’s back swing stays on the imaginary line between the center of the shoe and stake where he greeted the stake, as long as his forward swing is dead on this imaginary line.  Some pitchers are able to get back on the line in the last few inches of their forward swing, but it is hard enough to stay on the line during the whole forward swing, without adding the extra challenge of finding that line in the last few inches of the forward swing before releasing the shoe.  I suspect that many of the great pitchers even prefer staying on that line from the time they line up their shoe during the greeting, including staying on the line during their back swing and through the entire forward swing until the shoe is released.

STRAIGHT BACK SWING AND FORWARD SWING
13  Some good pitchers have been known to keep their shoe pretty much in the same position during their whole forward swing (in other words very close to the position it will be in at the release point) without any turn rotation motion being applied and then in the last inch or so before release “snap” their wrist to put a turn influence on the shoe.  The challenge of this method is that there is little margin for error and the pitcher may not “snap” the wrist enough or “snap” it too much.  (This method also has a tendency to wear out a pitcher’s wrist, causing them to give up horseshoe pitching and take up chess).  It is much more natural to start a smooth gradual turn of the shoe around the center of gravity at the beginning of the forward swing or at least at the bottom of the swing by the leg (or just after the shoe has cleared the leg).  Some would argue that starting it at the bottom by the leg is still not enough time and distance for a turn rotation around the center of the shoe to be consistent pitch after pitch and would advise beginning it at the beginning of the forward swing.  It also depends on whether a pitcher is more comfortable beginning the gradual turn rotation at the beginning of the forward swing, rather than trying to execute it at the point that the shoe clears the leg.  This is why some 1-1/4 clockwise pitchers have the shoe cocked points slightly to the right if they are right handed, or to the left if they are left handed, at the peak of their back swing, so the shoe is pretty vertical when it passes the leg and then a 1/8 or ¼ turn rotation motion is applied around the center of gravity of the shoe from the leg up to the point of release of the shoe.

HOW MUCH TURN ROTATION TO PUT ON A SHOE
14A  How much rotation turn to start on the shoe while it is still in the hand (which happens to be the only time a pitcher can really affect the flight of the shoe, no matter how much he waves his hands after the release of the shoe) is the big question and it depends on a few other factors in the pitcher’s delivery.  The turn the pitcher is throwing in flight is one very important factor (3/4, 1-1/4, 1-3/4 or flip?).  The higher the pitcher throws the shoe the less turn motion needed because it will travel just a little farther (two sides of the hypotenuse while knowing the height of the release from the ground, plus the peak high point of the shoe, using calculus could determine the actual distance traveled).  Even the length of the step is a factor (with a longer step usually used by a low throwing pitcher and a shorter step usually used for a higher throwing pitcher), plus the length of the step also determines the length of the swing being used to influence the turn of the shoe around the center of gravity of the shoe.  Remember any turn influence applied to the shoe is turning at so many degrees of the shoe (sixteenths, eighths or quarters per so many feet.  Illustrative example:  A 1-1/4 shoe thrown 36 feet from a starting point (maybe 1 foot past the foul line plus 3 feet step) of three feet or so off the ground may still travel 40 feet with a given arch.  There are 5 quarter turns in a pure 1-1/4 turn thrown shoe.  A pure 1-1/4 turn clockwise thrown shoe by a pitcher will have the points of the shoe pointing away from the center of the shoe (to the left for a right handed pitcher and to the right for a left handed pitcher).  For the shoe to turn exactly 5 quarters over a distance of 40 feet requires that the pitcher put a turn rotation motion of ¼ turn per 8 feet (40 divided by 5 equals 8).

EFFECT OF THE STEP ON THE FORWARD MOTION OF THE SHOE
14B  Another thing to know about here or to keep in consideration is the effect of a short step versus the effect of a long step on the forward motion of the horseshoe during the forward swing.  First, let us consider a swing and release of a shoe without any step at all.  Since the arm is attached to most pitcher’s shoulders, from the side of the leg, a shoe takes a ¼ circular motion from the leg to a point where the arm is straight out in front of the pitcher.  The arm is a certain length and the shoe will always remain a certain distance from the socket in the shoulder of the pitcher, if the pitcher keeps the arm fully extended during the entire forward swing from the leg to being parallel to the ground.  The arm does not have stretching ability to make the path of the shoe go in a straight line from the bottom of the leg to the point of release.  But, when the pitcher begins to take a step (short or long) this lowers the hand (and the shoe if it is still in the pitcher’s hand), so that it takes a more straight path to the point of release.  To help visualize this principle:  A pitcher who would literally do the splits while taking the longest step possible, could actually make the shoe go straight along the ground parallel with the ground at the same height that the shoe was at the side of the leg.  Some low throwing line drive pitchers nearly do the splits and rely on pure strength to “fire” the shoe down the court at this 1-1/2 foot to 2 feet level of height.  They would be taking what would be considered a long step to nearly doing the splits.  To map out the exact path a horseshoe would take while in the pitcher’s hand from the leg to the point of release, the pitcher could have another individual stand in the pit beside the pitcher and hold a measuring tape at zero beside the center of the shoe when hanging down the side of the pitcher.  The pitcher could then take the step that feels most comfortable and hold the shoe out in the extended position that it would be at the point of release.  The helper in the pit could then stretch the tape and hold the extended end beside the center of the shoe at the release point.  This will make a straight line of tape, because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  While the helper in the pit is standing there holding the tape, the pitcher could start again in slow motion, taking the step so that the center of the shoe is always right beside the rising tape until the arm is fully extended.  This will only impress on the pitcher that there is a timed step with a certain swing of the shoe that will make the path of the shoe go straight out to the point of release.  It may not matter one way or the other in the long run, but it is a good principle to understand and keep in mind and if timed properly, the shoe will always be released at the exact end of the step and if the step is the same pitch after pitch, then guess what?  The shoe will be released at the same point and height, pitch after pitch!  Wouldn’t that be a nice consistency to have?

HOW MUCH TURN FOR HOW LONG
15A  Since the pitcher is not going to be swinging the shoe a total of 8 feet during the forward swing and applying a gradual quarter turn rotation motion on the shoe for 8 feet before release, then lets say for the sake of illustration (we are getting the general picture here, not splitting hairs or splitting inches) let’s say the pitcher normally stands at the stake and takes about a 3 feet step before delivery.  If the shoe turn rotation around the center of gravity of the shoe is started about the point of the pitcher’s leg, then the shoe will travel approximately 4 feet, with his 3 feet step and say an additional foot reach beyond the extended foot (again rounding off to make the illustration of what is taking place with the turn of the shoe).  While influencing the turn of the shoe while in the pitcher’s hand a distance of 4 feet, then the pitcher would want to put about 1/8 turn rotation motion around the center of gravity of the shoe from the lowest point beside the leg to the very point of release.  (Note:  For the pitcher who wants the shoe to be level at the release point, this is why the expression “slightly cock the shoe” is used.  A shoe in vertical position beside the leg and level upon release would be taking a full quarter turn in this approximate 4 feet of influence.  A shoe in vertical beside the leg, would only need about a 1/8 turn around the center during the upward swing to the release point.  Therefore the vertical shoe at the side of the leg would need to be released in a slightly cocked position approximately 45 degrees.  Just remember, for a 1/8 turn for 4 feet, either slightly cocked from the leg to level upon release or vertical from the leg to slightly cocked upon released.

WHAT AMOUNT OF INFLUENCE STAYS WITH THE SHOE INTO FLIGHT?
15B  This turn motion must be gradual, because it is actually the force on the shoe at the instant it is released that is carried into flight with the shoe.  If the hand turn rotation motion put on the shoe is jerky, then only the influence in the last smooth continuous split second before it is released will be on the shoe at release.  When a pitcher is nervous, say when trying to pitch two ringers for a won game or just nervous for some other reason, everything a pitcher does tends to be jerky.  A smooth gradual turn of the shoe for all the forward swing or part of the forward swing (say from the leg up) is only helping to guide and establish the exact rate of turn on the shoe at the very moment of release, which is the only moment of influence which really influences the shoe!  To prove this point, try a nice smooth rotation turn motion on the shoe around the center of gravity of the shoe for the whole forward swing and then about the last foot, hesitate just a split second (jerky motion) and you have interrupted all the preparation you had on the shoe for that last point of release.  Now only the motion you put on after the jerky interruption will be on the shoe and the rate of turn for that last foot will be what is on the shoe.  The pitcher will almost have to get lucky to pick up that same rate of turn after a jerky split second hesitation.  The shoe cannot remember or will not retain all that rotation the pitcher was trying to put on before the pitcher made the jerky hesitation.  Now if after the slight jerky hesitation, the pitcher's arm swing did not lose the rate of turn on the shoe, then the effect will not hurt the shoe, because as stated above, "the exact rate of turn on the shoe at the very moment of release, is the only moment of influence which really influences the shoe!"

. . . AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FOLLOW THROUGH
15C  This is why the follow through is so important.  Guess where the center of gravity of the shoe is going if the pitcher's follow through is reaching for a point 6 inches to the left or right of the stake?  That is correct, the shoe will land (or go by) the stake 6 inches to the left or right.  (This is assuming the pitcher's grip spot on the shoe at the moment of release in directly in line with the center of the shoe and the stake at the opposite end.  If a right handed pitcher's grip-release point on the shoe is 1 inch to the right of the center of gravity of the shoe at the point of release, then the follow through should also go up the stake 1 inch to the right.)  It is not because the pitcher's hand influenced the shoe after it was released, but as stated above, the directional influence on the shoe at the moment of release is all that matters, but the follow through will be a continuation of where the shoe was coming from before release.  Speaking of bad habits, a bad habit would be for a pitcher to try to change the direction of the pitching hand and arm swing exactly at the point of release, because sometimes the pitcher would start this change of direction a split second before the release.  And why would a pitcher want to disrupt a smooth continuous motion of a swing anyway, just because the shoe has been released?  Thus the smooth follow through of the smooth forward swing.  They go together like cookies and milk.

FACTOR OF WHERE SHOE IS GRIPPED
16  Another factor that is not understood by many pitchers is where the shoe is gripped in relation to the center of gravity of the horseshoe, while the center is lined up with the stake upon release.  If a right handed pitcher throwing a “true” 1-1/4 turn (clockwise turn with the open end pointing to the left at release) grips the shoe high or more towards the closed end of the shoe with the center of gravity to the left and the closed end to the right in relation to the pitcher’s grip, then the shoe will pretty much turn itself if the pitcher puts no turn rotation on the shoe during the forward swing, but merely lets the shoe “pull” out of the hand on the release.  The weight of the shoe to the left of center will start the rotation and literally pull out of the pitcher’s hand, if the pitcher is not trying to keep the shoe.  The closer the right handed pitcher grips the shoe down the blade so that the center of gravity is in line with the stake and his grip, then the shoe will not turn itself and his turn rotation motion will be the only influence on the shoe.  If the right handed pitcher grips the shoe so that the center of gravity is to the right of his grip upon release of the shoe (gripping the shoe down on the blade point), then it takes turn rotation motion to counter the natural draw of the shoe to turn counter-clockwise.  This all comes into play if the release is caused by the shoe pulling out of the hand with some fingers and thumb holding on slightly while the shoe pulls out.  The “let the shoe work or turn itself” pitcher need only decide where they want the heel calks or points during the flight of the shoe and then make sure the shoe is in this position at the point of release.  For example:  if the pitcher wants the shoe pointing in the air with the open end during the full turning of the shoe in flight, then that will be the position of the shoe at the point of release.  Technical principle:  If the 1-1/4 clockwise pitcher uses the “let the shoe work or turn itself” feature of pitching because of holding the shoe “high” on the blade toward the closed end of the shoe, but does not totally let the shoe pull out of the hand, some minor amount of turn influence may have to be applied to the center of gravity of the horseshoe or some will have to be applied if the grip hold is close to the center of gravity of the shoe, a little lower down and not fully using the “shoe turning itself” feature.

SHOE CAN WORK ITSELF OR TURN ITSELF
17  Good horseshoe pitchers who allow their shoe to “work itself” or “turn itself” will not understand why any pitcher should have to work on influencing their shoe with turn rotation motion during the forward swing delivery.  My answer to that is that not everyone has the ability to hold a horseshoe high on the blade and complete the full backward and forward swing with such a grip hold.  I’ve tried it and I just haven’t been able to do it myself.  I will continue to experiment on this feature and maybe some day learn to do it, but until that day arrives, I and many others will have to understand how to influence the turn on our shoes while holding the shoe lower down the blades.

18A  WHAT IS A WOBBLE IN A SHOE (PART 1)
18B  WHAT IS A WOBBLE IN A SHOE (PART 2)
18C  SHOE TILT AND SHOE LIFT (THE UPWARD PATH)
18D  SHOE TILT AND SHOE LIFT (THE DOWNWARD PATH)
18E  SHOE TILT AND SHOE LIFT (MY PERSONAL DELIVERY)

18F  WRIST BENDING ON A FLIP SHOE
19  A VERTICAL SHOE
20B  GIVE ME A PLACE TO STAND AND WITH A LEVER I WILL MOVE THE WHOLE WORLD--ARCHIMEDES
21  WHEN A TURN SHOE FLIPS
22  PRACTICING HORSESHOES IN THE HOME
23  ANGLE OF THE LINE TO THE STAKE
24  MARKING YOUR SHOE’S CENTER OF GRAVITY
25  PITCHING HORSESHOES IN SLOW MOTION
26  PITCHING HORSESHOES IN THE SNOW
27  PITCHING HORSESHOES WITH A TRAINING ROPE
28  THE MATHEMATICS OF THE ALIGNMENT AND WHERE TO STAND TO TAKE ADVANTAGE
29  A NICE SPOT TO PLACE THE HEEL OF THE TRAILING FOOT WHEN STANDING
30A  USING A NICE 3 FEET STEP TO THE FOUL LINE FROM THE SPOT
30B  THREE DIFFERENT WAYS TO ORIENT THE BODY WITH THE STEP AND SWING
30C  SEEING IS BELIEVING
Sections 18A thru 30C on Part 2 page "Deeper Speculation"
FINAL ADVICE WITH ONE'S CHOSEN FORM
30D  Final advice after finding one's optimum form, "Relax and execute your form and watch the horseshoes go onto the stake without acting surprised.  If all is executed properly, the horseshoes just naturally end up on the stake!"  The game was even designed such that a small margin of error is allowed in a few dimensions, allowing the shoe to go on even when execution is not exactly perfect (stakes are 14 to 15 inches high, so the shoe can be thrown a little high or a little low and still be a ringer; the stakes are 1 inch in diameter (and slanted 3 inches forward), while the shoe has an opening of 3-1/2 inches while the blade points are allowed to be 7-1/4 inches apart, thus allowing the shoe to go on often even when the heel calk hits the stake rather than the opening--even when the shoe is not perfectly open, imagine that happening occasionally!; and the hooks on the heel calks can save a ringer when a shoe would otherwise spin off without hooks.)  The game of horseshoe pitching was designed and evolved to a state of reality so that pitchers who practice and develop awareness of what is taking place in their own games can improve to levels they would not have imagined when they threw their first shoe.  Good practice, where thinking on form is involved and worked on, rewards some pitchers; whereas bad practice, where the same mistakes happen again and again without thinking and correcting anything, punishes the "lazy" pitchers.  (I should understand this better than anyone else, because I've been a lazy pitcher for the last two summers.)

OTHER PRINCIPLES TO BE DISCUSSED
33  When I get the time to gather my thoughts more, I am going to add into this writing the pitching style of carrying the shoe with a bent elbow versus the straight arm pendulum swing which I used throughout this writing to keep everything on one plane of thinking.  I plan to include my thoughts on the center of gravity of the shoe visualized as a small sphere round dot, rather than just a flat "penny" dot in the same plane as the rest of the shoe.  In other words, not all revolving force on the metal of the shoe spins in the plane that includes the weight center of all the metal around the shoe itself.  Most pitchers are not able to put just a circular motion of spin on a shoe in one plane, but actually are passing metal of the shoe through many planes in relation to the center.  For in fact, this center of the shoe never revolves, in mathematical terms it is a "point", which means it as no dimensions (a line is actually one dimensional, a plane is two dimensional, while space is three dimensional (time is often called the fourth dimension or where the space our revolving object--or horseshoe--occupies in the rest of space at certain points in time)), and it is the metal of the shoe that revolves around this center of gravity point, whether in the same plane as the metal of the shoe before any motion is applied or in other planes going through the center after the shoe goes into motion.  I have not written about the speed of the forward swing and how it will effect all the other elements of pitching.  (I may not have the understanding at this time to explain the speed or what effect it will have).  I believe the rhythm that my first commenting reader refers to allows the pitcher to achieve the right speed needed with all the other influence the pitcher is putting on the delivery.  With as much as I tried to discuss above, I realize I've left many things out.  I'm merely thinking out loud and printing my thoughts as they come to mind on this web page.  I'm no authority on horseshoe pitching and I don't claim to be.  I certainly do not mean to sound like a "know it all" simply because I'm up front and open with my thoughts as they come to mind.  I strive only to express them in an animated way, so others can follow a line (or plane) of thinking on these matters and possibly point out flaws or omissions.  As I stated in the introduction, I hope to generate counter-thought from others who have a much greater "instinctive" understanding of the game than I, but may not have ever tried to do what I've attempted here in expressing thoughts in print on the physics and mathematics of pitching horseshoes.  After my CONCLUSION below, I'm beginning to include readers' responses and comments.  Also, I would like to begin links on this page to other pages where the physics, mathematics and techniques of horseshoe pitching are discussed by others.

CONCLUSION
This ends my initial writing on:
The Theory of the Physics and Mathematics of Horseshoe Pitching
The physics of the turning shoe and the mathematics of the alignment
How to pitch horseshoes with nearly a 100% ringer average . . . in your mind

However flawed my thinking is on these things, I have at least made the effort to put these thoughts down onto paper.  The foundation has been laid.  The Internet now has a page that tries to make sense of it all using physics and mathematics.  I will continuously be changing this writing as time goes on and I learn more about many of these theories on horseshoe pitching.  Getting out in the spring and trying out some of these theories will certainly help.  I hope the reader has enjoyed this presentation and has either absorbed some of the ideas in a helpful way or has been inspired to put together their own theories which may compliment this presentation or correct parts of it and hopefully share some of them with me.  If I’ve exposed some secrets that some pitchers had long ago figured out for themselves, but had been reluctant to share with the rest of us, for fear that we would get better (at their expense), then I’m sorry.  It is just my nature to try and figure out things that I am attracted to and share with others the things that I learn.

What we have showed here in the final analysis is that to throw ringers, the pitcher need only, “throw the shoe far enough, …throw the shoe open, …and throw the shoe at the stake.”

HAPPY HORSESHOE PITCHING!

LETTER RECEIVED MAY 3, 2009 from Bill Coles of  Carthage, NC.

Go to paragraph 29 to which Mr. Coles is referring.                                                                                     Your horseshoe friend                                                                                      Bill Coles                                                                                      Carthage, North Carolina
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
In August 2008, I received an address link for another web site blog dedicated to finding the perfect horseshoe swing delivery.  Bob Rasmussen writes in detail about many of the things discussed on these pages, plus he takes it a step further by explaining the equipment he has developed to assist in training the muscles to duplicate the same motion over and over.  His blog web site is located at:
http://tinyurl.com/MyWay1"Horseshoes My Way ... the Search for My Perfect Swing" (in 7 parts). This blog reads very well and fluent.  Bob has done a lot of thinking and planning for this presentation and I think it will be very beneficial for all who visit.

LETTER FROM A HOOSIER PITCHER
Hello!  I was reading the mathematics and physics of pitching that you have on the web site, and found it informative, I do have a degree from ISU, with a minor in physics.  I think the way you changed your delivery is on the right track.  I will share what I was taught about pitching and alignment.

I was taught that if you get the shoe up high enough after a fairly level release, it does not have to be perfectly level, the shoe will turn on its own to be open at the stake with either a turn and one fourth or a turn and three fourths.  To get alignment I was taught to line up the knuckle of my thumb with the point on the stake I am pitching at when releasing the shoe.  My knuckle is in the middle of the shoe, and if the shoe is high enough, it will be open and make a ringer like that every time.

I pitch Allens, but every shoe is balanced different with ringer savers and so forth.  My main problem is alignment because my eyesight is not what it used to be.  I am not an expert pitcher, I thought I might share some things I was taught by my uncle and Clarence Bellman.  So I guess to sum up one could say that in the forward swing if the shoe is lined up and at 7-8 feet in the air, it will rotate enough to be open, maybe not perfectly open, but open enough to be a ringer.  You get the distance by the back swing and practice, practice.  I don't know if this will help anybody pitch any better, but this is the way I pitch, and like I said, I am not an expert.
GP - IN 12/13/05

(follow-up letter)
I can explain exactly the way I deliver a shoe.  I bring it up to eye level flat, turn it inward, in line with the stake, and start the back swing straight back from the stake.  As it goes past my leg in the back swing, I step forward like I am taking a long step, but not a really long step. My back swing is about shoulder high, and after the shoe goes past my leg in the forward swing, I roll my arm so the shoe is fairly level when the knuckle of my thumb is about halfway up on the stake.  Then I release the shoe, which does not have to be perfectly level, if it is fairly level, it will be fairly level at the stake, when it goes on, if it does.  If you chop off the back swing you will be short, and if you swing back too far you will be out of line, or off balance and step out of line.  It is tricky to get it just right the way you feel comfortable with it.

I think you will find with the thumb in the middle of the shoe when you bring it up and the thumb in line with the stake, your alignment will get better, and by practicing the back swing and forward swing, you can improve up to 45-50% within a year.  Keep balanced in the forward step and be smooth with the delivery when you find out how far back you have to swing to get the distance and be comfortable with it.  I found that Allens work best for this type of delivery, but Walter Ray throws Clydesdales and uses pretty much the same delivery that I do.  If he is at Danville again this year, you might watch him pitch.  They don't call him Dead-eye for nothing.  I saw him beat Alan at Danville a few years ago, it was a heck of a game.  Dead-eye is the one who is the expert.  Well, I'll close for now, have good Christmas and  HAPPY NEW YEAR.
GP - IN 12/14/05

Walter Ray Williams, Jr. is a legend in the sport of horseshoe pitching and he has carried his natural good form and skills into the sport of professional bowling as well.  I have read that he also has a college degree in the science of physics.  On his own web site, he has a great Questions and Answers section where he takes time out of his busy schedule to answer questions from horseshoe pitchers.  On March 28, 2005, Jim from Jackson's Gap, AL told Walter that he had been searching for some information about the physics of pitching horseshoes and that he found this page and thought it had some very good information.  (Jim, Thank you for your kind remark).  Jim gave Walter the web page address and asked him if he would take a look at the information printed on this page and with his knowledge of physics and horseshoe pitching, add a few comments.

Walter Ray Williams responded that "although Kenny Wolf uses some physics terms in his description of how to pitch a horseshoe he doesn't really use them properly" and that "it is very difficult to put some things into words."  He went on to say that he (Walter Ray) hasn't "really tried to apply the equations of physics to horseshoes.  Like most sports, it comes down to repetition and feel."  Walter went on to talk about such things as the optimum heights to throw the shoe, "the exact angle of the stake, how rigid the stakes are, how solid the stakes are, how soft the clay is, how many shoes and where they are near the stake, the temper of the shoes, the temper of the stakes and even how a pitcher delivers the shoe (how much do they lean over and the height at which they release the shoe) would effect the optimum height."  Walter stated that "there are some simple equations, but also some very complicated ones and I (Walter Ray Williams, Jr.) haven't put the serious thought into what I think it would require."

Kenny Wolf's Open Letter Response to Walter Ray Williams, Jr.

Hi Walter Ray,
First, I would like to congratulate you for your achievements in the sports of horseshoe pitching and bowling.  As a person who loves the sport of horseshoe pitching and having been born and raised in the town that Curt Day lived in, and having created a web site dedicated to horseshoe pitching, Curt Day's accomplishments and the courts that he left to carry on after his passing; I greatly admire you and wish you the best and continued accomplishments in both sports.  I have three pairs of the Deadeye Clydesdale DF horseshoes and two pairs of the Deadeye EZ-Grip horseshoes and wouldn't give any of them up for anything else out in the marketplace.  Also, I, as do others, owe you a big THANK YOU for taking the time to offer an open forum of Q&A to your many admirers and horseshoe enthusiasts, just as you  took the time to respond to Jim from Jackson's  Gap,  AL concerning  the information on this site.

Of course I had you in mind when I wrote this page.  With your cross knowledge of both horseshoe pitching and physics, I, like many others, wished that you had written extensively on the physics and mathematics of horseshoe pitching as you apparently did on the sport of bowling.  (I also see that on your site, you offer a video you made on bowling for fellow bowlers).  I also thought it would be very difficult to put horseshoe pitching into words, but I gave it a try here.  I've stated many times on this page that I am not a great horseshoe pitcher and I have been very up front with that fact.  You say that I use some physics terms in my description of how to pitch a horseshoe, but that I really don't use them properly.  I do wish you had taken a sentence or two to give an example or two of my misuse of some physics terms.  I want to know where I have erred, so I can get this page as close to the truth as possible.  I have revised a couple of sections since I first put this page up.  One section was on the "wobble" of a shoe. I realized I was wrong originally and I attempted to highlight my error in thinking and correct my statements on it.  After receiving a letter from an individual asking me about my sections on the "tilt path" of a pitched horseshoe, I thought about his question and revised my thinking on this and highlighted my writing on this subject with a preface stating that it was not practical with the way most pitchers fly a horseshoe.

My main focus in using physics on this page was to instill an awareness in other horseshoe pitchers that a horseshoe has a center of gravity.  This is a concept that I read from a fellow horseshoe pitcher on the internet.  I didn't think of it myself!  He wrote me after reading this page and his letter is printed below and signed as D. G. (Duane Goodrich).  I don't think Mr. Goodrich would mind me crediting him with bringing this matter to my attention.  I'm sure he would say that he was taught this concept by someone else, who learned it from someone else, and on and on into the past.  I don't think discussing a horseshoe's "center of gravity" is using physics terms improperly.  Keeping the center of gravity of a horseshoe on a straight line to the stake does not seem to me to be using physics terms improperly.  I also emphasize different ways of putting a turn on the horseshoe.  If the shoe is flying a distance of approximately 40 feet, give or take a few feet, I don't see how describing the amount of turn influence on the shoe for the approximate length of 8 feet to 4 feet (or the last 2 feet to 1 foot that it is in the hand) is using physics terms improperly?  These simple physics principles are the main concepts delved into on this page!

In your response to Jim, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that "like most sports, it comes down to repetition and feel."  I agreed with you 100% when I read that comment.  But some of us struggle to come up with that "feel" that great pitchers like you have discovered and some of us struggle with "repetition" which come so natural to pitchers like you, Curt Day, Elmer Hohl, Dan Kuchcinski, Mark Seibold, Alan Francis, Brian Simmons, Ted Allen, Fernando Isais and the great Guy Zimmerman (only to mention a few of our pitching idols and heroes).  Some of us, like Jim from Jackson's Gap, AL are looking for systematic structured advice from some of our living great horseshoe pitchers on the physics and mathematics of horseshoe pitching, so we know in our minds what the physics are that we are trying to apply and so our practicing will not be in vain so often as it is for some of us.  We may never be able to fully apply this valued knowledge, but we would like to see it presented by one or more of the great living horseshoe pitchers.  That was the purpose of my page here!  I'm not a great horseshoe pitcher and I don't have a degree in physics, but I don't find it "very difficult to put some things into words" once I take the time to work out the thoughts in my mind.

Walter Ray, because I greatly admire your skills and the time you take with horseshoe pitching enthusiasts, I would like nothing more than to see you write a treatise on the physics and mathematics of horseshoe pitching.  Maybe you would be surprised to find that you would express more things the way I have here; and then again, maybe you would use a whole different approach and vocabulary of physics terms.  But either way, it would be one of your greatest contributions to the sport.  And you have already contributed so much.

Thank you for commenting on this web site.  Now get your 1-1/4 turn figured out again by physics or "repetition and feel" and go out there and win some more horseshoe pitching world championships. (Note:  If it comes down to you against one of our own Hoosier pitchers, I must confess that, in Indiana, we Hoosiers will be rooting for the home state guy!)

Sincerely and gratefully,
Kenny Wolf

(see the bottom of the page of issue #8 of "Flying Horseshoes" newsletter
for a listing of the six World Championships of Walter Ray "Deadeye" Williams, Jr.)

Hi Kenny:  Your article is very good; but the one thing you might want to include is:  A pitcher needs to be loose.  I have been pitching shoes since 1954.  The most important thing I have learned is to practice, practice and practice.  I have noticed that I feel much better and relaxed after warming up by pitching at least 100 shoes.  My body now has a comfortable rhythm.  I have noticed a lot of pitchers don't warm up at all, and they are in the lower ringer percentage groups.
from:  B.H. (CA) 12/21/04

Kenny Wolf
Your article on horseshoe pitching dated Dec 16, 2004 shows a lot of interest and thought on what many probably overlook.
The more pitchers write about their experience and interest in the game/sport the better informed more people will become.
You stated that what you found in searching the internet for inside information on pitching ringers was, "Throw the shoe far enough, ...throw the shoe open, ...and throw the shoe at the stake."  And you thought you could hear some laughs...
You stated nearly 40 paragraphs later in your final analysis that to throw ringers, the pitcher need only, "throw the shoe far enough, ...throw the shoe open, ...and throw the shoe at the stake." You probably didn't hear the laugh this time but it was there, just knowing another pitcher discovered the truth the same way I did.
I've heard people ask, "What are the secrets to pitching?" Most skilled pitchers simply answer, "practice, practice, practice". That is really a good answer because people need to experiment with everything they can think of which helps them deliver pitches that encircle the stake. Most find a flip or turn that makes a lazy rotation in flight and which ends up as a flat shoe with the open side facing the stake, to be what they want to accomplish. It doesn't work out for some and thus we see multiple turns & flips, reverse turns and other variations that work for them. There are outstanding pitchers in every technique used, validating their particular choices.
It may and does help beginners to practice with help from skilled pitchers but it isn't a handicap to practice alone as long as thought is given to the elements which will lead you to "throw the shoe far enough, ...throw the shoe open, ...and throw the shoe at the stake."
I find it interesting that within the same family of outstanding horseshoe pitchers, few family members pitch the same way. Every pitcher seems to be unique.
A list of elements to try, like grips, stride, backswing, timing, turns, to name a few, should be of interest to beginners but most who experiment freely on their own will discover what seems to work best for them to dedicate in practice, practice, practice.
The shoe's center of gravity is fixed (albeit invisible). A flip shoe rotates vertically around it. A turn shoe rotates horizontally around it. A tumbling or wobbling shoe or even a non-rotating shoe follows an invisible arc toward the stake made by the shoe's center of gravity. No pitched shoe is "out of balance", it naturally follows it's center of gravity arc but those with too much wobble or with a tumbling rotation combination may not be pretty.
Flip pitchers impart a little vertical rotation (or a lot in the case of multiple flips) in their delivery. Turn pitchers find it possible to impart a little horizontal rotation automatically, without forcing rotation with wrist snaps. Wrist snaps often lead to pitches which land out of alignment. By focusing on pitching with center of gravity alignment, most right handed pitchers will find an automatic clockwise rotation can occur at the moment of full arm extension when the shoe begins to free itself from your grip. The shoe first slips away from the little finger, then off the ring finger and middle finger, all the while pinched between thumb and index finger until that too is free and the rotating shoe is in flight.
Best of luck.
Practice, practice, practice.
from:  D.G. 12/31/04

Sections of Part 1 page
Essential Basics
INTRODUCTION
1  HORSESHOES FUN TO HOLD
2  A DROPPED SHOE AND THE DISCOVERY OF GRAVITY
3  FORWARD MOTION OF THE HORSESHOE
4  STRAIGHT TOWARDS THE STAKE FOR RINGERS
5  IMPORTANCE OF THE BACK SWING
6  GREETING THE STAKE AND STARTING THE BACK SWING
7  RELEASING THE SHOE INTO FLIGHT (revised)
8  PEAK HIGH POINT OF THE SHOE
9  WHERE IS THE CENTER OF GRAVITY OF A HORSESHOE

10  IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING WHERE THE CENTER OF GRAVITY IS
11  THROWING AN OPEN SHOE AT THE STAKE DOES NOT HAVE TO DEPEND ON LUCK
12  BACK SWINGS MAY VARY
13  STRAIGHT BACK SWING AND FORWARD SWING
14  HOW MUCH TURN ROTATION TO PUT ON A SHOE
14B  EFFECT OF THE STEP ON THE FORWARD MOTION OF THE SHOE
15A  HOW MUCH TURN FOR HOW LONG
15B  WHAT AMOUNT OF INFLUENCE STAYS WITH THE SHOE INTO FLIGHT?
15C  . . . AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FOLLOW THROUGH
16  FACTOR OF WHERE SHOE IS GRIPPED
17  SHOE CAN WORK ITSELF OR TURN ITSELF

30D  FINAL ADVICE WITH ONE'S CHOSEN FORM (added on January 27, 2005)

33  OTHER PRINCIPLES TO BE DISCUSSED
CONCLUSION

9B  ALL OTHER LINES THROUGH THE CENTER POINT WILL EVENLY DIVIDE THE BALANCE OF THE WEIGHT OF THE SHOE ON EITHER SIDE OF THE LINES (added with 20 B below)

18A  WHAT IS A WOBBLE IN A SHOE (PART 1) (revised)
18B  WHAT IS A WOBBLE IN A SHOE (PART 2) (revised)
18C  SHOE TILT AND SHOE LIFT (THE UPWARD PATH) (added, & revised as speculation)
18D  SHOE TILT AND SHOE LIFT (THE DOWNWARD PATH) (added, & revised as speculation)
18E  SHOE TILT AND SHOE LIFT (MY PERSONAL DELIVERY) (added, & revised as speculation)

18F  WRIST BENDING ON A FLIP SHOE
19  A VERTICAL SHOE
20B  GIVE ME A PLACE TO STAND AND WITH A LEVER I WILL MOVE THE WHOLE WORLD--ARCHIMEDES (added with 9B above)
21  WHEN A TURN SHOE FLIPS
22  PRACTICING HORSESHOES IN THE HOME
23  ANGLE OF THE LINE TO THE STAKE
24  MARKING YOUR SHOE’S CENTER OF GRAVITY
25  PITCHING HORSESHOES IN SLOW MOTION
26  PITCHING HORSESHOES IN THE SNOW
27  PITCHING HORSESHOES WITH A TRAINING ROPE
28  THE MATHEMATICS OF THE ALIGNMENT AND WHERE TO STAND TO TAKE ADVANTAGE
29  A NICE SPOT TO PLACE THE HEEL OF THE TRAILING FOOT WHEN STANDING
30A  USING A NICE 3 FEET STEP TO THE FOUL LINE FROM THE SPOT
30B  THREE DIFFERENT WAYS TO ORIENT THE BODY WITH THE STEP AND SWING
30C  SEEING IS BELIEVING (added on January 27, 2005)

31  THEORY IN PRACTICE WITH THE TRAINING ROPE
32  THE MATHEMATICS OF THE CROSSFIRE HORSESHOE PITCHER

Email the website editor Kenny Wolf

Email address must be typed in to email me.
This email address is a jpeg image to avoid Internet spam email search programs.