Surrey club excels at tossing iron around

Summer is here and it’s time to get out and enjoy this special time of the year. Over the next three months the Now will offer you some unique sporting ways to experience summer without leaving town.

For most of us, a relaxing summer long weekend involves camping in a provincial park or getting together for a picnic with friends. The down time before and after the meals are taken up with various activities – throwing a Frisbee, volleyball on the grass, croquet with cheap wire hoops and glued-together mallets, and pitching horseshoes.

In these impromptu gettogethers, someone will march off an appropriate distance everyone agrees on and players will take turns tossing plastic-coated horseshoes at a peg driven into the ground. Everyone uses the same equipment and the rules are fabricated as the game progresses.

Fun for sure, but definitely amateur stuff compared to the game played by those who take tossing iron horseshoes seriously.

"When you’re out camping or picnicking, people use whatever silly rules they want," said Jim Grant, president of the Cloverdale Horseshoe Club. "They can pitch from different positions than the organized sport does and they score the game the way they want. It’s a different game all together. It is closely regulated with very specific rules."

The rules begin with the horseshoes, which are carefully engineered to meet exacting standards for size and weight to be approved for competition. Those strict standards still allow plenty of room for innovation and Grant said there are hundreds of different horseshoe styles on the market.

Once a horseshoe design has been approved by Horseshoe

Canada, it cannot be modified in any way for use in competition.

"You cannot use horseshoes you pick up at Canadian Tire because they are not sanctioned by Horseshoe Canada," Grant said. "These are sanctioned shoes. They have to be a specific length and width, the opening has to be a specific size and they have to be a specific weight. You cannot use just anything you pick up in a store because they won’t meet the regulation standards. A lot of people buy some shoes and a post and are disappointed when they learn they cannot use them."

The scoring is also carefully regulated. A ringer (both tips of the shoe are past the post) earns the tosser three points while two points are awarded for two shoes landing within six inches of the post, and one point for one shoe within six inches.

A thrower’s efforts in competition are recorded for official averages to determine a handicap. This number projects the average number of ringers a player will throw in 100 attempts.

That average is used to pair players up for competition with a goal of having tournament games between players of similar abilities. As a rule, players will compete against other horseshoers with averages within 10 per cent of their own. The handicap is used for pairings, but unlike golf, it does not affect your final score in tournament play.

The competitive game attracts pitchers of all ages. Surrey retiree Lloyd Anderson was a habitual golfer until he discovered how relaxing horseshoes can be.

"I started pitching one month ago," Anderson said. "A friend of mine is a member and he convinced me to come out and try it. So I tried it and I liked it. It’s very relaxing and the competition is you against the pin. I golf quite a bit and to be honest, comparing this to golf, I like this better.

"It’s great for seniors because as a club member, we can come out and practise during the day."

At the other end of the age scale, 16-year-old Petra Manka picked up the game as part of a visit to the Cloverdale club with her high school physical education class.

"My school came here on a field trip and it seemed like a fun game," she said. "I had never done horseshoes before and when I tried it, it was a lot of fun. It’s interesting. I play other sports during the year, but they ended for the summer. I was looking for something to do over the summer so I decided to give it a try."

The Cloverdale Horseshoe Club originated with the Cloverdale Legion shortly after World War II. The current Cloverdale facility (17886 64 Ave.) boasts 25 regulation horseshoe pits, 15 of which are under cover.

Cloverdale will host its annual Cloverdale Open this Sunday (July 20) beginning at 9 a.m. Other events schedules for Cloverdale are the B.C. championships at the end of August and the B.C. Senior Games horseshoe competition in September.

Getting started The Gear It doesn’t get much simpler and self-explanatory than this: You need a couple of horseshoes to pitch horseshoes.

Official horseshoes are custom designed and come in light, medium and heavy weights (between two pounds, four ounces and two pounds, 10 ounces).

A set of regulation horseshoes will cost anywhere from $40 to $75 and must be purchased from a specialized dealer.

The standard horseshoe pitch features a pair of iron posts situated 40 feet apart. Men traditionally throw the full 40 feet while women, juniors and seniors make their tosses from 30 feet away from the post.

Where to go On Tuesday and Thursday evenings beginning at 7 p.m. the Cloverdale Horseshoe Club has open throwing sessions. Members of the public are welcome to drop by and try their hand at the game.

The Cloverdale club facility is not the only location for horseshoe pitchers to get their fix. The City of Surrey has dozens of horseshoe pits set up in parks and near recreation facilities throughout the city. Visit and search for "horseshoe pitches" to find a pit near you.

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