WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE NHPA (National Horseshoe Pitchers' Association) and sanctioning of tournaments and leagues?

      To provide standardized rules of play, to ensure courts are equivalent for all pitchers and to promote to game. The NHPA also runs the World Tournament each year - in 2014 in Buffalo, NY.


     The results of events sanctioned by the NHPA are sent into the NHPA's Natstat guy. They are entered into a database. Out of the last 10 events, the top 3 are averaged, taking in consideration the number of shoes in those events. For leagues the results are standardized down to 400 shoes. This average is then used for future events to provide fair classes. If you are pitching against someone who has an average 10% points higher than you, you are very unlikely to win, maybe 5% of the time.

      The reason the top 3 events are used is to try to avoid "sandbagging". Once one pitches a good tournament, it takes 10 more events before that tournament average drops.

     I would rather an average of all events pitched in the last 12 months be used. Apparently that has been tried in the past. In our club league which is NOT sanctioned I do use the year's average.


      The NHPA playing rule 11, section F discusses handicapping. Whether an event is handicapped is up to the league/tournament director. Again the purpose is to allow a competitive game. A 60% pitcher is always going to beat a 30% pitcher - always!. When money is involved as in most sanctioned tournaments, I believe it is only fair to handicap a class when there is more than a 10% point variation in the pitchers' averages. Otherwise the lower averaged pitcher is just donating the entry fee to the higher averaged pitcher.

      When a tournament has a good number of entries, it is often possible to make classes with reasonable spreads of NATSTAT averages. In the World, the  classes most often have spreads of 2 to 3 % points, except for the championship class where you are deciding who is the best in the World.

      I like using an 83% handicap. This is done by using your pitching/NATSTAT average and taking the difference between pitchers. For example, my league average is 50%. Jon's is 30%. In a 40 shoe game I would give Jon 20 points handicap. In doing this the outcome of the game is changed around 15 to 20 percent of the time. But, it makes the games closer and encourages the better pitcher to concentrate/try harder.  It is not fun to lose all the time.

     This year so far Hassan has pitched 30 games - won 20 and lost 10. Without the handicap, he would have won all 30 games. Seems like that would be less fun for all.


     Yes. The shoes can weigh up to 2 pounds 10 oz. The opening can be no more than 3 1/2 inches. The maximum width is 7 1/4 inches. The maximum length is 7 5/8 inches. And the height can be no more than 1 inch. Finally the design and manufacturer must be approved by the NHPA.

     There are probably hundreds of NHPA approved shoes and at the NHPA website one can purchase shoes. I personally like the Mustangs, which have a place to put my thumb. It is designed more for one who is a "Flipper". Others are designed more for those who pitch the turn shoe.

     Jon Turnbull of the Skagit Valley Horseshoe Club sells shoes for the WSHPA. He often attends Seattle's sanctioned tournaments. Contact him at. 360 826-5520 or email turnfam@gotsky.com


     There are 2 basic methods of throwing the shoes - the TURN and the FLIP. Alan Francis, probably the best pitcher of all time, throw a 3/4 reverse turn. Not many folks are able to do this. Supposedly the turn is harder to master but gives one a higher ringer average. Folks throw 1 1/4, 3/4 and 1 3/4 turn shoes. Whatever is comfortable. Most 40 foot pitchers use the turn shoe.

     One flip usually works best for 30 foot pitchers, which is what most 30 footers use. Since the shoe is coming straight at the stake, it can at times just bounce back. Some shoes have a spike built into the center of the shoe (called a ringer buster) for the purpose of making it turn a bit rather than bounce off. For me it feels uncomfortable to have this spike where my fingers rest on the shoe.

     To pitch a ringer 3 things must happen - 1. the right distance, 2. the right direction, and 3. the shoe needs to be open.