The clouds that hovered over Roseburg Thursday were a nice relief for the members of the Roseburg Horseshoe Club who were pitching to get ready for the Stewart Park Open this weekend.
Club members came out to practice their pitching in the days leading up to the tournament. Pitching the shoes from one end to the next, trying to get as close to the stakes as possible.
“Horseshoes used to be such a big deal for families, it was really a family affair years ago,” club president Wes Honn said. “My grandson, I got him throwing and in his first year he went to state and won. So, young people, if they get in and try it, they like it and we have some other younger kids that are trying to get involved. We can have whole families in the club.”
Horseshoe stakes are 40 feet apart. Men pitch from the 40-foot line, while woman throw from 30 feet. Men have the option of moving to the 30-foot line in the elders division or due to medical conditions.
The stake is supposed to stay in the middle of the two sides of the 2 1/2-pound U-shaped metal and although it is called a horseshoe, the metal equipment is actually about twice the size of a shoe used on horse.
Honn said he throws about 45 percent, but Art Gee is one of the best horseshoe pitchers for the club at 55 percent.
At tournaments, pitchers play against people with similar abilities and skills to keep the game fun and competitive.
“The thing about horseshoe pitching is that it doesn’t matter how good or bad a person is, because you get put in a class where everybody pitches relatively the same,” regional director and club member Chuck Warner said. “It’s possible for a 9-year-old and his great-great-granddad to be pitching against each other at the same tournament.”
Horseshoes has a cadet class for children less than 12 years of age, a junior class, men’s open class, women’s open class and elders class.
The Roseburg club consists of about 12 active members, making it the largest horseshoe club in Oregon.
“A city like Portland might have one or two members,” Honn said. “They don’t have very many, but the guy that runs it is the best horseshoe player in the state. Most clubs have two, three, sometimes four members.”
Members of the Roseburg Horseshoe Club are still trying to attract new members.
“They’ve got some little kids throwing 60 percent at the world tournament,” Honn said. “We don’t have a lot of youth members, but more than we’ve had in the past. I’ve found that the younger generation really likes it if you just introduce them to it.”
The club starts practice every Thursday at 5 p.m. and is open to teaching people how to throw horseshoes.
The horseshoe pits consist mostly of clay pits, but there are also some sand pits that are used during rain or snow.
“The only weather I don’t play in is lightning,” Honn said. “The Roseburg parks department has been nice to us, by putting up the fence, bringing in the sand and the lumber to make the sand pits and (club member and tournament director) Robbin (Quinn) has really been a blessing to maintain this.”
The parks department moved and painted benches near the horseshoe pits earlier in the day to accommodate the people in this weekend’s tournament.
The Oregon Horseshoe Pitchers Association sanctioned tournament at Stewart Park will start around 9 a.m. today and Sunday and is one of 35 sanctioned tournaments in Oregon this year.
“We start around the first of April and have tournaments almost every weekend somewhere in the state until the first Saturday in October,” Warner said.
Warner and his wife, Kathy, travel to as many tournaments as they can and are planning to go to Bend for the Juniper Open next weekend.
“We’ve been to several world tournaments,” Kathy Warner said. “Last year it was in St. George, Utah, and several of us went there.”
This year the world tournament will be held in Buffalo, New York, but due to the distance only two Oregon pitchers will attend, none from Roseburg.
“I’ve pitched in six world tournaments and she’s pitched in five,” Chuck Warner said about his wife. “She has been the state women’s champion in Oregon and won her class twice at the world tournament.”
Each world tournament takes two weeks and is held in a 50,000 square foot building with 40 to 50 portable horseshoe pits filled with clay.
“It’s a world tournament because there’s a guy from Norway that comes, Japan, Canada has a lot of people and the last two years we’ve had people from Africa,” Chuck Warner said. “It brings in about $2 million of revenue for the city.”
The world tournament is often held on the East Coast, but word has spread through the horseshoe pitchers community of Oregon that Spokane, Wash., might be putting in a bid for the 2016 world tournament.
• You can reach sports reporter Sanne Godfrey at 541-957-4219 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It doesn’t matter how good or bad a person is, because you get put in a class where everybody relatively pitches the same.