How to Pitch Horseshoes
Curt Day Interview
"Tips On Horseshoe Pitching"
**** interviewed by his son Paul Day in 1975 ****
(Paul Day appeared
as a rookie pitcher in the 1974 World
and finished 10th place with a 77.3% ringer
1966 World Champion - 86.2% (86.6% in Finals) at Murray, UT
1971 World Champion - 84.9% at Middlesex, NJ
1974 World Champion - 81.8% at Keene, NH
18 Times Indiana State Champion 1953 * 1955 * 1957 * 1959 thru 1972 *
Okay, in the book here, it says “my shoe is gripped on the tip of my
fingers in a relaxed position.” When you hold your horseshoe, how
are your fingers spread? Where is each of your fingers on the
Do you mean
underneath and on the top?
The thumb is on top and the little finger is underneath.
Is it against the caulk of the shoe, the toe caulk?
Pretty near, yes.
But its underneath the shoe, its not wrapped around . . .
Curt Day: No, its underneath the shoe.
Its just the very tip of the shoe, right on the edge of the shoe itself?
The thumb is in the middle of the shoe and the little finger is in the
middle of the shoe underneath and then the three fingers are spread a
little bit. It’s a finger tip grip.
Okay, and then throwing the three quarter turn, you say you aim about 3
or 4 inches up on the stake.
Approximately 4 inches.
Up on the stake, you pick out a spot there and that’s what you look at,
that’s what you are concentrating on until after you release the shoe
and you may follow the flight of the shoe or whatever?
Yeah, you can follow the flight of the shoe if you want to, but after
you release the shoe.
When did you start aiming at about 3 or 4 inches up on the stake, is
that always where you aimed? I’ve always aimed at the top of the
I usually…I used to aim at the bottom and I kind of moved up from the
bottom to 4 inches I’d say. I never did aim at the top of the
Well, timing the step with the swing and getting the rhythm is
important. Okay, rhythm…developing a rhythm in the pitching…now,
to get the rhythm, I guess it gets into “if you don’t have the rhythm,
how do you get it?”
Well, you’ve got to strive to have a smooth step, and no jerky
motion in your arm as you …in others words, everything’s got to be kind
of fluid motion, your step and your swing and your follow through is
all…its got to be smooth and your follow through.
Okay, let’s say you’re in a game or something, you miss maybe 4 out of
6 shoes or something and you’re off your rhythm. Do you swing
some extra times or it depends upon…
Yeah, that’s, I’d say it would probably be advisable to swing a few
extra times…you’ve got to find something that you can get back on your
rhythm and if it takes a few extra swings to do that, fine. Or
maybe you step back and you tell yourself what you’re doing
wrong. You’ve got to be able to correct your mistake.
Let’s say concentration. What do you think about when you first
go out on the court and you’re starting to warm up? Okay, right
before a tournament, let’s say you go out on the court and you’re
starting to warm up. What would be kind of your routine?
Well, the first thing, you check out if you got any sore muscles, if
your arm is feeling okay and your legs are in good shape, then you try
to concentrate on your distance and your open shoe and really the first
few shoes you throw, you don’t, you’re not worrying about throwing a
ringer too much, you check out your open shoe, your distance and your
alignment. And then you also kind of check out if it comes easy
for you and you know that after you toss 10 minutes or 15, you’re going
to tell if you’re going to have to do some changing or whether you can
just go on in your gradual procedure.
Okay, let’s say for instance that you’ve pitched for 15 minutes and
you’re not throwing the 80% ringers. It depends on what its
doing, what kind of adjustments you make I guess, let’s say your
alignment is off, so you are throwing to the left?
Well, if your alignments off, you’re going to have to . . . you know
your shoe, how you hold it and you’re going to have to figure out
whether your step is causing your alignment to be off, or maybe you may
have to cock your shoe a little bit or you may have to move your shoe
to the left or to right sites a little different to make it come
in. And you have to make these little adjustments and that’s what
you do in practice whenever you’re having a little trouble and you’ve
got to kind of remember what you did in practice to get yourself back.
Okay, is there something special like you did, say if you had trouble
with your distance or something, you might not bring your shoe up as
much or something along that line. Did you ever shorten your step?
Well, usually you might shorten your step just a little bit if you want
to throw your shoe a little higher or try to make it a little
easier. Usually you don’t change your step too much. You
might raise your shoe when you start to pitch or you might lower
it. You really get the distance by the swing.
Okay, when you start a game after you’ve practiced, you’ve got yourself
down to where you’re throwin’ pretty good. Do you, when you play
your game, do you count ringers like “try to throw 8 out of 10 or 9 out
of 10” all the time or do you do any counting while you’re
pitching? Some people do, I guess.
Well, you try to pitch more ringers than the fella you’re throwin’
against. I think you try to kinda keep track of your shoes to see
if you’re throwin’ 3 out of 4 or 4 out of 5.
Rather than just pitch against like the score that you’re leading.
Well, when you get into that phase of it, I always try to pitch a
ringer on every shoe, regardless of what my opponent was doin’. I
feel like you try to get yourself throwin’ ringers, if you’re throwin’
ringers, you want to keep throwin’ ringers. Every shoe you pitch,
you try to throw a ringer. If you don’t, why then you kinda
concentrate on what you did wrong and try to correct it on the next
So in actuality, what you’re trying to do is trying to pitch a ringer
every time, not necessarily just trying to win the game?
No, that’s true, I mean you’re tryin’ to throw a ringer and if you do
that, why you’ve got a good chance to win the game.
Well, that’s like if you look back in the record books, you look back
on a lot of the tournaments you went to on the weekends that you
averaged in the 80’s and the next person might average in the low 70’s
or something. Some other pitchers who come to the world
tournament say something like “We’re only going to average maybe in the
70’s, because I just pitch against people that way, if I was pitching
against good competition, I’d be pitching higher with them too, but it
only takes 70 some to win a tournament", so that’s what some people
I never did feel that way, I
always thought that you better pitch every ringer you can because with
all your pitching innings your opponent might get hot and start
throwing a lot of ringers and you may not be able to stay with
know in all my games, a lot of times, opponent wasn’t doin’ too well,
but as long as he scored a point, why that’s
all I cared about. I didn’t try to skunk anybody, I never
did skunk anybody in a tournament game.
But you would have if you were pitching a perfect game?
In a world tournament or a big tournament game, I think I would have.
Now, okay, you got up there, you’ve practiced, you’ve warmed up and
you’ve got your kinks worked out, you’re thowin’ 85% or so in
practice. Okay, you’re walking with your opponent and you’re
tossing back and forth and he’s pitchin’ alright. You’ll say to
him, “I’m ready to go whenever you are or something”, do you usually
say that or do you wait for him to say when he’s ready?
Well, I used to do that. It got to the place where that I felt
like go down and back two or three times, I say “down and back, do you
want to go?” and I’d leave it up to him to make a decision, if he
wanted to go down and back more than once, why, okay. I think a
lot of pitchers want to go down and back too many times between
games. I really don’t think you go down and back twice on a new
court if you just came off pitching a game, I think that’s all that is
So you pitch down, would you rather pitch for the mud or would you
rather flip the shoe?
Well, I think it’s best…more sportsmanship involved if you flip a shoe.
You flip the shoe, you shake hands, and you start to pitch.
You’ve broken your rhythm whenever you stop and you flip a shoe.
Normally when you start the game, do you take a few extra swings or
something or do you take a little extra time after you’ve flipped that
shoe or do you just go about normal?
I think you try to be as relaxed as you can and throw a natural
shoe. Hopefully maybe your opponent won the toss and you let him
pitch first. I always felt like I’d just as soon pitch second as
I would pitch first. Of course the guy who wins it usually goes
ahead and pitches, so I think on that first pitch you don’t want to get
too ambitious. I think you want to kinda take it easy and try to
settle yourself down and see if you can toss a couple of ringers to
start with. It makes a good game out of it if you can.
Basic, keeping relaxed, if it is an important game, if it’s a tough
opponent. Some people have a tendency to hang onto their shoe,
especially in tense times, whether it be the first pitch or the middle
of the game or late in the game. Is there anything specifically
that you would do to keep from tightening up either a different
breathing, any more swings or just kinda a relaxed set of mind you got.
No, I think you want to be relaxed. I think you keep your mind on
your own pitchin’ and not worry about what your opponent does, except
if he throws two on, why then you want to throw two on too. But
you’re gonna want to do that whether he throws any on at all or
not. I never did worry about watching the opponent’s shoe or
seeing how it was workin’. I always try to keep my mind on my own
shoe. I felt like that was a full time job. I never did
have too much trouble tightening up where I hung on to the shoe too
much. It’s easy to tighten up, I mean usually if you tighten up
your shoe, you stand a chance of going in maybe a little short or you
might throw your shoe a little harder and have more of a chance to back
off. So, it’s just, whether it’s the first pitch or the tenth or
the twentieth, why I think you still want to do the same thing.
Now when you’re actually pitching, getting back to the concentration, I
guess, what actually is going through your mind while you’re
pitching? Is the only thing that you’re concentrating on when
you’re actually pitching a shoe is that looking at the stake, kinda
having your mind go blank in a way as far as any other outside
thoughts, just the co-ordination of that or are you in a way thinking
“okay I’ve thrown eight in a row or I’ve just missed two or something
along like that”, do those thoughts enter your mind, as you pitch two?
No, I think you forget what you did. Of course, if you’re not
throwin’ ringers, you can’t hardly forget that part of it. But
you want to bounce back and start thowin’ ringers and usually you try
to correct what you’ve been doin’ wrong, if you’ve been doin’ anything
wrong. If not, why you go ahead and do just what you’ve been
doing. While your opponent’s pitching, while you’re standing
there kinda relaxed and thinking about your grip and trying to just
keep the rhythm that you have and keep your shoe goin’ in there like
you want it to. In other words, you’re just keeping your mind on
your own horseshoe. If you think about the ringers you’re
thowin’, its just kinda a glancing thought, you don’t dwell on it at
all and you let that go and your percentage will take care of itself if
you throw ringers. You try to be alert to see that the score is
right and just kinda keep your mind on your pitching, trying to keep
relaxed and throwin’ ringers. If they’re coming easy for you, why
that’s good, you just gotta try to stay in a mood to keep em’ comin’
In some tournaments for qualifying. Is there anything in
particular as far as qualifying, that you do differently or anything
else we’ve discussed?
I think in qualifying, its "concentrating". I always had the
that really pitching a good horseshoe game is the same as good
qualifying. All you’re doing in qualifying, you don’t have to
worry about any other shoes being on the stake but your own. So,
therefore, you’re just concentrating on throwin’ ringers. And
whatever you have to do to keep that rhythm, that’s what you dwell
on. I think it’s helped me in a lot of horseshoe games that it’s
just the same as I feel like I’m out there and maybe by myself thowin’
ringers and my opponents just walking back and forth with me. I
don’t let his pitchin’ interfere with mine. So qualifying and
pitching a good game of horseshoes is just about the same. You
can’t always, maybe you can’t always do that, but then it’s nice if you
Next question, gets back to “you stand on the right hand side of the
stake and throw cross-fire across your body to the stake at the other
end with your three quarter reverse turn.” Have you ever pitched
in tournaments where you stood on the left hand side of the stake…or
did you always mostly stand on the right?
I don’t know as if I ever pitched in a tournament. I’ve pitched
in league games and so forth. It seemed like standing on the left
side, the shoe went in more perfect with more of a chance your ringer
would bounce off. On the right side, I dwelled on pitching where
I could hook the stake and keep the shoe on. And then I used to
pitch a pretty low and hard shoe and I stood back as far as I could on
the walkway and still it just seemed to come, I worked on it and it
seemed to come more natural for me and there are more fellows pitching
on the left side than the right. I like that part too.
Next question relates to your release of the horseshoe from your
hand. When you start off, you have your shoe a certain way.
Now, when it comes through your body, when you bring it down is it kept
flat, your hand flat or is it turned so the shoe is tucked in straight
along your body, is it flat in your back swing, how is it
delivered. Does it come off the end of your finger, which one
does it come off first?
Well, I don’t know if I can answer that correctly or not. I don’t
turn my shoe; I grip it, sight the stake and I bring it down, in
my back swing I turn my shoe a little bit in my back swing and my arm
comes straight through by my leg and it slides off my fingers. It
kinda slides off the end of my fingers at the same time, it kinda
leaves my hand.
Is it more off your index finger, your middle finger more than your
little finger or just off all at the same time?
The same time.
Now, do you try to have your hand come through from where your side is,
does your hand come straight up to where the stake is when you follow
I’m lined up, I pitch toward the stake, … true. It kinda slides
off my fingers. In fact, I think you could probably hear it slide
off my fingers as I release it. That’s the reason, I never want a
burr on my shoe, because it interferes with sliding off your hand.
You’ve always pitched dead soft, do you like dead soft shoes , are
harder points better, medium soft?
I went to the dead soft, I didn’t start out with dead soft. With
the dead soft maybe with the belief that my turn and all that maybe a
shoe would be deader on the stake and I would maybe save a ringer or
two a game and it could mean the game. That’s the reason I went
to the dead soft. I like to practice with medium soft, where the
shoes would last a little bit longer.
What was the best percentage game that you ever pitched?
Well, I suppose the best percentage game was 35 out of 36 ringers.
When was that, do you know?
I think it was around 1963 against Carl Atwell. I think that
was about a 97% game.
What was your highest tournament?
I had a tournament at Wabash which was 88%, I don’t know, you might
have to check the records on the state, it seems like I….
It says 88.8 in 1969, Indiana State champ at Kokomo.
I was thinking I had a state tourney that was 88.8. I guess that
was my best tourney.
And your highest World was 86.6 out in Utah, in ’66 right when you won
it out there for the first time.
Yeah, it was around 86%.
What year was the first tournament that you pitched in?
‘48, I guess in the local tourney here in Dorner
What did you average “percent wise” back then?
Well, I guess really it started out at that time, I guess I was
probably in the high 60’s.
Then how did you progress through the years?
Well, of course, workin’ at it, and competition, gaining confidence,
and practice. I think mainly playing in tourneys, in practice
working on the shoe, trying to be as good as the best pitcher you
pitched against. To help the percentage, I think you’ve got to
play against somebody as good as you, better to play against somebody
maybe a little better. It gives you something to work for to
better your game and maybe you can slip in there and beat him if you
get a little better. I was always fortunate here in Clinton
County because we had a lot of good pitchers. Ed Sharp for one,
probably about as good a horseshoe pitcher around. We always had
some real good games. And we were always pretty even in
So, did you practice when you played the tournaments, back in the 50’s,
you played quite a few tourneys in the summer?
Yeah, I usually hit . . . , of course back in the 50’s there, we
didn’t have too many tournaments, we had a league play which was about
the same as a tournament. We had seven man team where you played
singles and we played as a team, it was about the same way as a
tournament, we were building up interest, so we played against a
team. Then later on why of course we had the state tourney, that
was one of the bigger tourneys, then they started the Midwest tourney
and had the Indiana-Ohio. Then later on, years later, or a few
years later, they started having tournaments on the weekends and kinda
did away with the league play. I think league play developed a
lot of interest here, especially in Indiana.
Day versus Day