Enthusiasts enjoy camaraderie of horseshoes

Bob Ward Sr. says horseshoe pitching is in his blood.

Ward, 82, has been pitching for as long as he can remember and said he began playing the game with pony shoes. Eventually, he made his way up to draft horse shoes, he said.

Ward was one of several senior citizens competing Tuesday in the Senior Citizen Horseshoe Pitching Contest at the Seneca County Fair. Ward is a member of the John Hirt Plumbing and Heating horseshoe pitching league in Fremont, and he traveled to the fair to compete at a game he said he really enjoys playing.

“This is good fellowship, too,” he said.

Chuck Holman, another participant in Tuesday’s contest and a member of Sycamore Horseshoe Club, said he has been pitching horseshoes for about 15 years.

Holman, who is the fair’s tournament co-director, joined the Sycamore-based club after playing at reunions and becoming more interested.

Dick Blackburn, tournament director, said the senior citizen pitching contest has been an event at the fair for more than 30 years, and he has been directing it for nine years.

The senior citizen category includes those 50 and older, and 12 players competed Tuesday. Blackburn said the event was a six-team round robin.

“Everybody plays everybody,” he said.

Blackburn said the pairs are made by pairing up the top-rated player with the lowest-rated player and continuing that trend to form the rest of the pairs.

Blackburn said the players, who are from across the area, are rated on their abilities.

Players bring their own horseshoes, which range in weight. Blackburn said there’s more than 40 types of horseshoes.

The clay that fills the pits also is important, Blackburn said. The best clay, blue clay, comes out of Ohio and is found 18 to 30 feet underground.

Blackburn said it took between 12 and 14 hours to get the pits ready for the weeklong fair. He said he was thankful for funds recently gifted by the fair board to repair two pits that were flooding.

Blackburn said among the rules of horseshoes is camaraderie.

“It’s a friendly game not sanctioned by the national level,” he said.

Blackburn said some players, however, are used to playing at a national level. Four or five local pitchers usually compete at the world tournament of horseshoe pitching.

Ed Waugaman, who competed Tuesday, recently returned from the world tournament in New York with a second place in his division.

Blackburn has won first place in his division at the world tournament a couple times.

He said horseshoe pitching contests continue Saturday with singles and Sunday with doubles. All winners receive plaques.