If you are among those who consider the game of horseshoes to be asedate, old-fashioned activity confined to the odd backyard and played primarily by men of a certain age … you’d be wrong.
The Sooke Horseshoe Pitching Association is an active, growing concern with six new pitches doubling the size of its Sooke River Road facility and an active core of volunteers who, between periods of tossing their horseshoes with a level of uncanny accuracy, spend their time promoting the sport.
“This is a great activity that is actually a lot more physically active than people may think,” said club spokesperson Gail Bishop.
“We toss about 50 shoes a game and play three games a day. When you think about that and add in the fact that you’re walking back and forth and bending to pick up the shoes, it’s quite a lot of exercise.”
To demonstrate, Bishop effortlessly tossed the two pound, 10-ounce metal shoe (there are official weights for competition shoes) the roughly 45 feet to the opposite pit where it landed with a satisfying clang, resting around the metal stake.
“You get better with practice,” she said with a smile.
“And this game is not just for men. Most of the women are really good and can hold their own.”
On an adjoining pitch, another club member was practicing, laughing and calling out “another six-pack!” as he tossed eight ringers in a row.
The association has about 40 regular members but is embarking on a recruitment drive to increase the membership to 60.
“If we get that number, we can start really hosting bigger tournaments and it improves the league play that we run during the regular season. We generally play between March until early October,” Bishop said. “We’re hosting our first sanctioned tournament this summer, and it’s going to be great.”
The association is also taking steps to actively recruit younger players. Members have worked with the Sooke school district to have students from Edward Milne Community School and Journey Middle School come to the facility to try their hand at horseshoes and offer a free membership to anyone under the age of 18.
“We have eight regular students as members now but would love to get that number up above 20 or so. There are great opportunities to travel and take part in tournaments across B.C., across Canada, and even internationally,” Bishop said.
Club president Chantal Wilson said that the club is expanding and will be looking at improving the facilities in years to come.
“It’s a slow process, for sure. We are entirely volunteer-based and things take time. But we have these great pitches now and we’re just going to keep getting better,” she said, adding installing lighting and other amenities to the location will be next on the list for club members now that the new pitches are in place.
“We’ll get it done, but in the meantime this is all about having fun, making friends and getting some great exercise.”