Gypsum is home to a hotbed of horseshoe pitching talent
Gypsum competitors at World Horseshoe Championships:
Mark Silverthorne — 2nd place
Sean Bartlett — 3rd place
Danner Bartlett — 5th place
Frank Anderson — 5th place
Lynn Trudeau — 6th place
There’s a group of world champion competitors in Eagle County that nobody really knows much about.
But they have the trophies to prove their prowess because Gypsum is a horseshoe hotbed.
Nine locals recently competed in the World Horseshoe Tournament in Saint George, Utah. Of the seven, five of them placed in top six spots in their respective classes. Pitcher Mark Silverthorne brought home a second place trophy while Sean Bartlett placed third in his class.
Roughly 1,400 pitchers compete at the annual championships, with play divided into about 90 divisions of 16 pitchers each. The classes feature a round-robin format so everyone pitches five games over a three-day period. Competitors are placed in divisions based on their ringer percentage as determined through competition in sanctioned events throughout the year.
“Everyone is pitching at their same ability, so when you go in, you have a chance at winning,” Silverthorne said.
The top six competitors in each class earn cash and the top three win trophies.
But Silverthorne is quick to note the cash payouts are modest — in the $200 range.
“There’s no money in this. You play for the fun,” he said.
When measured on the fun scale, the Gypsum pitchers say they routinely hit the jackpot.
Pitching a hit
By way of terminology, one does not toss a horseshoe. Horseshoes are pitched. Locally, the pitching happens at the pits in Gypsum, located behind the fire station on Second Street, on Wednesday evenings during the summer. All are welcome and everyone contributes $5 so that the top performers can take home a prize. The evenings feature spirited, but not cutthroat, competition.
“It’s a good way to drink beer and play a game on Wednesday nights,” said horseshoer Danner Bartlett.
Horseshoe pitching is a family affair for the Bartletts. Danner’s dad, Doug Bartlett, has pitched for years and in 2015 he brought home a third place trophy from the world’s tournament. Three Bartletts made the trip to Utah this summer — Doug and his sons Danner and Sean.
When asked what’s the appeal of the sport, Sean said it’s the combination of ease and difficulty.
“It’s easy to play, but it’s hard to get better,” he said.
He noted it is also an inexpensive sport in terms of equipment. A single set of pitching horseshoes can last for decades.
Silverthorne said he has been pitching for 15 years. “Since I can’t play golf, I do this. Golf and I don’t get along.”
Lynn Trudeu is one of the Gypsum crews women competitors. She has been pitching for four years and placed sixth in her class at the world tournament. She said Silverthorne, who she works with at the town of Gypsum, introduced her to the sport. She couldn’t really offer much more information for an interview, however, because it was her turn to pitch.
All of the worlds competitors said they had a fine time at the Utah tournament and Silverthorne is definitely planning to attend the next world tournament, planned in Florence, South Carolina.