Not just horsin’ around | VailDaily.com

Not just horsin’ around

GYPSUM — There's something wonderfully American about a town that counts among its parks a shooting range and a horseshoe arena.

Welcome to beautiful, downtown Gypsum, home of the individual and other endangered species.

And here's one for you. It's possible that Gypsum had more state, national and world champions in one spot last weekend than anywhere in this spiral arm of the universe. Saturday's Eagle Valley Open horseshoe tournament was Gypsum's first sanctioned event.

"We've been pitching here for years. We finally got it sanctioned, and people from all over Colorado are here for this," said Janice Anderson, with the Eagle Valley Horseshoe Club.

The club isn't new and neither is pitching horseshoes.

The Eagle Valley Horseshoe Club has been pitching in Gypsum every Wednesday night for 30 years, except when it's cold. Then they go to the big green building at the fairgrounds.

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Local pitcher Allen Baptist is the former president of the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association.

He stands a little taller when he proudly explains that the club has had among its members six world champions and "many, many" state champions.

Flippers vs. rotators

There are two kinds of horseshoe throwers — and it's not "Us vs. Them." Everyone who throws horseshoes is one of "us."

You have your rotators and your flippers.

A rotator's throw will go around once and be open toward the stake when it hits it.

A flipper's throw will do one revolution and also open toward the stake when it hits.

Women tend to flip. Men can go either way.

They're a fair-minded group and everyone gets a handicap to even things out. The ringer percentage is like a golf or bowling handicap and helps keep it even.

Sheila Shepard won three straight world championships. She once hit 48 ringers in 50 throws, a record that still stands. Her first match Saturday was a little short of that; she hit 60 percent ringers.

"Rotators and flippers sometimes go at it in a good natured way," Shepard said.

Shepard's a flipper. Occasionally someone makes some wisecrack, telling her she'll never been be any good as long as she's a flipper.

"I just tell them, 'I'm a world champion flipper,'" she said.

Horseshoe history

Horseshoe pitching has been around since the invention of horseshoes, as early as the second century B.C., when iron plates or rings for shoes were nailed on horses' feet in Western Asia and Eastern Europe.

It is believed that the Greeks began throwing circular horseshoes as part of their Olympian Games.

The less enlightened say it's the discus, but the Greek were throwing horseshoes.

In 1910, American Frank Jackson won the first world horseshoe pitching tournament in Bronson, Kan. He was awarded a world championship belt with horseshoes attached to it.

This year's world championships are July 22 in St. George, Utah. It's indoors, in an air conditioned building.

The Eagle Valley Horseshoe Club built the Gypsum course after the town kicked in $10,000 to help pay for it. The club paid for the rest.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.