EXERCISEºRECREATIONºSPORT



HORSESHOE PITCHING ---- HOW TO PLAY THE GAME      37

HISTORY OF HORSESHOE PITCHING By D. D. COTTRELL
     The Encyclopedia Britannica says that as early as the second century before the Christian Era iron plates or rings for shoes were nailed on horses' feet in western Asia and eastern Europe. This practice, however, was not commonly known in western Europe until about the fifth century A. D. and was not in regular use until the Middle Ages.
     In Greece and Rome athletic contests and games of different kinds generally formed some part of religious observance and festivals. In the twenty-third Iliad the earliest games of which we have any record are mentioned at the funeral of Patroclus. One of the four Grecian national festivals was the Olympian Games, which was established in very early times and our modern world game meets are called by the same name.
     These Grecian games consisted of boxing, putting the weight, chariot races, archery and discus throwing. The discus was similar in form to the modern quoit but not in size and weight. It originally was a circular plate of metal or stone 10 or 12 inches in diameter and was pitched or thrown with a strap or thong passed through a circular hole in the center, the strap being released by the player as he swung it so the discus would go to the greatest possible distance.
     There is a tradition that the camp followers of the Grecian armies who could not afford the discus to throw, took discarded horseshoes and pounded them together in shape of a discus and used them in games like their more well-to-do superiors. The camp followers finally got too lazy to pound their horseshoes together in form of a discus and to try to throw them as far as they could which was the game in discus throwing, so they set up a stake and began throwing horseshoes at it. Whether this is true or the product of some one's fertile imagination, the reader will have to judge. When the game of quoits or horseshoes was changed so that it was pitched at two stakes, the writer has not been able to discover, but that horseshoe pitching had its origin in the game of quoits and that quoits is a modification of the old Grecian game of discus throwing is pretty well established. The Grecian Kings amused themselves, it is said, by pitching quoits and Socrates and Euripides played the game at the noon hour.
     Until 1869, the rules of the game of quoits seemed to have varied greatly in different localities, each one having its special system of playing and counting. In that year the game became very popular in England and a set of rules was drawn up to govern the game. The distance between the pegs was 19 yards and the player stood level with the peg and delivered his quoit with his first step. There was no requirement as to weight but the outside diameter could not be more than eight inches. The ground around the stakes was clay and all measurements for points were taken between, the nearest parts of both quoit and peg. Each player delivered both his quoits, followed by his opponent. These became the rules under which the game was played in the United States but no tournaments were held or records kept. It was so much easier to pick up a pair of discarded horseshoes and pitch them instead of quoits that horseshoe pitching became the more popular sport.
     During the Revolutionary War horseshoe pitching became a favorite sport both in the Continental army and with the British soldiers. This is substantiated by historic pictures of blacksmith shops showing a game of horseshoes being played. The game seems to have been a favorite among soldiers in most wars, but during the Civil war it was greatly revived and many a company had its champion pitcher. Contests between the best pitchers of different companies and regiments were common. The Spanish American war soldiers took up the game and it became one of their popular sports as it did also with the soldiers in the World war.
     These soldiers, coming from all parts of the country, on their return. interested their home folks more than ever in the game and horseshoe pitching courts were laid out in hundreds of cities, villages and farming communities.