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A Week of Sport Discovery: Horseshoes

Sport Calgary is doing a blog series on the different Sport Calgary member organizations. This blog introduces Calgarians to sports offered in the city they can try. Ryley is an intern at Sport Calgary for the four months between the third and fourth years of her degree. She is pursuing a bachelor of communication, majoring in PR and minoring in marketing and has a passion for sport. Ryley loves trying new activities and finding different ways to get moving and staying active for life. Her main activities are hiking, skiing, yoga, running and surfing, all of which either her mom, boyfriend or dog loves to join her in doing!

My first and only set of horseshoes was purple and plastic, and I can’t remember throwing them at anything other than the wall as a toddler. I had never even played the game of horseshoes camping, but I had always wanted to try it. When I contacted the President of the Calgary Horseshoe Club, I was excited to continue my blog series with a post about horseshoes.

When I arrived with Dylan, the other intern at Sport Calgary, I was greeted with the familiar scent of clay (I used to do pottery with my mom in her studio) from the clay horseshoe pits. In a good mood already, we met Al, a member of the club, and Glen, the president, to do a quick tour of the facility and start our lesson.

The game of horseshoes dates back to at least 1869 in England. Back then, it was played with discarded horseshoes tossed back and forth to a stake 19 yards away. In the modern game, the distance between the pegs is 40 feet, with different throwing starts for men, women and seniors. The object of the game is to get a “ringer”, meaning the horseshoe lands around the peg. A ringer is worth three points and a shoe within six inches of the peg is worth one point.

Glen and Al taught us how to hold the horseshoes, explained a few of the rules and then we started our game. 40 feet is a long way to throw a horseshoe, but after a few throws we were both playing decently well! I got one ringer in probably 50 throws and Dylan got four which didn’t compare to Glen’s score, but as Al said, it is an easy game to learn but a hard game to master. 

We weren’t keeping score but I’m fairly confident I lost. I didn’t mind though because we were having so much fun! It was the most social sport I have tried so far, and you can play at your own pace and have some drinks while you do it! The clay pits were nice because it wasn’t dusty in the air. Only your hands get messy from picking up the horseshoes rather than being completely covered in dust from the sand.

Horseshoes can be played in outdoor sand pits or indoor clay pits. At the Calgary Horseshoe Club, both types are offered and horseshoes can be rented for free. The outdoor pits are always open, and the indoor ones are open for leagues on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The club opened in 1986 and has been operating ever since. Additions have been constructed over time whenever the club generated new funds, including a viewing area and a bar.

The average age of participants at the Calgary Horseshoe Club is around 60 years old. It is great exercise for this demographic and keeps you up and moving in a social, friendly environment. Although this is the prominent demographic, horseshoes is a great game for anyone looking to have a good time with their friends while relaxing and being competitive at the same time. 

The club has struggled with finding enough volunteers to continue to run operations, but they stay busy with rentals, league nights and corporate challenges. The facility is even set to host national championships in 2020! A membership with the club is affordable at only $35 for the entire year (it is open year-round). If you don’t want to pay for a membership, your first drop in is free, and after that it is $5.

The club doesn’t have a large membership – only 75 – and Glen thinks it is because not many people know it exists. Glen says that “you don’t know you want to join until you know it’s here,” and went on to say that they have had repeat business from people who have come to the club as part of a corporate challenge, school visit or team building activity.

Overall, we had a great time playing horseshoes! Glen and Al were both so welcoming and this is an activity I would want to do with friends or family instead of sitting at home doing nothing or watching TV. This sport is available to all ages and can keep you active for life. To find out more, visit http://calgaryhorseshoeclub.ca/.

Becoming a Sport Calgary Member:

Sport Calgary members have access to our resources at Sport Calgary such as marketing on social media, blog entries, features and placement on our calendar. Many other benefits will be available with the re-launch of our website in 2018. Becoming a member is easy and FREE! Go to www.sportcalgary.ca, and under the “Join Us” tab click on the link that corresponds with you or your group. Fill out the form and you will be added to our membership. Sport organizations and individuals can join.