Sports

Horseshoe Pitching Is Serious Business in Texas

Arlington Iron Benders club member Gaylin Grant pitching at Meadowbrook Park in 2019.
Arlington Iron Benders club member Gaylin Grant pitching at Meadowbrook Park in 2019. Karen Gavis
About a half-century ago, a horseshoe pitching club formed at Arlington’s first city park. Next week, several members of the group will be in Nevada trying to stake a claim in the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association World Tournament.

“We got through COVID,” says Fred Jurik, 55, president of the Arlington Iron Benders Club. “We’re on our 48th year.”

The club, which has about 16 members, down from more than 60 in its heyday, meets every Tuesday evening at Meadowbrook Park near downtown Arlington. During these meetings, the members test their skills using four clay pits and 16 sandpits.

“It’s cleaner,” says Jurik about the clay, adding that the group uses a Kentucky Blue version of the soil. “Wherever your shoe lands, it usually sticks there. It doesn’t slide like sand. It doesn’t scatter like sand. I mean, the clay just stays right there. So you have to be more accurate with clay.”


Jurik says that he, along with members Ed Posey, John Allison and Richard Lindsey, will pitch during the 13-day tournament, which runs July 19 through 31, using the portable clay pits hauled into Winnemucca, Nevada.

While the club’s weekly competitions continued at Meadowbrook Park during the pandemic, the NHPA’s 2020 World Tournament, scheduled for Monroe, Louisiana, was canceled last year.

“But that’s where it’ll be [held] next year,” Jurik says.

In 2019, the tournament took place in Wichita Falls, and Jurik says that he didn’t pitch as well there as he’d hoped to. He placed third in his division at the state level last year. “And I was happy with that,” he says.

Jurik describes how the top 16 horseshoe throwers are selected by ringer percentage at the world tournament, which includes numerous age divisions and competitor levels.

“It doesn’t matter what division you’re in as long as you pitch well,” he says.

There are 22 horseshoe pitching clubs in Texas. The Arlington Iron Benders Club welcomes newcomers of all ages, and they can pitch free their first night.

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Posey has competed in 10 THPA world tournaments, and Jurik says Allison pitched with the Arlington Iron Benders before starting a horseshoe pitching club in Weatherford.

“Another good thing that John is doing is he is bringing youth into his club,” he says. “This’ll be his third year that’s he’s started state high school championship tournaments.”

There are 22 horseshoe pitching clubs in Texas. The Arlington Iron Benders Club welcomes newcomers of all ages, and they can pitch free their first night. After that, it’s $3 per pitch night with $1 of that amount going to a winner-take-all weekly drawing. Club dues are $10 annually.

Jurik, who posts YouTube video updates on the club via Backyard Home Studios, says some members have pitched with the Arlington Iron Benders since the ‘70s. And this year, former club member Roger Vogel, who now lives in Kansas, is being nominated for the NHPA Hall of Fame. Inductees will be named at the world tournament.

“He’s a long-time iron bender,” Jurik says. “And he’s just made us proud for his accomplishments.”
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